November 17, 2021
In the vintage pilot watch community, few models command the kind of desire and reverence inspired by the 1953 Breitling Ref. 765 AVI. With its cleanly usable design and extensive track record in both civil and military aviation, the Ref. 765 AVI helped to define a generation of pilot’s chronographs and further cemented Breitling as one of the premier brands in the aviation watch space. While classic models are still highly sought after, the AVI nameplate has long lain dormant amid Breitling’s extensive pilot watch lineup. For its latest release, the brand finally returns to the AVI series in force, delivering a quintet of chronograph designs themed around four of the most famous fighter aircraft of World War II. Discounting the slight mismatch of the ‘50s-inspired design and ‘40s-era theming, the new Breitling Super AVI collection delivers a surprisingly bold balance of vintage and modern design cues with excellent movement performance and an array of attractive colorways. With models including the Breitling Super AVI Tribute to Vought F4U Corsair, the Breitling Super AVI Curtiss Warhawk, the Breitling Super AVI Mosquito, and two variants of the Breitling Super AVI P-51 Mustang, this new collection signals a new beginning for one of the brand’s most storied chronograph lines.
Despite the ‘50s-inspired design language, the cases of the Breitling Super AVI series measure in at a beefy modern 46mm-wide with a sizeable 15.9mm overall thickness. Rendered in stainless steel (with the exception of the Breitling Super AVI P-51 Mustang’s 18k red-gold variant), the overall form of the case is clean and timeless, with strong chamfered lugs, flat case sides, piston pushers, and a narrow coin edge 12-hour bezel. Breitling’s use of finishing here sets the Super AVI line apart from its rivals, with a fully polished finish when viewed from above for a bright vintage look. These polished surfaces are contrasted with aggressive brushing along the case sides, helping to break up the visual profile and giving this military-inflected design a more refined character. The Super AVI Mosquito’s use of a gloss black ceramic bezel insert rather than the polished metal used for the rest of the line immediately gives this model a more updated character, calling to mind Breitling’s late ‘60s pilot chronograph designs more than the original Ref. 765 AVI. With that said, this different perspective harmonizes well with the base design. Each model in the Breitling Super AVI line is fitted with a sapphire display caseback, emblazoned with a head-on silhouette of the aircraft that inspired it. Although these printed outlines do markedly obscure the view of the movement within, the effect is evocative, particularly with the Super AVI Tribute to Vought F4U Corsair. In keeping with the rugged and capable design ethos, each model in the series is rated for a solid 100 meters of water resistance.
Each model in the Breitling Super AVI series builds upon the dial template of the original Ref. 765 AVI in its own way. The Breitling Super AVI P-51 Mustang feels by far the most authentically vintage of the bunch, with a simple matte black main dial surface and a mix of bold printed Arabic numerals and triangular indices in warm sandy fauxtina lume. In typical Breitling fashion, it’s the fine details that give this layout a distinct character from similar designs. Elements from the sharply tapering ends of the polished sword hands, to the slickly integrated 6 o’clock date window, to the interplay of textures between the azurage surface of the 3 o’clock chronograph minutes subdial and its signature five-minute lume plots give an impressive sense of intricacy and polish. Breitling’s integration of a GMT complication to this already busy dial is surprisingly streamlined, with only a narrow 24-hour rehaut and a slim orange spear-tipped GMT hand to belie its presence.
The red gold version of the Breitling Super AVI P-51 Mustang gives this layout a more contemporary and upscale treatment, with a vertically brushed anthracite gray main dial to subtly contrast the black subdials. The polished red gold handset and bright white lume of this variant also reframe the design for a more luxe look, taking away some of the base design’s tool-watch edge. It may be the Breitling Super AVI Tribute to Vought F4U Corsair that offers the most balanced approach of the series, with a white lume fill complemented by a vertically brushed dial in the same deep midnight blue used by U.S. Navy F4Us during World War II. This cooler colorway also allows the orange GMT hand to pop dramatically against its backdrop for easy legibility. The Breitling Super AVI Curtiss Warhawk delivers the most on-trend look of the series, combining its vibrant white subdials and lume fill with a matte olive drab base dial for a military-inspired riff on the “reverse panda” look. This version also receives an extra jolt of color with red lume plots on the 3 o’clock subdial, subtly referencing the “shark mouth” nose art made iconic by the P-40 Warhawk. Although this visual highlight gives the model some added character, the difference between the red of the subdial and the orange GMT hand is just enough to add a sense of visual dissonance. Lastly, the Breitling Super AVI Mosquito takes by far the largest visual departure from the base design. Continuing the trend of the bezel, the visual ethos is firmly rooted in Breitling’s ‘60s designs, rather than the ‘50s inspiration of its companions. To this end, the true “reverse panda” mix of deep black main dial and silvery-white subdials gives this model a high-contrast punch, while added white elements like the outer rehaut break up the dial visually and give a greater sense of complexity. By far the most striking element here, however, is the handset. Rather than just the GMT hand, every hand on the dial except for the running seconds and chronograph hours subdials is tipped in blazing signal orange. Coupled with the orange lume pips on the 3 o’clock subdial, this use of bright high-impact color is visually arresting, but still small enough to avoid feeling overwhelming.
Breitling powers all five variants of the Super AVI series with its in-house B04 automatic GMT chronograph movement. Equipped with both a column wheel and a vertical clutch chronograph actuation system, the B04 is relatively basic with its decoration with Côtes de Genève across the bridges and a signed rotor. The B04’s performance is anything but basic, however, with a COSC chronometer certification for accuracy and a hefty 70-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate.
Each model in the Breitling Super AVI series is fitted with a fully stitched pilot-style leather strap and a deployant clasp. Breitling pairs the Super AVI Curtiss Warhawk and the Super AVI Mosquito with distressed mahogany brown leather featuring cream stitching, while the stainless steel Super AVI P-51 Mustang instead uses a lighter and warmer honey brown shade. For the red gold Super AVI P-51 Mustang and the Super AVI Tribute to Vought F4U Corsair, the brand opts instead for classic black.
Combining wartime inspirations with a clean ’50s design language and imposing modern dimensions, the new Breitling Super AVI series is a high-impact retro-modern revival for one of the brand’s most beloved nameplates. The Breitling Super AVI collection is available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of $10,100 each for the Super AVI P-51 Mustang in stainless steel, the Super AVI Tribute to Vought F4U Corsair, and the Super AVI Curtiss Warhawk. The Breitling Super AVI Mosquito is instead priced at $10,250. The 18K red gold Breitling Super AVI P-51 Mustang is available exclusively through Breitling boutiques and the brand’s e-commerce sites. While the brand did not make pricing information on this gold model available ahead of embargo time, prices on this piece are likely to fall in the $25,000 to $30,000 range. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.