Breitling Co-Pilot Chronograph Reference 765-CP
Hands-on with a Grail Breitling, worn by skiing legend Jean-Claude Killy.
Dear Friends, Happy Spring! I hope the new season brings you even more health, wealth, and happiness. I have always loved Breitling; in fact, one of my first watches was a Navitimer. As I’m sure you’ll agree, Breitling is primarily synonymous with the chronograph. After all, the company brought us legendary chronograph models like the Datograph, Chronomatic, Chronomat and, of course, the Navitimer.
Although the brand is famous for its steel watches, I also have a soft spot for Breitling’s beautiful gold chronographs. However, today I would like to discuss the exceptional vintage steel Breitling Co-Pilot Chronograph Reference 765-CP. Three main points come to mind when I think about this reference: its rarity; its unusually large size for the era; and its glamorous ties to a legendary sportsman.
The Breitling Co-Pilot Chronograph Reference 765-CP was produced between 1965 and 1967, and it is estimated that only 1,000 pieces were ever made (although I cannot verify this for sure). It features a 41mm case at about 15mm thick — which was a massive proposition for the 1960s! The dial of the Ref. 765-CP is simply stunning thanks to its reverse “Panda” styling where the trio of silver guilloché registers contrasts starkly with the black dial. Plus, look a little closer, and you’ll notice that the subdial at 3 o’clock is, in fact, larger than the other two. Matching the dark dial is the black anodized aluminum insert on the bezel, which is marked for 12 hours. Powering the vintage Breitling Co-Pilot Chronograph Reference 765-CP is the manually-wound Venus 178 with 17 jewels.
Functions wise, not only was the Breitling Co-Pilot Chronograph Reference 765-CP waterproof, shock resistant, and antimagnetic but also, its 30-minute counter was modified to a 15-minute counter to cater to pilots. Let me remind that, in the past, many watches were not merely fashion statements, but instead, they were purposely built tool watches utilized by a variety of professions. In horology, almost everything has a "raison d'être," and it is fantastic.
While the 765-CP was developed with pilots in mind, the watch became famous when Jean-Claude Killy wore it when he won the gold medal in all three alpine skiing events at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France. Yes, Jean-Claude Killy’s name might be mostly associated with Rolex watches, but it was the Breitling Co-Pilot Chronograph Reference 765-CP on his wrist when he dominated the slopes at the 1968 Winter Olympics. The champion skier was also photographed wearing the same Breitling chronograph when racing cars.
The Appeal of the Vintage Breitling Co-Pilot Chronograph Reference 765-CP.
I always like to think about a watch’s design, quality, and technology in relation to its manufacturing period. If we apply these parameters to the Chronograph Ref. 765-CP, it’s quickly evident that this is a highly collectible vintage Breitling. In terms of design, the 765-CP has plenty of fascinating elements that vintage watch collectors look for, such as the large-for-the-time 41mm case, the one bigger subdial, and the reverse “Panda” colors. What’s more, given that these chronograph watches were engineered for professional pilots, Breitling undoubtedly opted for the best possible quality and cutting-edge technology to make them.
This watch for me is the epitome of an exclusive vintage collectible. Not only is it limited, but its appealing design also entices curious onlookers to ask about the watch — which is much more personally satisfying than wearing an already famous watch like a Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi.” For most passionate watch collectors, finding a rare timepiece in good condition is a challenging goal that is well worth going after. After all, this constant search for the next “grail” is the very essence of collector culture. Until next time…Regards, Laurent.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Laurent Fine Watches)