Grenchen-based watchmaker Breitling launched an all-new pilot’s watch collection last week in Dallas — appropriately held at the Henry B. Tippie National Aviation Education Center.
On November 17th, 2021, inside the NAEC’s new Victor N. Agather STEM Innovation Hangar, located at the Dallas Executive Airport, Breitling announced the debut of a contemporary collection of Pilot’s GMT Chronographs — designed with input from active pilots — inspired by the original 1953 Breitling “Co-Pilot” Ref. 765 AVI watch, and in homage to four iconic vintage fighter planes: the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, the Vought F4U Corsair, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and the de Havilland Mosquito.
Breitling’s aviation heritage began in the 1930s when Breitling’s Huit Aviation department made its name inventing precision cockpit clocks for the then-nascent field of aeronautics. Two decades later, in 1953, Breitling introduced the world to yet another novel flight instrument, this time in wearable form. The Ref. 765 AVI pilot’s watch was an instant hit and a first of its kind that inspired many others. Beloved by aviators, it quickly became known as the “Co-Pilot.”
In 2020, Breitling also launched the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition, which is a rather faithful remake of the 1950s Breitling timepiece — fitted in a conservatively-sized 41 mm x 13.95 mm case that’s designed to appeal to watch collectors — while the new Super AVI Pilot’s Chronograph is a resolutely modern design, presented in a sturdy, oversized 46 mm x 15.9 mm case (51.5 mm lug-to-lug).
Introducing the Breitling Super AVI B04 Chronograph GMT 46 collection, available in four stainless steel and one 18K gold reference. Each watch is powered by a Breitling B04 caliber in-house movement and has the respective vintage aircraft that it’s named after printed directly on the glass of the screw-in sapphire caseback. All versions come with a thick top-stitched calfskin leather pilot-style strap, that measures 24/20 mm, and is secured by a folding clasp. The four stainless steel references weigh 140 grams including the strap (116.9 grams head only).
The Super AVI P-51 Mustang pays homage to the best all-around fighter plane of its era in two distinct versions: a stainless-steel case with a black dial and gold-brown leather strap, and an 18K red gold version with a black dial and a black leather strap, exclusive to Breitling boutiques and Breitling.com. The steel version (Ref. AB04453A1B1X1) retails for $10,100 and the and the 18K red gold version (Ref. RB04451A1B1X1) retails for $23,650.
The Super AVI Curtiss Warhawk, with its olive military-green dial, white contrasting chronograph counters, and red accents, derives its aesthetic from the namesake’s famous shark-mouth nose art that gave the plane its unmistakable identity, the timepiece (Ref. AB04452A1L1X1) is paired brown calfskin leather pilot’s strap retails for $10,100.
The Super AVI Vought F4U Corsair features a blue dial, tone-on-tone chronograph counters, and a black leather strap (Ref. AB04451A1C1X1) which retails for $10,100 and that according to Breitling, “take their design cues from the characteristic livery of the record-breaking naval aircraft” thanks to a unique folding wing design.
Last is the Super AVI de Havilland Mosquito that features a combination polished and satin-brushed black ceramic bezel and a black dial with white contrasting chronograph counters and is paired with a brown leather strap. Its red and orange elements recall the roundels and markings found on the versatile plane, dubbed the “Wooden Wonder.” Unlike the other four references, which have stainless steel (or gold) bidirectional ratcheted bezels, with black pointer and numerals — the Mosquito bezel features a black ceramic bezel, which is presumably why it costs $150 more than the other three stainless steel models.
Breitling in-house COSC-certified chronometer caliber B04 movement (adjusted to a rate of -4/+6 before being cased up) powers all five Super AVI models. The 4Hz automatic movement measures 30 mm x 8.3 mm, has 47 jewels, and has a rotor mounted on ball bearings that wind the mainspring in both directions for faster replenishment of the maximum 70-hour power reserve. The integrated chronograph mechanism uses a premium column-wheel and vertical clutch configuration, the latter of which prevents the second hand from jumping when started and that reduces amplitude loss during chronograph operation. A regulator index is used to calibrate the watch rate, as opposed to a free-sprung balance wheel that offers watchmakers more precise control when regulating the watch.
Each of the Super AVI B04 GMT Chronographs has been designed with pilots in mind, and just like with many Flieger watches — the cases, crowns, dials, hands, and markers have been intentionally enlarged to enhance legibility while actually flying. Interestingly, this new design not only takes inspiration from historic Flieger watches but also from Type XX watch designs of the past.
In spite of having chronograph (12-hour, 30-minute, 60-second), small seconds, date, GMT, and 12-hour bezel functions, the Super AVI B04 GMT Chronographs maintain highly legible dials — which is a prerequisite for any proper pilot’s watch. An oversized, screw-locked, pilot-style crown allows pilots to control all watch functions — with the exception of the bidirectional rotating 12-hour bezel. Even with gloves on, the ridged crown and knurled bezel can be operated with minimal effort and distraction while flying.
Using the 24-hour inner bezel (similar to how the Rolex GMT-Master II’s 24-hour outer bezel functions), the red arrow-tipped 24-hour GMT hand can be used to track a second-time zone. The quick setting local hour hand (traditional 12-hour hand) can be set via the crown in one-hour increments, while the 24-hour GMT hand is set without one-hour jumps.
One of the unique design elements of the Super AVI B04 GMT Chronograph is the 30-minute chronograph counter, located at 3 o’clock, which has luminous hash marks every five minutes. The reason for this, according to Breitling, “Measuring elapsed time, and reading the minutes is a key feature for navigation. Historically, a pilot would regularly, at identical intervals (3 min or in our case 5 min) take coordinates that would help him track his advancement. The lume on the 5 minutes divider markers of the 30-minutes chronograph counter enables the pilot to read these intervals, which obviously is of great help.”
Taylor Stevenson, one of the many highly-skilled pilots on-site (and in the air) for the Dallas launch, aptly pointed out that “With a map, a compass, and the AVI pilot’s watch, I can navigate anywhere in the world.” This is important to note, especially considering this watch is being marketed as a tool watch designed for professionals.
Breitling has delivered a luxurious timepiece that harkens back to its aviation history, while also being completely modern, and the tie-in to four iconic vintage fighter planes will surely appeal to pilots and aviation enthusiasts alike. If a smaller watch with throwback aesthetics is your preference, the 2020 Re-Edition is likely a better choice. Make no mistake, the Super AVI cases are large — similar to many IWC pilots’ watches — and the reason is that they are designed with real aviation use in mind. The prices are large as well, although you do get an in-house movement with a unique combination of a chronograph, GMT, and 12-hour rotating bezel — greatly enhancing the utility over a more common three-hand pilot’s watch.
Breitling Super AVI B04 GMT Chronograph
Case Diameter: 46 mm
Case Thickness: 15.9 mm
Lug-to-Lug: 51.5 mm
Lug width: 24 mm
Weight: 140 grams including the strap (stainless steel)
Glass: Domed Sapphire
Depth Rating: 100 meters
Movement: Automatic caliber B04
Learn more at Breitling.
Photos by Professional Watches.