This won’t be an impartial review of a vintage watch – far from it. I own, and love, this 1960s chronograph from Breitling. I wish to explain here what led me to a watch with a 41mm case, when I usually swear by more modest sizes for my personal watches. Like all good love stories, it wasn’t planned: I found this Cheap Breitling Replica in a small French city, and could not look away.
Let’s start with the obvious: the Cheap Breitling reference 765 AVI is not a small watch. With a diameter of 41mm, its case is considerably larger than most other watches from the 1960s, even those meant for pilots and drivers. For comparison’s sake, the contemporary Rolex Daytona was 36-37mm, while the AVI’s rival, the Breguet Type 20, stood at 38mm. And, yes, the shadow of the Type 20 cannot be avoided in this story. The resemblance between the Breitling and the Type 20 is not an accident.The AVI’s less glorious destiny did not deter me, however. On the contrary. There is something poetic about believing in the underdog and realizing how great it can actually be. My Breitling AVI is not the first iteration of the line. As with many vintage Breitling Replica Watches chronos, the original configuration of the reference 765 AVI came with black sub-registers. It even came with a quirky feature, not seen in many other watches: a digital readout for the elapsed minutes of the chronograph, where you would usually expect the date window to be. Later it adopted a more standard layout with two chronograph sub-registers, which eventually were given the silvery finish found on many other Cheap Breitling Replica chronographs, from the Navitimer to the Top Time.
The utilitarian nature of this Breitling jumps out quickly, and not only from the oversized case. The legibility of the glossy black dial is admirable, and the massive sub-dial at 3 o’clock clearly shows where the focus is meant to be. It’s also worth noting that the chronograph’s 15-minute counter required a modification to the standard Valjoux 178, usually set for 30 minutes. Why go through that mechanical trouble? This is where Cheap Breitling aviation roots are obvious, as 15 minutes was the exact duration of a plane’s pre-flight check required to clear it for takeoff. This also explains the unique lume dashes inside the sub-register to mark every three minutes, making this routine as easy as possible to time for the pilots and technicians involved.
This unique design was obviously attractive on its own, but my Breitling has something extra that, as a Frenchman, I could not resist. Under the Breitling logo, an additional “Lip” signature can be seen above the central pivot for the hands. Those three little letters might be subtle, but they play a major role in the watchmaking history of my homeland. Lip was a well-known French manufacture that offered great watches at reasonable prices, from the elegant Dauphine to the sporty Nautic-Ski. It was such an important player in France during the middle of the 20th century that Blancpain and Breitling Replica Watches each sought a partnership for local distribution, leading to these double-signed dials.
This leads us to a really geeky question that I don’t have the answer for: how is it possible for a watch from 1965 to have a dial with an extra signature from a partnership that wasn’t made official until 1966 and didn’t go into full effect until 1967 (according to most sources)? There are a few possibilities. One simple explanation is that all these years later the actual starting date of the partnership has been confused and it began a year or two earlier, even unofficially. Another, more likely, explanation is that the Lip-Breitling deal was aimed at unloading Breitling’s less popular watches in France, so this dial received the Lip stamp after its original manufacturing date but before it was ever sold to a customer. There’s a bit of downtrodden romance to the idea that this watch sat unwanted, only to receive the marking that makes it so special today.
It’s probably obvious by now that I’m quite infatuated with this watch, so I’ll stop waxing poetic in a moment. To me, this Cheap Breitling Replica illustrates everything that I love about vintage watch collecting, blending provenance, stunning looks, and a few opportunities to get nerdy about the details. Every time I look at the glossy black dial I can’t avoid mentally traveling back to Paris, or imagining myself piloting a plane in the glamorous 1960s.