Maybe it’s because we’ve all been starved of air travel over the last twelve months – or perhaps we’re nostalgic for a simpler time – but there’s been a real retro chronograph revival in 2021, especially pilot’s chronographs.
Naturally, Breitling’s been at the forefront of this trend. The Swiss watchmaker has a long history of not only making precision chronographs but also is a brand inextricably linked to the world of aviation – so it’s no surprise that they were going to get in on the retro chrono action. What has been surprising is how productive Breitling’s been in 2021, blessing us with a boatload (or should that be a plane-load?) of truly tasty retro-inspired releases this year.
First, we had the launch of the new Premier Heritage collection, which pays homage to the intrepid designs and aesthetics of the 1940s. Then we saw the overhaul of the famous Chronomat with the new Super Chronomat collection, which is a modern update of the rugged 80s pilot’s watch. Most recently, we’ve seen the Top Time pay homage to three of the most iconic American muscle cars of all time… And now, Breitling’s doing something similar with flying machines.
The new Super AVI collection, positioned as the first series within a new, broader Classic AVI collection, is a celebration of four of the most iconic planes of the 20th century: the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, the Vought F4U Corsair, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and the de Havilland Mosquito. It also celebrates one of Breitling’s most legendary pilot’s watches, the 1953 “Co-Pilot” ref. 765 AVI, taking that classic design and bringing it into the 21st century with some serious mechanical innovations.
Firstly, let’s talk about the case size: 46mm. That’s admittedly pretty hefty, but it’s in line with the modern preference towards larger watches. It’s also a practical size, as it aids in legibility when you’re up in the air.
Indeed, many of the watch’s best and most distinctive features are all in the name of mid-flight ergonomics. Its oversized crown, nicely knurled bezel and hardy chronograph pushers are designed to be easy to use even when wearing thick flying gloves. Large, clear and incredibly luminescent Arabic numerals make it easy to tell time at a glance, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the skies.
Most impressively, it’s not just a chronograph but a GMT watch: a complication literally designed for pilots. It’s easy to keep track of a second time zone using the 24-hour marking on the inner bezel and the red-tipped GMT hand. An elegantly integrated date window at 6 o’clock is another clever and characteristically Breitling touch.
That’s all thanks to the COSC-certified Breitling Manufacture Caliber B04 movement under the Super AVI’s hood. Water-resistant to 100m with a 70-hour power reserve, it’s a workhorse movement that makes it worlds better than the 1953 ref. 765 AVI the watch was inspired by.
The five watches all feature colour schemes that reflect the iconic colour schemes of the aircraft they’re inspired by, with the P-51 Mustang (arguably the most legendary plane of WWII) the focus of two watches: one in stainless steel with a black dial, and one in red gold with an anthracite dial.
Finally, all five models feature silhouettes of their namesake plane adorning their sapphire case backs, as well as hardy retro-inspired leather straps – with that famous yellow Breitling backing. In short, it’s one handsome formation of flight-ready retro chronographs that stand out as an exemplary release, even in this particularly stacked year for these types of watches.
“Our watchmaking DNA is what dominates here, while the interpretations of the four aircraft give the series its emotion and bold graphic appeal. Taken together, these elements evoke the spirit of early flight,” Breitling Creative Director Sylvain Berneron relates. He continues:
“We can’t forget that Breitling pioneered aviation tool watches like the Ref. 765 AVI. That heritage is so strong, we had to not only keep it intact, but rewrite it for the 21st century.”
In that sense, we think they nailed the mission brief. We also can’t wait to see what else the Classic AVI collection has in store for us in 2022…
Check out the new Super AVI collection at Breitling’s online boutique here.