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Breitling’s all-action classic watch is inspired by a female jet pilot and an eco-tech pioneer

HighLifeChannel November 28, 2019
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Georges Kern’s permanent revolution at Breitling  rolls on with an overhaul of the Avenger. Breitling is too big a brand for even a boss as hyper-active as Kern to strip down and revamp in one go, so having put the emblematic Navitimer through the mill in his first year in charge, the Avenger / Colt designs were always going to be next in line – Navitimer might be the watch you most associate with Breitling, but it’s the Avenger that sells the volume.

So far, Breitling’s reset has focussed on renewing the brand’s connection to its pioneering years when Breitling was bound into the aviation world, supplying cockpit clocks and pilots’ watches to air lines and forces around the world. That’s meant culling design cues from historic watches, using colours from long gone airlines such as Pan-Am and TWA and emphasising the growing collector demand for vintage watches. The Avenger is different.

First shown in 2001, there’s nothing vintage about the Avenger. From the start it was meant to reflect the cutting edge of aviation rather than its cracked-leather and sepia past, hence all those sharp angles and chunky riders on the bezel (so the watch can be handled with gloves on), stencilled number fonts and generous helpings of Superluminova, while special editions came in black PVD or even polymer cases and with orange or yellow dials.

It’s a formula that’s worked well for nearly 20 years and Breitling’s new Avenger collection keeps to the essentials – big, bold and with just the right dose of military machismo. There are big (43-48mm) DLC-coated titanium and steel cases, bright yellow dials and sharp details, but there is also a more contemporary flavour; sands and khakis used in a freer way than you might have seen in the past, more military chic than wannabe pilot.

The biggest beast of the collection is the Super Avenger Chronograph 48 – you need a little of your inner Stallone just to say it. As Breitling says, it’s a “here I am” statement. The ‘Night Mission’, which sounds like a Call of Duty  sequel, thankfully comes in DLC-coated titanium which makes the watch surprisingly light to handle. One nice touch is the way the stencilled numerals look as though they are formed from blocks of Superluminova.

For those thinking that 48mm is too big however light, there are 45mm versions (3mm makes a vast difference on a watch dial), one of which, the Seawolf Night Mission, has a very smart black and khaki colour scheme. In this context, the 43mm models seem almost undersized, but they’re still large on the wrist and work well as designs.

If Breitling’s updates for the Avenger collection are light-touch in design terms, the brand isn’t forgetting how much the world has changed over 20 years since the Avenger first appeared. The demographic the watches are designed for might be more or less the same, but its interests and concerns have shifted radically. Then, in talking to the consumer it was enough to sponsor jet display teams such as the Red Arrows or Frecce Tricolori. Now brands need to engage a little deeper and do a little more.

So, while there is a Patrouille de Suisse edition of the Avenger, Breitling has also signed up Spanish combat pilot, Rocío González Torres (a super-achiever, she was the first woman to put up 1,000 hours in F-18s, has acquired a national fencing championship title and plays the piano) and Luke Bannister, a world-champion FPV drone flyer. More significantly and practically, Breitling has partnered with surfing champion Kelly Slater’s Outerknown brand.]

Slater was already a Breitling Ambassador (‘Squad Member’) and through Outerknown has developed a line of NATO straps for Breitling that use ECONYL, a nylon yarn produced from renewable sources. Giulio Bonazzi, the CEO of ECONYL’s maker, Aquafil, explained at Breitling’s watch launch that the company uses nylon recovered fishing nets in a process that’s infinitely repeatable – you can mechanically reprocess nylon to its basic state in an entirely clean process without using solvents or lots of energy.

The straps, which are made in four sizes, are available in six colours. Initially these have been paired with an Outerknown edition of the SuperOcean launched at the same time as the Avenger, but are available separately and will fit most watches.

The new Avenger collection, at 16 models, is much tighter and better focussed than the rambling array of sub-collections (good-bye Colt for now) it replaces, though that will take time to filter through the retail networks. And if sponsoring drone races seems a little unlikely, Breitling is surely on the money with its support for Outerknown and Aquafil as well as Ms González Torres.

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