This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 Issue of the WatchTime print magazine.
The De Havilland Mosquito was a multipurpose airplane manufactured in Britain during and shortly after World War II. More than 7,700 of these twin-engine, two-seater aircraft were built between 1940 and 1950. Aluminum and steel were scarce during this time, so the engineers at the De Havilland Aircraft Company relied on a material that was not in short supply: wood. The airplane, known as the “Wooden Wonder,” caused a sensation when it outperformed its metal competitors and became one of the fastest and most versatile aircraft of its day.
The Breitling Super AVI B04 Chronograph GMT 46 Mosquito, our test watch, isn’t made of wood, but it is versatile. It’s inspired by the design of the De Havilland Mosquito and equipped with diverse functions as well as the unmistakable features of a Breitling pilots’ watch.
The Breitling Huit Aviation Department had already made a name for itself in the 1930s by developing precision cockpit clocks for aviation, which was still in its infancy at that time. Two decades later, in 1953, Breitling introduced another new type of aviation instrument to the world, but now as a wristwatch: the Reference 765 AVI pilots’ watch, which went on to inspire many other models and quickly became known among aviators as the “Co-Pilot.” In 2020, Breitling launched the AVI Reference 765 1953 Re-Edition, a carefully researched and designed reissue of the pilots’ watch from 1953.
This timepiece in turn served as the inspiration for the new Super AVI in the newly compiled Classic AVI collection. In addition to the references of the Super AVI, the collection now also includes those of the AVI 1953 Edition and Re-Edition and, after several transformations, the references of the Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph, the Aviator 8 Chronograph and the Aviator 8 Automatic. All in all, the Classic AVI collection currently includes 20 models.
The word “Super” in Super AVI stands for size, which begins with the case. With a diameter of 46.31 mm and a height of 16.32 mm, it really isn’t small, even when measured against current trends. Nevertheless, this watch fits very well, even on a slim wrist, thanks to its lugs, which curve downward, and its strong but supple leather strap, where contrasting stitching brings the adrenaline associated with pilots’ watches to the wrist. The solid high-quality folding clasp with lateral push-pieces adds a welcome feeling of security.
A highly domed sapphire crystal in a “box” shape seals the case at the top. Breitling’s typical polygonal sapphire crystal is inserted into the back, which can only be opened with a special tool. The stainlesssteel bezel that circles this crystal specifies several features of the automatic Caliber B04 inside: it’s a manufacture caliber (based on Caliber B01 introduced in 2009), it’s water resistant to 100 meters, and it has been certified as a chronometer, which is a matter of course at Breitling. The quality features of Caliber B01 are well known: it has vertical coupling and a column wheel, and a 70-hour power reserve. The running autonomy decreases fairly quickly in the Super AVI, which strays toward the limits of the chronometer accuracy range as the power reserve diminishes and when the watch is operated with the chronograph running. In addition to the time display, date and stopwatch function, Caliber B04 also offers a complex time-zone function, which can do much more than merely show a second time zone, and the GMT function in the model’s name.
For basic setting, you pull the large, easy-to-grip, screw-down crown to its outer position and turn it, which moves the 24-hour hand with its large arrowhead along the corresponding white 24-hour scale at the edge of the dial and sets the local time in a 24-hour format. Then adjust the minute hand.
When you turn the crown in its center position, you can move the hour hand for the main time forward or backward in increments. This modern time-zone function, which is making its way into movements from other manufacturers such as Tudor and Omega, also switches the date display both forward and backward. Once the correct date has been set via the change at midnight, you position the hour hand to show the home time on its 12-hour scale. The minute hand doesn’t move along with it, but the previously set time is retained with to-the-second accuracy because the watch continues to run.
Both hour hands now show the same time, albeit in different formats, but they can also be used for other settings. For example, if you travel to another time zone, you can simply change the home-time hour hand to indicate the new local time by pulling the crown to its central position and turning the winding button. The minutes and seconds remain unchanged. If you travel across the International Date Line, the date changes automatically, and it changes again when you come back. If you want to use the 24-hour hand to show a time zone other than your home time, you can set the 24-hour hand accordingly and then move the hour hand to indicate your home time.
The bezel, which can be rotated in both directions, can also be used to set a third time zone. It features a 12-hour scale that can be aligned with the hour hand of the main time depending on the desired third time zone. However, you must remember if it is day or night in that third time zone, and the bezel’s 60-second increments don’t perfectly match the 12-hour scale on the boldly grooved, non-slip, ceramic rotating bezel.
The bezel’s handling and its locking mechanism with a pawl are excellent. The large, knurled, double-sealed, onion-shaped crown can be easily gripped, screwed open and closed, and neatly brought into its individual positions with clear fixed points. The historically inspired hat-shaped chronograph push-pieces offer smooth and firm pressure points thanks to the column wheel that controls the Caliber B04’s chronograph functions.
The elapsed-seconds hand, which begins orbiting the dial when the chronograph is switched on, is easy to distinguish from the 24-hour hand by its color and the shape of its tip. When the elapsed-seconds hand crosses its zero mark, the redorange minute hand jumps one position ahead on a prominent counter at 3. The design of this subdial is inspired by the De Havilland Mosquito: the eye-catching redorange accents recall the aircraft’s insignia and markings on its fuselage.
The time is easy to read on the matte black dial, which has large Arabic numerals and geometrically shaped indexes that glow bright green in the dark along with the central hands and the tips of other hands. Within the tricompax arrangement of subdials, the date window is positioned inside the 12-hour counter at the 6. When the watch is running, the date display quickly advances shortly before midnight. This indicator is designed so that manual intervention during this time period cannot damage the underlying mechanism.
This really couldn’t be otherwise because it serves as the basis for the watch’s modern time-zone concept. This detail distinguishes the Super AVI B04 Chronograph GMT as a fully up-to-date timepiece, while its allusions to the Mosquito aircraft celebrate the history of a watch brand that has witnessed, and helped shape, decisive moments in aviation.