Breitling’s 42mm Classic AVI Puts Universal Spin On Rugged Aviator’s Chronograph
Breitling’s pioneering pilot’s watch just got a lot more accessible, with their new Classic AVI collection taking the celebrated design codes established by the 46mm Super AVI and putting them in a 42mm format. The result is a rugged, easy-wearing watch that works for most wrists.
Let’s take a step back to where the AVI began. In the ’30s, Breitling’s Huit Aviation Department made its name creating precision cockpit clocks and dedicated wrist chronographs for the then-emerging field of aeronautics. Two decades later, in 1953, Breitling introduced the world to yet another novel flight instrument, the Ref. 765 AVI, a pilot’s chronograph with a rotating 12-hour bezel for recording flight times. The easy-to-operate, highly legible watch proved such an indispensable tool for aviators that it was quickly rebranded the AVI “Co-Pilot”.
In 2021, that pioneering pilot’s watch became the inspiration for the Super AVI, a collection of burly 46mm timepieces that, in their colorways and designs, honor four of history’s greatest aircraft: the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, the Vought F4U Corsair, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and the de Havilland Mosquito.
“People love the sturdy, understated look of the Super AVI, but not everyone has the wrist to pull off the extra-large size that gives it its authentic tool-watch feel,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “The Classic AVI trades some functions to achieve the pared-down format our customers have been asking for. The Classic and Super models will now live side by side, providing more choice.”
The Classic AVI comes without the GMT complication that gives the Super some of its brawn. The introduction of the Breitling Caliber 23 chronograph movement further trims the profile and makes the Classic AVI attractive from a value perspective as well.
Fans of the range will find the same color schemes dedicated to the four legendary aircraft: a black dial and gold brown leather strap to represent the versatile Mustang, a blue dial with black strap in tribute to the naval Corsair, a khaki dial with brown strap for the camouflaged look of the Warhawk, and a black dial with black ceramic bezel on brown strap to capture the Mosquito plane known as the “Wooden Wonder”. Colors from the aircraft’s roundels and markings add bright touches to the hands and subdials.
The planes’ engraved silhouettes appear on the back of the cases, which come in stainless steel for all models, with an additional 18K red gold version of the Mustang. All can be worn on a choice of top-stitched calfskin leather strap or five-row metal bracelet.
As a Classic AVI pro tip, scan the dial to locate the “hidden” GPS coordinates of the Breitling Chronometrie. They’re a nod to the spec stamps that used to appear on vintage cockpit clocks, including the ones made by the Huit Aviation Department.
Mighty and monochrome: The Super AVI Mosquito Night Fighter
In an era when aluminum and steel shortages were common, the engineers behind the de Havilland Mosquito made use of a still plentiful material: wood. The “Wooden Wonder” caused shockwaves when it outperformed its metal contemporaries to become one of the fastest planes built between 1940 and 1950.
There were many executions of the Mosquito, including a light bomber, a transport, and a photographic reconnaissance plane. But the Super AVI Mosquito Night Fighter gets its inspo from the Night Fighter 2, an all-black two-seater aircraft meant to slip stealthily through the night sky. This watch pays tribute to the plane’s dark livery with a black ceramic case, black military leather strap, and black dial with anthracite subdials. The overall monochrome appearance contrasts strikingly with the titanium pushers, crown, and buckle.
As with all Super AVI, the distinctive design includes large, highly legible Arabic numerals and a sturdy case measuring 46mm. Its knurled bezel and fluted crown provide optimal grip, even while wearing gloves. Pilots and other travelers will appreciate its ability to track a second time zone using the 24-hour scale on the inner bezel and the grey-tipped GMT hand. The Breitling Manufacture Caliber B04 movement provides approximately 70 hours of power and is visible through the open titanium caseback, etched with the Night Fighter’s outline.
A living legend: The Ref. 765 AVI 1964 Re-Edition
First released in 1953, the original Ref. 765 AVI (dubbed the Co-Pilot) was a workhorse of a timepiece designed to serve pilots in the often unforgiving conditions of a single-seat cockpit. Its size, legibility, and ease of use made it a trusted flight instrument.
By the 1960s, the AVI’s simplified style and oversized proportions made it a watch to wear well beyond aviation circles. One particular 765 AVI from 1964, with a black bezel and reverse-panda dial, was a favorite of celebrities and sports stars, including the French skier Jean-Claude Killy, who famously wore it when he won gold in all three alpine skiing events at the 1968 Winter Games. Today, that watch is the subject of an extremely limited re-edition.
Each of the 164 pieces faithfully reproduces this execution’s design. It includes a true-to-the-time hesalite crystal, as well as the baton indexes and lumed pencil hands used on the original. The re-edition also features modern improvements, like the durable amorphous diamond-like carbon (ADLC) coating that gives the bezel its black finish. To preserve the vintage character, the watch is powered by the Caliber B09, a current Breitling manufacture movement that is, appropriately, manual wind. The re-edition’s limitation references the watch’s original 1964 release with the caseback engraving “One of 164”.
As Georges Kern says: “Everything about this re-edition is so Breitling because you can see our aviation tool-watch roots coming through, yet it’s precisely that simplicity that gives it its universal appeal. That’s also why the AVI, in all its forms, has stood the test of time to become one of our most emblematic collections.”
You can check out the Breitling Classic AVI collection here.