The Breitling 765 ‘AVI” was introduced in the 1950s, as a tool watch expressly designed for pilots, with this late example dating to circa 1964, based on inner-caseback number.
Originally owned by Flying Officer TJ Kent (evidenced by the case-back engraving), the watch is believed to have first been purchased in the Middle-East (Sharjah, UAE) in circa 1964, when its former owner was stationed at RAF Khormaksar in Aden, Yemen. Mr Kent, served in 105 Squadron (Royal Air Force), flying Argosy aircraft before eventually passing-down the watch his step-son, later in life. Whilst cleaned and serviced, the watch is in its original condition.
Pre-AVI designation, the earliest reference 765s were used by civilian aviators and military Air Forces in the late 1930s. These wristwatches were the first to be launched by the ‘Breitling EIGHT’ Military aviation division; bearing many of the classic hallmarks typically associated with military pilot’s wristwatches. The ‘Breitling EIGHT Air Force’ utilized the latest technical advancements to manufacture highly-specialised equipment, using only materials of the best quality, such as cockpit clocks, oscillographs as well as complicated wristwatches.
The reference 765 ‘AVI’ predates Breguet’s famous type ‘XX’, introduced in 1954 and issued to the ‘Armée de l’Air, Aeronavale’ and ‘C.E.V’ (Centre d’Essais en Vol – Flight Test Center). The French military used watches by Breguet, Auricoste and Vixa. The Breitling 765 ‘AVI’, produced in 1953, was seemingly the influential benchmark used throughout the design process of these later examples, emphasizing legibility, waterproofness, and enhanced reliability. Further examples of Breitling 765 ‘AVI’ variants have been found displaying case-backs stamped by the Aeronautica Militare; AM – Italian Air Force. Whilst these examples are unconfirmed to be of direct military issuance, Breitling is known to have produced military watches for The Paracadutisti R.A.O “Folgore” (Italian Special Forces, 185th Lightning Paratrooper Division) some years later.
This Breitling 765 'AVI', with serial number (989,XXX) has a round, stainless steel case with large chronograph pushers and an original Breitling, fluted crown. The case measures 41 mm in diameter and has thick straight-line lugs with sharp bevels, retaining exceptional definition. Like all original examples, the screw-down case-back features sharply preserved engraving; “AVI 765”, along with ‘WATERPROOF- SHOCK PROTECTED – ANTIMAGNETIC – STAINLESS-STEEL’ and the manufacturer's signature. Further to this, the case-back additionally features the name of the original owner engraved at the centre, typically found on examples used in active-service.
While the Breitling 765 ‘AVI’ was produced with a range of dial configurations, the “reverse panda” was officially adopted by Breitling between 1962 and ’64, and produced until late 1964, when the reference received a significant update; removing all references to the ‘AVI’ designation from its catalogues and official literature, and replacing it with the acronym CP (Co-Pilot).
The case features a steel, bi-directional rotating bezel with twelve-hour graduation. The inlaid, black paint has since worn away, consistent with use. The matte black dial is very well preserved, has white minute markers and luminous index markers for the hours. The tritium lume on the stick handset and index hour markers has aged to a scorched yellow tone, complementing the patina on the sub-registers.
It features a white Breitling logo, while 'Breitling Geneve' is referenced on the dial at twelve o'clock. A 'SWISS' marking is visible at six o'clock below the twelve-hour sub-register.
The chronograph, minute and hour hands are white, giving the dial a nice monochromatic look. The sub-registers at three, six and nine o'clock are the fifteen-minute, twelve-hour and the sub-second dials, respectively, featuring a single Arabic numeral at the twelve o’clock position. The minute-recording sub-register features unique lume-dashes, marking every three minutes, as well as a luminescent ‘arrow’ hand to ensure optimal legibility.
The watch carries a manual-winding Venus calibre 178, considered by many as one of the most famous column wheel operated chronograph calibres of all time. The movement features 17 jewels and a modified 15-minute subsidiary-register at the 3 o’clock position, beating at 18,000 A/h, with a power reserve of 45-hours. This 'standard' column wheel movement for Breitling Chronographs has a twist; instead of the usual thirty-minute subsidiary at three o'clock, this modified movement has a fifteen-minute counter. This was designed to offer greater precision for pilots, as the duration of the counter is that of a plane's pre-flight check required to clear for takeoff.
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