Editor’s note: After going hands-on with the incredible new Breitling Premier B09 Burgundy LE recently, we look at the latest squad to join the Breitling family, the new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Collection. For our other detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
Nostalgia has no expiry. It has a way of coming back, repeating itself almost in an endless loop, paving way for us to embrace the good from the past.
Almost 70-years ago, Breitling released the iconic 1953 “Co-Pilot” Ref. 765 AVI.
Through the decades, through the passing fads, the charm for this aviation inspired timepiece never really left. Like the scent of a sweet lingering song that plays in the vaults of the abyss of our minds, coming back to our humming lips once in a while, the 1953 “Co-Pilot” Ref. 765 AVI always manages to appeal.
The 2020 Breitling AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition is a case in point. And now, these aviation inspired pieces are back in a new avatar – same cool design DNA, but in a modern interpretation. Breitling takes the soul of these and and supersizes it. To make it even cooler, and introduces 5 new references.
But what’s even more cool is that each timepiece is further inspired by four legendary planes — the Vought F4U Corsair, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the de Havilland Mosquito, and the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang (with this last one also available in a precious material) — and their filigree silhouettes adorn the watches’ display case backs.
It’s said that a “‘good’ landing is one from which you can walk away. A ‘great’ landing is one after which they can use the plane again”.
With this latest collection, Breitling ensures that it offers aviation-themed watch enthusiasts a ‘great’ variety of timepieces that separate themselves from other ‘good’ pilots watches available in the market.
Combining the worlds of aviation related timepieces with actual planes is a stroke of genius, and for those enamoured by this world (and with large wrist sizes), the new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Collection will be just the right dose of nostalgia.
Wrapping up a stellar year that’s seen the release of the Top Time Classic Cars collection , the Premier B09 Chronograph ‘Pistachio’ and Burgundy, and Duograph/Datora timepieces, the existing Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 family is set to get bigger.
The current Aviator 8 family features some excellent interpretations of Breitling’s first pilots’ watches. The collection — non-pm options — currently starts with a simple 3-hander with date at 5’150 AUD and goes all the way to 11’100 AUD, the latter being the 1953 Ref. 765 re-edition that the new references we are reviewing today are based on.
The original was launched back in 1953 as a pilot’s watch (AVI is short for ‘aviation’) and had been nicknamed the “Co-Pilot”. And this so called ‘Co-Pilot’ was in turn a 1950s interpretation of the onboard clocks designed and produced by Breitling’s Huit Aviation Department in the 1930s and 1940s.
One of the reasons why Breitling works so well for the fans, is that their re-editions usually are spot on and retain the original vintage charm. The AVI Ref 765 1953 Re-Edition was no different.
But not every watch has to be an exact match of its predecessor; bringing the current Aviator 8 family more into the present day, and diversifying it with different colour segues and a lager 46mm diameter, is the new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Collection.
The Hands-On Experience
While all 5 pieces have their own distinctive personality, there are of course some basic deign similarities.
All versions feature a stainless steel — barring the P-51 Mustang ref. RB04451A1B1X1 that’s available in 18k red gold — body measuring 46mm in diameter and 15.9mm in thickness. They all feature 100m water-resistance — an improvement over 2020’s AVI Ref 765 1953 Re-Edition’s 30m — along with a screw-down crown and case-back. All watches come on a pilot-inspired leather strap with folding clasp (24/20 mm).
All the watches feature a COSC-certified movement with a column-wheel vertical clutch chronograph. The dial displays are the same as well, all being tri-compax and the dial showcasing the functions of hours, minutes, seconds, a date window tucked in at 6’o clock, and second time zone functions.
The fairly sunken sub-dials in all the models feature an azurage treatment, and the finely concentric circle layout adds a welcome nuance and texture play to the dial. For the versions which do not feature a reverse panda dial, this further helps in differentiating the various elements of the dial.
I like how the Super-LumiNova® luminescent numerals and indexes feature a slight bump in the middle, adding a distinctive vintage-esque character of a watch with old lume to the timepieces.
