Breitling Co-Pilot

Breitling Co-Pilot

Breitling has always been on the forefront of technical innovation, as proved by the Emergency—a watch equipped with a dual frequency distress beacon. But for many years, their particular expertise in the area of military aviation has perhaps been unsurpassed by any other brand. Since the release of the Navitimer in the 1950s, Breitling’s watches have been as indispensable to pilots as any other piece of kit.

But in fact, the association with military aviation started as early as 1946, which saw the emergence of a division within Breitling devoted to the creation of watches and instruments specifically designed for combat usage. Called Breitling Eight Air Force, this division advertised almost exclusively to military and corporate buyers. Catalogs from that era touted the fact that their watches were “dispose[d] of the latest technical improvements.”

One of the division’s best creations was the Reference 765 AVI.

Like the Breguet Type 20, the Reference 765 or AVI was designed for helicopter pilots in the French army. Eager to secure the contract, Breitling Eight designed a watch in 1953 that they thought would be perfect for the job. Unlike the Navitimer, the dial of the AVI displayed only the most essential information pilots needed—the requisite hours and minutes, indicated by large luminescent hands, and registers for running seconds, hours, and 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, the French military specification—Type 20—required a flyback function, which the AVI lacked.

Not to be deterred, Breitling adapted it for civilian use, and in 1964 it debuted as the Co-Pilot. This watch was worn to perfection by Raquel Welch in the 1967 film Fathom, in which an Italian skydiver (played by Welch as the title character) finds herself embroiled in international espionage. Breitling ads promoted the watch’s appearance on film, stating that either the watch or the woman “[steals] the scenes, in film and real life.”

Though the Co-Pilot retained the diameter of its predecessor (a whopping 41mm, large for the period), it underwent some cosmetic changes that made it stand out amidst Breitling’s chronograph offerings.

The rotating 12h steel bezel, previously steel, was now anodized aluminum. The bezel was also released in other variants, like the Double Scale bezel, which displayed scales for both 60 minutes and 12 hours. The Double Scale bezel found its way to a cousin of the Co-Pilot, the 765 Yachting.

Additionally, the dial—previously black-on-black—was given a distinctive black-and-white color way known as “reverse panda” by collectors.

The new variant of Co-Pilot with the white chronograph registers found its way on the wrist of someone less glamorous, but no less exciting, than Raquel Welch—Jean-Claude Killy.

Though best associated with the Rolex Dato-Compax that now bears his name in collecting circles, Killy also sported a Reference 765 Co-Pilot before pledging himself to the Crown as a sponsor. Most notably, he wore the Co-Pilot during the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. Killy won gold medals in downhill, giant slalom, and slalom—the “Triple Crown” of alpine skiing—thus securing his legacy.

On the wrist, the Co-Pilot dominates, but when strapped on leather—as we’ve done—the appearance is softened somewhat.

Whether plunging toward Earth from a De Havilland DH-89A like Welch in Fathom or slaloming down the slopes in the French Alps a la Killy, you’re sure to look stylish with this watch as your Co-Pilot.


SKU: AS02206

Stainless steel case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Reference 765CP. Venus Calibre 178 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with signs of moderate use and wear, including some light marks on the lower lugs. Bezel is in very good condition with no noteworthy flaws. Dial is in very good condition overall with some darkening in the chronograph registers. Signed crown. Case back shows some light signs of wear.

Includes one black leather strap with later Breitling buckle.

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