Following the launch of the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition in 2020, Breitling is now introducing the new Super AVI watch line, a larger version with a case diameter of 46 mm. The five new models pay homage to the most important fighter planes of the 1940s, as well as to the original references from the brand’s collection. We spoke to Breitling collector and expert Fred Mandelbaum about the new line, as well as the historic models from which they were inspired.
Fred Mandelbaum explains the new Super AVI collection
In the 1930s, the Breitling Huit Aviation Department developed cockpit watches for aviation. Then, in 1939, Breitling produced the Reference 765 AVI, the first wristwatch for pilots, and with it, the first water-resistant watch with a 12-hour display. Willy Breitling christened his pilot’s watch line AVI, based on the word “Aviation”. In order to guarantee pilots the best possible readability and the ultimate tool watch, the 38 mm model from 1939 had a black dial, large indices, and hands with yellow-tinted luminous coating.
In 1953, a rotating 12-hour bezel was then added to this basic model, and the timepiece also increased in size to 40 mm – unusually large for the time. It has since been regarded by Breitling as the original AVI, from which the Re-Edition presented in 2020 also draws inspiration.
In the early 1960s, the subdial counters were then highlighted by contrasting black or white dials to optimise readability. “The dial design is called Reversed Panda. It was originally used by Breitling in the Superocean 807 models,” explains Mandelbaum. “Willy Breitling then decided to implement it in all other models,” he adds. This explains why the design was then present on many of the brand’s timepieces until the late 1970s, when Willy Breitling sold the trademark rights of Breitling to the Schnyder family.
In 1964, Breitling first developed a version with a black aluminium bezel, also known amongst insiders as the ‘Jean-Claude Killy’. The French ski racer, later a Rolex ambassador, was spotted wearing this model, albeit before his involvement with the Genevan brand. Breitling chose the black bezel at the time not for the sake of being stylish, but because pilots simply preferred a dark bezel for functional reasons.
The new 46mm Super AVI GMT chronographs
The “Super” AVI – similar to the Chronomat and Super Chronomat – are larger case versions within the same line. There are now five new models available in the Super AVI, one of which is a red-gold model that is exclusively sold in Breitling boutiques or in the brand’s online shop.
Super AVI P-51 Mustang
Meanwhile, taking inspiration from the P-51 Mustang fighter plane, the Super AVI P-51 Mustang features a black dial like the original model and comes in stainless steel. It is accompanied by a golden-brown leather strap. The 18-carat version in red gold with an anthracite dial and black leather strap is an exclusive Boutique Edition. Furthermore, the diameter of the GMT chronograph is a striking 46 mm. “For Breitling’s Creative Director Sylvain Berneron, optimising the wearability of watches, especially large watches, is a major concern,” says Mandelbaum. Thus, when we put it on our wrist, we too are indeed amazed at how well it wears on slimmer wrists.
Super AVI Tribute to Vought F4U Corsair
The Super AVI Tribute to Vought F4U Corsair takes inspiration from the Vought F4U Corsair naval aircraft from the Second World War. At 640 km/h, it was the fastest single-seat fighter aircraft at the time. The chronograph has a dark blue dial with matching subdial counters and comes with a black leather strap. With its white luminous material, it is very close to the original design of the AVI from 1953, only in the new version it is a little more elegant; a watch “for the gentleman pilot”, as Mandelbaum puts it.
Super AVI Curtiss Warhawk
Most people have probably seen the Curtis P-40 Warhawk fighter with its unmistakable shark’s mouth painted on the plane’s nose at least once in their lives. The colour scheme of the watch, with its military green dial and red accents, is inspired by the plane. The ‘Reverse Panda’ dial design with white contrasting subdial counters stems from the vintage AVI models of the early 1960s.
Super AVI Mosquito
The De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito fighter plane was not made of steel or aluminium, but of wood. Known as the “Wooden Wonder”, it nevertheless became one of the fastest aircrafts built between 1940 and 1950. In homage to the black-bezel AVI pilot watches produced from 1964 onwards, the new Super AVI Mosquito has a black polished and satin-finished ceramic bezel and a black dial. The subdial counters are stand out in white.
All of the Super AVI novelties are equipped with the COSC-certified automatic calibre B04, which is developed and produced in-house by Breitling. The movement has a vertical-clutch ratchet wheel control. With the GMT function and a 12-hour bezel, you even have access to seeing three time zones at a mere glance. The chronographs are also water-resistant to 100 metres, despite not having screw-down pushers. Mandelbaum has an opinon on this point, too: “I find tool watches with screw-down pushers slightly absurd. If you suddenly need the chronograph, the watch is not immediately ready for use”. There’s certainly something to that.
The new Super AVI watch collection will be available from 17 November, 2021.