If you look back at the watches introduced back in 2019, one clearly made some noise when presented at Baselworld… And for good reasons. Its name? The Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re‑Edition. The reason for its success? Being an ultra-faithful re-edition of one of Breitling’s most iconic watches. Having the ingredients for a desirable watch in their hands, the team at Breitling applies the same recipe to another of the brand’s legendary chronographs, with a new (and objectively quite stunning) vintage-inspired model. Meet the Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition.
Background, the AVI 765 Co-Pilot Series
Before we move to the details of the new model, we need to revisit the vintage Breitling 765 AVI Co-Pilot Series of watches. And for those who really want to go in-depth on this specific topic, we encourage you to check out our 3-part story on the Breitling 765 AVI here: part 1, part 2 and part 3 (articles that were produced with the help of experts ‘Dracha’ and ‘WatchFred’).
While everybody knows the Navitimer, a watch launched on the market in 1954, the definitive pilot’s chronograph with slide rule bezel, there are many more iconic and important watches at Breitling. Really, many more. One of them is another pilot’s chronograph but with a completely different approach, design and purpose. One was a watch made with the AOPA for civilian purposes. The other was a watch meant for military pilots. It is a series of watches known as the Breitling 765 AVI Co-Pilot.
The birth of the ref. 765 AVI started in the late 1930s, with two reference numbers, the Breitling Premier ref. 765 and ref. 734. According to expert WatchFred, this was “the first wristwatch launched by the “Breitling EIGHT” Military aviation division”. These were quite elegant and effective tri-compax register chronographs with an internal tachymeter scale and featured the calibre Venus 178.
The Second World War would have an important impact on wristwatches and their designs. Professional watches became larger and more austere. Legibility, waterproofness, and enhanced reliability became the main objectives for the industry. These requirements gave birth to some of the most iconic watches… which includes today’s topic, the 765 AVI Co-Pilot, which was presented to the public in 1953.
The first 765 AVI was a radical departure from the pre-war model. It was a large chronograph (41mm bezel diameter, 22mm lug width) with a bi-directional steel bezel with 12-hour pilot’s scale. It featured a matte black dial with luminous Arabic numbers and hands. It was available with a bi-compax layout, with sub-dials at 6 and 9 o’clock positions, and “digital” minute counter at 3 o’clock. A more classical tri-compax layout was also available, with a 3-6-9 display and 15-minute counter (typical of 1950s/1960s pilots watches). Again, the Venus 178 hand-wound chronograph powered these models.
These watches were closely examined by multiple military forces, including the French and the Italian Air Force. There’s still a debate among collectors and experts, as a close inspection of the 765 AVI reveals an undeniable resemblance with the Type XX watches (the civilian models made by Breguet and Dodane, the Vixa models and the early Breguet Type 20 for military forces being rather different, with a fluted bezel). The Breitling 765 AVI was launched in 1953 and the Type 20 was first delivered in 1954 to the Armée de l’Air, Aeronavale and C.E.V. Some Breitling experts mention that “in 1952-53, Breitling was in serious negotiations with the French Air Force for a military contract, which will be given to Breguet/Vixa/Dodane/Airain”. Who was first with this (superb) design is still today a point of debate.
The first generation of Breitling 765 AVI was produced until 1964 when the brand decided to change the watch drastically – as explained in part 2 of our series. But regarding what we’re about to see today, the inspiration from the early generation of tri-compax AVI 765 Co-Pilot is undeniable.
The new Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition
After the re-edition of the Navitimer Ref. 806, Breitling introduces another vintage-inspired model, this time paying tribute to the reference 765 AVI 1953. And just like they did with the 806, it is all about faithfulness and respect of the original watch. Visually, the new Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition is a 1-to-1 copy of the old model, only with updated materials and a modern movement. All the rest is identical.
Let’s start with the case. Just like the original 765 AVI Co-Pilot, the 2020 re-edition has a 40mm case – the bezel being slightly larger, at 41.1mm in diameter. All the dimensions, with the exception of the thickness – due to a different movement – have been respected, including the 22mm lug width. Same goes for the shape of the case itself, which features thin and bevelled lugs, mushroom-like pushers and a large but thin crown. The bi-directional bezel, a necessity for pilots, is made of polished steel with an engraved 12-hour scale, filled in black. The bezel has a thin grip on the periphery, with a beads of rice profile. The case is mostly polished, with a contrasting brushed caseband.
The Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition will be available, of course, in stainless steel. Two other editions in precious metal, one in 18k rose gold and one in 950 platinum, will be available in a couple of months. All are worn on vintage-looking leather straps with a pin buckle – in black for the steel model and in brown for the precious metal versions. The only concession to modernity could have been a sapphire crystal… but even here, the decision was to stay true to the original model with a hesalite crystal.
Moving to the dial, once again, it’s all about faithfulness here. Display, hands, markers, numerals, tracks and logos have all been scanned and reproduced to scale. The steel version of the Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition features a matte black, slightly grained dial, which will also be used on the rose gold model. The platinum version, on the other hand, will be launched with a matte blue dial. All versions feature large luminous Arabic numerals and syringe hands, both filled with fauxtina cream-coloured Super-LumiNova. The tracks and inscriptions are all legit and, with the exception of the “Genève” mention below the Breitling logo, the re-edition is identical to the original model.
The display of this Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition consists of three sub-dials, with a small seconds at 9 o’clock and a 12-hour totalizer at 6 o’clock. More original is the minute recorder, at 3 o’clock. Indeed, the original model featured a 15-minute counter, while most modern movements are based on a 30-minute counter (the base movement, the B01, has a 30-minute counter). Breitling pushed the authenticity factor even further by modifying the movement to have a 15-minute counter. Also, just like the original, this sub-dial features luminous rectangles every third minute. What’s even better is that the space between the counters is also identical on the old and modern versions, even though the mechanics inside aren’t the same (at all).
Indeed, inside the case of the new Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition is a modern engine, the same as the one used in the 806 re-edition. The calibre B09 is based on the well-known and widely used B01 architecture but without the self-winding mechanism. Certified as a chronometer by the COSC, it is an integrated chronograph with a column wheel with vertical clutch, offering 1/4th of a second precision. Beating at 4Hz, the power reserve is 70 hours when the movement is fully wound. The movement is hidden behind a solid steel back.
Price and availability
The Breitling 765 AVI 1953 Re-Edition will be available as a limited edition, in three different versions. The steel model will be available in March 2020, limited to 1,953 pieces and priced at CHF 7,900. The rose gold model will be available in May 2020, limited to 253 pieces and priced at CHF 21,000. Finally, the platinum model will be available in June 2020, limited to 153 pieces and priced at CHF 39,000.
More details at breitling.com.