The bidirectional ratcheted bezels in all of them follow the material codes of their bodies, except for the Mosquito ref. YB04451A1B1X1 version which features a combination of polished and satin-brushed black ceramic bezel with red pointer and white numerals. The highly polished and shiny steel bezels may be a fingerprint magnet, but they elevates the design appeal of the watches, lending to them a refined quality.
All versions are thankfully designed with rather short lugs that feature both polished and brushed surfaces, and the watches sit pretty snug on the wrist. Even for someone like me with slim ~16cm wrists, the 46mm diameter case did not visually appear too overbearing thanks to the lug design (and treatment).
Design wise, I also admire that the date wheel is matched to the colour of the respective dial colours – it’s a small detail, but nonetheless, the fact that the brand gave attention to it is commend-worthy.
The dials retain the AVI Ref 765 1953’s highly legible Arabic numerals but thankfully replace the Hesalite crystal with a more durable cambered sapphire crystal (glare-proofed on both sides). I also like that they have gone for a bold and legible red/orange-tipped GMT hand that allows tracking of a second time zone.
Last but not the least, the thick, knurled bezels felt good when gripped, with the bezel action sounding and feeling fine. And same goes for the addition of an oversized somewhat onion-shaped crown that not only harks to aviation themed watch designs but is also easy to grip and use. The crown features the same logo design as that on the dial, bringing in continuity to the timepiece as a whole.
Flight Of Ecstasy
There are also a few stand out features in each version that caught my flight of fancy (see what I did there).
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang
The new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 P-51 Mustang ref. AB04453A1B1X1 should become a fan favourite, given it’s the bigger brother of the AVI Ref 765 1953 Re-Edition. With a similar black dial and beige coloured but green emitting Super-LumiNova® luminescent numerals, indexes and hands, the P-51 Mustang version speaks the most to the purist in me.
It retains the nostalgic charm of the originals, but brings in a modern twist with different sub-dial treatment, an added date window and a GMT complication.
Compared to some of the other new variations, the P-51 Mustang steel version also features a finely grained main dial treatment that differs itself from the vertically brushed dial of the P-51 Mustang gold.
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang Gold
The new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 P-51 Mustang 18k red gold version ref. RB04451A1B1X1 is exclusive to Breitling boutiques and breitling.com and features an anthracite dial with black contrasting chronograph counters.
Besides the main dial texture, the other notable difference is the use of white Super-LumiNova® with blue emission.
The use of gold hands ties in the design, and further differentiates this from its steel sibling.
The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
This military-green reverse-panda dial is one of my favourites, thanks to the colour scheme and high contrast on the dial, and also because of the association with the actual Warhawk plane’s defiant shark-mouth nose artwork. To me this is the most military-esque and lends that extra flair to the whole collection.
I like how well the military-green dial contrasts with the brown pilot-inspired leather strap in person, along with the white stitching on the strap that works in harmony with the white sub-dials. Green dial also acts as good base for green emitting Super-LumiNova® luminescent numerals, indexes, and hands.
This version also happens to be very legible in person, and the subtle use of reds and oranges gives it an extra flair.
This new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Curtiss Warhawk re. AB04452A1L1X1 it appears will perhaps replace the existing Aviator 8 Chronograph 43 Curtiss Warhawk ref. A133161A1L1X1 (that retails for only 10’500 AUD).
The Vought F4U Corsair
The first Vought F4U Corsair was the first single-engine fighter to crack the 400 mph (640 km/h) mark, and just like its namesake, the new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Tribute To Vought F4U Corsair ref. AB04451A1C1X1 takes its design cues from the characteristic livery of this record-breaking naval aircraft.
This version also brings in that eternal-must-have blue dial look to the collection with that striking tone-on-tone blue dial. The shade of blue is kind of dark, and when paired with a standard light blue business shirt, brings in a welcome sense of dressy vibes. This version in my opinion is the most versatile of the lot, that can be worn for both casual and formal settings.
If you are someone who doesn’t like grained-textured dials, then its worthwhile to note that the new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Tribute To Vought F4U Corsair is also the only other version with a fine vertically brushed dial like that of the P-51 Mustang Gold.
