YOUR CO-PILOT FOR LIFE
THE FIRST CO-PILOT
Alongside the Navitimer for civilian pilots, Willy Breitling starts working in the early 1950s on a chronograph for military pilots who got rugged, reliable and efficient tools from Breitling since the HUIT Aviation department was founded in 1938.
The Navitimer is the ultimate wrist-worn instrument for pilots, enabling them to compute all kinds of calculations with its rotating slide-rule. But pilots also need a robust and functional chronograph to time any event and easily read the time on their wrists while holding the control column.
The purpose of this new chronograph is to complement the Navitimer, the trustworthy companion of any pilot, and Willy Breitling chooses a name that perfectly reflects that: the Co-Pilot.
THIS IS NOT A DATE!
Willy Breitling intuitively understands the importance of legibility for pilots and comes up with the brilliant and groundbreaking idea of displaying the elapsed minutes with a disc instead of the usual sub-dial.
What looks like a date is in fact the 15-minute recorder (as you had precisely 15 minutes to check your plane before take-off) and it definitively enhances legibility!
The first Co-Pilot (Ref. 765 AVI), launched in 1953, is the descendant of the onboard and wrist-worn military instruments made by the HUIT Aviation department. The oversized numerals on its black dial ensure that reading the time doesn’t distract the pilot from flying. Its engraved rotating bezel makes it possible for pilots to access an immediate reading of long elapsed time and can also be used as a second time-zone indicator. And like the Navitimer, it is surrounded by small beads, to make manipulation with gloves easier.
Even its internal Breitling reference, 765 AVI, highlights its aviation purpose with AVI standing for aviation.
While the very first Co-Pilot is launched with the groundbreaking digital minute recorder, a more traditional analog version with a third sub-dial is launched right after and both are produced concomitantly from the mid-1950s until the early 1960s.
This iconic design execution even got its very own re-edition in 2020: the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition.
THE “REVERSE PANDA” CO-PILOT
In the early 1960s, the design of the Co-Pilot gets a modern twist with white contrasting sub-dials, like its sister, the Navitimer, and gains popularity way beyond the world of aviation.
The Co-Pilot is no longer confined to jet cockpits. It is worn by sportsmen like the famous racing driver Ken Miles and the ski champion Jean-Claude Killy, and even cinema celebrities like Raquel Welch in the movie Fathom (1967).
In 1965, its bezel becomes anodized black and its reference changes to 765 CP, CP standing for Co-Pilot.
In the 1960s, while transatlantic flights are booming and more and more tourists are traveling overseas to different time zones, Breitling offers the Co-Pilot Unitime (Ref. 1765) which makes it possible to read the time in two different time zones thanks to its 24-hour dial and rotating bezel.
The success of the Co-Pilot is such that it even gets several yachting versions that are used to time the countdown prior the start of regattas, proving that Breitling is more than ever “In the Air, On the Ground, Under the Sea.”
THE AUTOMATIC CO-PILOT
1969 arrives, and with it, the launch of the caliber Chrono-Matic, one of the first automatic chronograph calibers, developed in partnership with Heuer-Leonidas and Buren-Hamilton.
This revolutionary caliber combines the performance and functionality of a chronograph with the comfort of an automatic watch, which doesn’t have to be wound every day. The Co-Pilot gets an automatic version (Ref. 7651) with a large 48mm case. The Navitimer and SuperOcean are also fitted with the same automatic movement.
The look is definitively modern and sporty, with orange accents that defined design in 1970s, but always with thin luminescent indexes in the oversized minute recorder – signatures of the Co-Pilot.
Today, the Breitling Aviator 8 collection perfectly embodies the heritage of the original Co-Pilot. With a highly legible dial design, a rugged case with short faceted lugs and an engraved bezel, the Aviator 8 collection expresses modernity, heritage and purpose.