It was not too long ago that I had the opportunity to join Breitling in Dallas for the unveiling of its Super AVI line. That event was an elaborate production and had all the earmarks of a typical Georges Kern event. As CEO of the brand, he made sure to put together an impressive, almost breath-taking, cinematic-like debut — from flying in famed and rare World War II planes, to stepping out of the smoke-filled background (smoke and mirrors) onto the stage from one of those planes at the Dallas Executive Airport’s National Aviation Education Center.
Four of the rarest World War II planes – the ones that inspired the new aviation watch collection – flew in formation from Virginia to Dallas for a spectacular marketing video and a huge statement-making event that culminated in C-47 flights flanked by the legendary fighter planes. The pilots of all four planes, along with Georges Kern, stepped out of the vintage 1930’s and ‘40’s planes and onto the stage to talk about flight, watches and more.
The planes included the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, the Vought F4U Corsair, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and the beloved de Havilland Mosquito. They provided the backdrop for, and underscored the concept of, the Super AVI line. After all, the collection, which consists of five models, was inspired by Breitling’s 1953 aviation watch, Ref. 765 AVI, which came to be lovingly referred to as the Co-Pilot and has achieved icon status. A re-edition was created last year, but the big release is now, with the Super AVI line.
“We have watches from the 1950’s onward, but we needed to pay tribute to the early days in the 1930’s and 1940’s,” said Kern. Breitling’s Huit Aviation department was making cockpit clocks that early. As the story goes, during World War II, when there was a ban on exporting instruments from neutral Switzerland to the Allies, Willy Breitling would go out in the dark of night and light a field so that pilots could safely land and load up on instruments to bring back for use.
Breitling wanted to honor those early days of aviation with the Super Avi. The plan: honor the finest fighter planes in the world. How did they select those planes? By color first and foremost. “We knew we needed a blue dial, a green dial and a black dial,” says Kern. So, the brand turned to the planes whose colors could be magnificently recreated on the dials of the GMT watches.
Breitling Super Avi Watches
(The below content by Roberta Naas first appeared on WatchPro.com)
Every Super AVI 46mm watch is a chronograph with GMT timing thanks to a 24-hour inner bezel and red-tipped GMT hand. The highly legible dial boasts Arabic numerals, and the case flaunts and oversized crown. The watches are powered by Breitling’s in-house-made COSC-certified chronometer Manufacture B04 movement wit h70 hours of power reserve. Each watch features an etching of the plane it is affiliated with on the transparent sapphire case back. All of the watches retail for $10,100 except for the 18-karat gold Mustang that sells for $23,650.
To achieve the military blue, the brand was inspired by the Vought F4U Corsair naval plane, which often had to make tricky takeoffs and landings from aircraft carriers and remote landing strips. This was the first single-engine fighter plane to surpass 400 mph and was the first to offer a bent-wing design so that the wings could be folded up. The Super AVI Tribute to Vought watch features a striking blue dial with color-coordinated chronograph counters.
The military green dial version is inspired by the Curtis P-40 Warhawk that made its first flight in 1938. Robust and agile at the same time, the plane could withstand the harsh weather conditions and was capable of incredible turning maneuvers. It’s iconic shark-tooth nose art made it immediately endearing to all generations. The green dial of the watch boasts red accents that recall the shark teeth.
The famed P-51 Mustang, which was built in 120 days by North American Aviation, was a power-house plane. It had a unique engine-cooling system that was experimental for its day and offered high speed and great range. To honor this iconic plane, Breitling built two versions of the Super AVI P-51 Mustang, one each in rose gold and stainless steel. The steel version has a black dial and brown leather strap, while the 5N 18-karat rose gold model has a rich anthracite dial and black leather strap. The gold version is available only in Breitling boutiques and at Breitling.com.
The final plane honored by Breitling is the de Havilland Mosquito plane, made of wood (since steel and aluminum were scarce during the war). The Wooden Wonder actually outperformed many of its metal counterparts and was one of the fastest planes built in the 1940’s. The Super AVI Mosquito watch is the only timepiece in the collection to boast a ceramic satin-brushed black bezel with contrasting chronograph counters and red and orange elements that recall the plane’s woods.
The Super AVI watches are in regular production and not made in limited editions. While Breitling already produces about 230,000 watches a year, we can expect production to be amped up by double-digit percentages in the coming year or so. This added capacity is due in large part to the investment boost recently spurred when a private equity firm, Partners Group, acquired 25 percent of the brand, whose largest shareholder is CVC Capital Partners.