Earlier in October Breitling unveiled another selection of watches - the latest phase in Georges Kern's overhaul of the entire product range since taking over as CEO in 2018. We've covered the new Avenger line elsewhere, as well as the collaboration with surf legend Kelly Slater and Outerknown - which seems to be developing nicely.
But one watch stood out from the others: the Aviator-8 Mosquito B43 Chronograph. That's not a surprise; it was the only new model added to the pilot's watch family at this point, but arguably it would still have caught the eye surrounded by similar models.
Before we get to the review proper, it's possible that you may be turning that name over in your head and asking where exactly did "Aviator-8" come from? It wasn't shouted from the rafters, but Breitling confirmed that Aviator-8 is replacing "Navitimer 8" across the brand's additions to the historic pilot's range. We understand it is a direct response to the confusion and discord sown at the use of "Navitimer" to refer to non-chronograph models, and think it's a good move in that regard, although it slightly undermines Kern's ambition to simplify Breitling's lineup.
Anyway, this particular Aviator-8 is a chronograph and one I found myself warming to almost immediately. It could hardly be more obvious in its appeal to vintage tastes, and while I know I've previously railed against the lack of imagination at work in the industry when it comes to design, sometimes you have to accept that a black, white and red chronograph with 3-6-9 subdials and a chunky, toothed bezel just works. Sometimes you want avant-garde gastronomy, and sometimes you want pepperoni pizza.
At 43mm I have the usual feeling with Breitling's flagship chronographs that the same idea would work just as well if not even better in a smaller case, but again, you just have to accept that this is Breitling's path. Smaller chronographs are out there if you want them. Certainly Breitling's in-house chronograph calibre was created with watches this size or larger in mind, and you can't pick holes in the proportions as a result.
That calibre is a 70-hour vertical clutch, column-wheel chronograph that's also COSC-certified (Breitling is still sticking with its commitment to chronometer regulation, even if we're no longer sure how many watches it certifies every year). The watch is rated for up to 100m of water pressure (although it lacks screw-down pushers, so I wouldn't operate the chrono underwater). It measures 14mm thick and only comes in this combination of stainless steel case and brown leather strap.
It might seem odd that I'm leaving the backstory til last, especially as the watch has a fun name like Mosquito. I'm sorry to say that I don't think the association with the WW2 warplane is particularly important - Breitling's narrative around vintage aviation is painted in relatively broad strokes, particularly when the precise details of the watches are concerned, so I don't think the connection will have a great impact on sales of a generally handsome watch - and I say that as someone with a reasonable interest in heritage aviation.
It has become de rigueur to honour old planes more or less for the sake of it - see also Bremont and the "Spruce Goose" - however, in conjunction with the chronograph tie-in Breitling has become a substantial supporter of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall in Hertfordshire, a commitment which will make a huge difference to the museum (which is funded entirely from donations) as it pursues its admirably single-minded efforts to tell the story of de Havilland's contributions to world aviation. Meeting museum curator Alistair Hodgson and hearing him talk in raptured tones about the impact made by Breitling (which apparently phoned up completely out of the blue to offer its support), I confess my cynicism melted somewhat.
You can read in-depth tributes to the de Havilland Mosquito elsewhere, but suffice to say it was a remarkable endeavour, undertaken against the backdrop of the early war years, and resulted in a plane that was unrivalled both for its speed and versatility. If you have any interest in such things, it is worth reading up on - while aircraft like the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster are better-known, the Mosquito played a valiant role in the war, and to a large extent is uncelebrated today because its wooden construction means original flying examples no longer exist.
The Breitling Aviator-8 B01 Chronograph 43 "Mosquito" is priced at £5,980 and is available now.
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