In the long history of pilot watches, there is perhaps no more visually iconic chronograph than the 1953 Breitling AVI Ref. 765 “Co-Pilot.” While its Navitimer stablemate may be more famous, the clean simple forms and external rotating steel bezel of the AVI ref. 765 became the de facto template for pilot chronographs for decades, influencing designs from the likes of Dodane and even Breguet. As part of the brand’s continuing push to reintroduce classic models into its lineup, Breitling has premiered the limited edition AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition in three different versions. The stainless steel iteration is a remarkably faithful recreation of the classic original, while two further editions reimagine the design in precious metals.
All three iterations of the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition begin with a 41mm case. Apart from a very minor upsizing from the original, this reissue case is nigh-on identical to the 1953 original. The lugs may be a touch longer, and the 12-hour bidirectional rotating bezel is just a hair wider with slightly bolder numerals, but, overall, the stainless steel case offers a far more faithful experience than most vintage reissues. While the two additional models stay true to this elemental form, the change in materials creates a drastically different wearing experience. The 18-karat red gold example is a louder, more modernist take on luxury, clearly announcing itself as more than its utilitarian form while maintaining a sense of gentlemanly style. The platinum version, meanwhile, offers a more stealth-wealth approach, maintaining the look of the original at a glance while rewarding close observation with that metal’s unique sheen. All three versions offer 30 meters of water resistance and are topped with an appropriately old-school hesalite crystal.
Like the cases, the dials of the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition cleave extremely close to the original. The oversized printed Arabic numerals, elongated tips on the syringe hands and lume-filled 15-minute subdial at 3 o’clock are all present here, but the finer details are also in place. The snailing on the subdials has returned from the classic originals, and even the subdial layout remains the same. (Even on faithful recreations, this is usually a surefire sign of a reissued model using an existing movement.) In fact, the only visual giveaway on the stainless steel model is a very slightly different outer seconds track, replacing the 1/5 second lines with dots. Once again here, the red gold and platinum variants of the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition are allowed to play with the color scheme slightly to create a new experience. The difference in the case of the red gold is slight, but it speaks to the more luxurious experience on tap: While all three versions share the same khaki Super-LumiNova, for the red gold variant, this lume is applied by hand over the dial surface for a more personal, human touch. If the case material of the red gold version adds a warmth to the overall dial design, the platinum edition makes a conscious effort to move the watch in the opposite direction. Here, a desaturated midnight blue replaces the stark black, drawing in tones from the case material and creating something that feels more contemporary and cleaner. In addition, the platinum variant also receives hand-applied lume.
All three models share the same movement: the in house automatic Caliber B09 chronograph. This manufacture powerplant features a complex and costly column wheel for superior pusher feel, along with a vertical clutch system. While not necessary for a mechanical chronograph movement, both of these additions are highly prized among enthusiasts. In addition, the B09 movement is COSC chronometer-certified and features a robust 70-hour power reserve, along with a smooth 28,800 bph sweep.
Breitling fits each version of the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition with a heavily contrast stitched leather strap. For the stainless steel version, this strap is a supple satin black, while the 18-karat gold model is paired with distressed tobacco brown, and the cooler tones of the platinum version are contrasted with a warm saddle tan.
Although these three are strictly limited editions, one has to commend Breitling’s commitment to accuracy in reviving these classic chronographs. If this is an indicator of things to come in the standard Breitling product line, 2020 has the potential to be a very special year for the brand. All three are currently available for preorder through Breitling’s website, at a price of $8,035 for one of the 1,953 limited edition stainless steel models, $21,360 for one of the 253 18-karat red gold examples, and $39,665 for one of the 153 platinum pieces. Delivery for these limited models is expected in April 2020.