On the whole, I admire how Breitling has matched the lume with the dial base colours in the Warhawk and Corsair versions, and here the blue dial also acts as good base for blue emitting Super-LumiNova® luminescent numerals, indexes, and hands.
The de Havilland Mosquito
The new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Mosquito ref. YB04451A1B1X1 is the bigger brother of the Aviator 8 Chronograph 43 Mosquito ref. AB01194A1B1X2 (that retails for 10’500 AUD).
The current Aviator 8 Chronograph 43 uses the calibre B01 which in turn is the base for the new, larger version. At 43×13.9mm it is considerably smaller than the new version that sits at 46×15.9mm. Both these have similar movement specs, with the newer version accomodating an extra GMT function.
Besides the sizing, there are also a few design differences between the two (and we have gone hands-on with both so you can choose whichever is the right version for you and for reference, my wrist is 16.5cm).
The location of the date window is different being at 6’o clock, and so is the internal layout of the sub-dials. In the new version, the ‘B’ counterweight of the second’s hand is gone as well. The dial of the smaller one is also a bit more grainy. The fonts used, the inner minute track are also executed differently.
As an impressive attention to detail, I appreciate how on the smaller version, the date wheel is black to complement the background, and on the newer version, it is white to complement the colour of the sub-dial it is nested within.
The bezels for both may be black but the new version is polished compared to the brushed look of the other. Similar pushers but now there’s that more prominent onion-shape crown that is easier to grip.
Design wise, there is also more white space on the dial of the newer version, making the dial ‘breathe’ more. I like that they have retained the red 12’o clock pip that also complements the other ‘red’ on the dial. Honestly, if I would change anything in the new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Mosquito design, I would perhaps remove the date window as it makes it a bit busy, but then thankfully, there is less text at 12’o clock.
Long story short, quite frankly, if someone loves this reverse panda look but already owns the 43mm version, I can see both the watches finding home within the same collection.
The larger-than-life sized new version is both legible and stylish, with a cool vibe to it thanks to its extra red and orange elements that the brand informs us “recall the roundels and markings found on the versatile plane (it is named after) dubbed the ‘Wooden Wonder’”.
All models feature the same COSC-certified Breitling Manufacture Caliber B04 which is a 30×8.33mm automatic bidirectional column-wheel, vertical clutch chronograph movement with ball bearing.
Like I said earlier, it is based on the Breitling B01 beating at 4Hz frequency, comprises of 47 jewels, and features an impressive 70-hour power reserve.
The B04 movement we have previously seen in the Navitimer B04 Chronograph GMT 48 collection, 2013’s Transocean Chronograph GMT and 2017’s limited edition Chronoliner B04.
That’s All Folks!
Breitling is expanding their historic line from 1930s and 40s, and have been interested in bringing in more colours, and also want to cater to both the purists and new collectors. The new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 collection is all about innovating and modernising vintage design elements (and adding the GMT function). They also feature a visually enhanced minute totaliser with extended from 3 to 5 minute intervals.
It’s good to note that there are numerous influxes from their past catalogue between 1953 to late 1960s, whether be it the Chronoliner 46 or the Breitling Co-Pilot 7650 from the 70s. The Corsair edition is similar to the original Avi, the Warhawk to the 1962’s models, and the Mosquito derives it design elements from 1965’s Avi 765 CP.
Allow me to wrap up with a quote I once read: “Let’s get one thing straight. There’s a big difference between a pilot and an aviator. One is a technician; the other is an artist in love with flight”.
There are numerous brands and watch models that take to the sky for inspiration; there are also a number of pilot’s watches available in the market. But the difference between them and the new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Collection is summarised in the quotation above; while they all may be technical marvels and great in their own rights, one can see the artistry and the love for flight in Breitling’s new aviator-themed timepieces displayed in abundance.
These new Breitling offerings allow watch and aviation enthusiasts to revel in the enticing world of aviation inspired horology. It’s time to take off from the highway of nostalgia and fly high with the mighty impressive new Breitling Super Avi B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Collection.
To find out more about this new collection and other Breitling watches, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise specified are © Watch Ya Gonna Do About It.