One of the most famous watch designs is the aviator or pilot’s watch. These timepieces were never limited by a list of requirements – though many did – and they all fulfill the same purpose: to give a simple function to a pilot.
Many believe the Santos de Cartier, which was created for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, to be one of the first instances of a pilot’s watch. Since that watch was first in 1911, several watchmakers have made it their aim to create some of the most excellent aviation-style timepieces available, with Breitling being one among them.
Breitling was founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling in Saint-Imier, Bernese Jura. Still, it wasn’t until the debut of the Navitimer in the 1940s that the company solidified its position as a go-to brand for aviators.
Aviator 8 AVI Ref.765 1953 Re-Edition
This Breitling AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition is a modern reinterpretation of the classic Co-Pilot Ref.765 AVI, first introduced in 1953. It features a black dial, a highly-domed crystal, and Arabic numerals identical to those on its predecessor.
Breitling even went to the trouble of inserting three screws in the same spot as the 1953 model. A 41mm casing – also available in rose gold and platinum – and a 41mm casing are two more traits that keep them loyal to their heritage.
While the exterior design is classic, the internal mechanism is cutting-edge, as this watch features Breitling’s in-house B09 caliber, which the brand created specifically for re-edition models. This model is limited to 1953 pieces, adding to its exclusivity.
Automatic 45 Seawolf Night Mission
The company reintroduced Breitling’s Avenger line at the end of 2019, and this Avenger Automatic 45 Seawolf Night Mission was a part of it. The updated Avenger keeps the rider tabs on the unidirectional ratcheting bezel, which is a throwback to the original design.
The Avenger’s finger tabs and pusher buttons make it possible to use it while wearing gloves (perfect for pilots), and its 3,000m water resistance means you can also wear it on divers’ wrists. The black titanium case, black dial, and black leather band on this Night Mission version make it very appealing.
Chronomat B01 42
Even though the Chronomat as we know it now dates from 1984, its origins can be dated back to 1941. The brand applied for a patent with the Swiss government for a novel circular slide rule which people could use with a chronograph watch at the time.
It was a watershed moment, paving the way for the introduction of the Navitimer. After Ernest Schneider took over Breitling in 1984, the Chronomat was republished, and it was relaunched in 2020. While it is geared toward the aviation community, it has also gained a following among land and sea dwellers.
Breitling’s in-house B01 caliber with a 70-hour power reserve makes its premiere in the new 2020 series, which has a Rouleaux bracelet as the strap. The 18K Red Gold variant with the black rubber strap is our favorite.
Navitimer B01 Chronograph 46
The Navitimer is the model that first brought Breitling to the attention of many watch collectors. Because of the Chronomat’s popularity, its big 46mm dial was – and continues to be – selected for maximum reading.
Considering computers were still in their infancy and immensely huge when the Navitimer was launched, the circular slide rule was employed to help pilots solve mathematical calculations. Breitling’s Navitimer is another model that used to rely on third-party movements but now employs the company’s B01 caliber.
SuperOcean Heritage ’57 Steel
The SuperOcean was a departure for Breitling, which had previously announced a foray into diver’s watches when it debuted in 1957. Because an hour-long chronograph counter was more beneficial to divers, the initial models did away with a seconds chronograph counter.
Although it now has a more usable seconds counter, the SuperOcean is still primarily a diver’s watch (note the lack of a date display). You’ve got yourself a quirky timepiece with a highly retro concave bezel that can easily be worn daily.
Aviator 8 B35 Automatic Unitime 43
A world-time watch, or in Breitling’s case, Unitime, is another timepiece that is extremely useful for world travelers. This model is our favorite because of the easily readable Arabic numerals and black dial with a blue 12-hour zone. This Aviator 8’s dial can show the time in all 24 world time zones with a single glance, so you’ll always know when to make that critical conference call to Singapore, for example.
Breitling is noted for producing high-precision timepieces with excellent overall build quality and polish. All mechanical-grade watches are certified chronometers, which a Switch watch can achieve by using only the best materials.