Swiss watch company Breitling recently held one of its still-new Breitling Summit event concepts here in Los Angeles. One of the new references launched was this duo of GMT watches, the Breitling Avenger Automatic GMT 45 (reference A32395101C1A1 or A32395101C1X1 / A32395101C1X2) and the related Avenger Automatic GMT 45 Night Mission (reference V32395101B1X1 / V32395101B1X2).
First, a tangent about the brand’s activities. I’ve said multiple times recently that the brand has been one of the best performing luxury watch companies over the last 18 months, due to the re-energized Georges Kern and the ability for him to execute his ideas. If anything, Kern’s short time at Breitling (about two years) demonstrates the power of what you can do if a company’s financial arm allows for a CEO to spend and invest in the future, no matter the current state of global investor confidence. The good news for Breitling is that their efforts are paying off, even today.
Weeks away from the release of the first film he produced (in French), Georges Kern sits at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills with guests from around the Americas who have come to see him, his friends, and his new creations. I’ve personally never seen Mr. Kern more at ease and seemingly hopeful about the future.
One cause for Mr. Kern’s positive sentiments is that business is growing for Breitling — and in important places like the United States and China. The United States has always been a strong market for Breilting. (It is often said to be the third-largest Swiss luxury watchmaker in the United States, after Rolex and Omega, respectively.) Kern is a globalist and understands that, while local tastes and preferences differ, Breitling needs to be a global brand in every sense of the word. From a product perspective, Kern was also lucky, not only in his ability to streamline the brand’s notoriously confusing model families but also to sit on an archive of designs and styles that happen to be particularly fashionable these days.
Well-made, good-looking watches aren’t enough — and with Kern’s understanding of Hollywood appeal comes his understanding of marketing. That, blended with his more than two decades of experience in the watch industry, has allowed for him to be among the very few leading watch brand CEOs who have the courage to try new things in a global economic recession, when spirits are down and luxury seekers (who continue to exist in droves) are chasing different pleasures than the generation before them.
For instances, the next person who dons one of these Avenger Automatic GMT 45 watches might be a drone racing champion. Breitling is, indeed, adding the world of drone-flying sports into its legacy of aviation. The logic is sound, and on top of that, drone racing also appeals to new-generation computer and video gamers seeking sports and heroes relevant to them.
From a timepiece perspective, these new GMT watches are a smart release from Breitling and unlike anything I can think of in the current collection. What other time and GMT Breitling watches (without a chronograph complication) come to mind? I know they have produced GMT watches before, but I don’t think Breitling has really ever had a modern GMT hit (and I am not counting the World Time since that is a different style of watch altogether).
As GMT watches, these are good looking timepieces, and the red GMT hands on both the blue-dialed standard steel version and the military-style Night Mission are extremely easy to read and not easily confused with the hour or minute hand. The 24-hour scale, on the other hand, is a bit tiny and will require good eyes. This does mean that the uni-directional rotating bezel can still be used for a 60-minute timer — which, honestly, is rare for GMT watches of this pedigree. Also, there is the case size to contend with, which will make the Avenger Automatic GMT 45 watches too large for a lot of wrists. It is entirely likely that Breitling will make more versions in smaller cases in the future.
Georges Kern also mentioned that part of his new strategy moving forward will be to release fewer watches at a time. The Breitling Summit saw the debut of just 14 SKUs. In the past, the brand produced such a healthy variety of versions for each model that consumers got choice paralysis. They did so because different tastes around the world would prompt them to produce slightly different styles. Today, brands are a lot more aware of what sells and doesn’t, while also being mindful of not saturating the consumer or news markets with too much information at a time. That is my explanation of why Breitling seems to tease a new Avenger GMT watch concept with two models that feel like a slew of others might be hiding right behind the scenes. I personally like that the brands wants people to focus on just a few styles and color treatments at a time.
For 2019, Breitling retired the Colt collection and has merged it in with Avenger. The watches always looked too similar, and the new Avenger collection actually has a whole new construction but still has that iconic look and feel of a modern Breitling. The cases are 45mm-wide and have real heft to them, thanks to the wide lugs. Given the width, they feel thin at just 12.3mm-thick, and the cases are water resistant to 30 meters with an AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial.
Inside the watches, Breitling uses a sourced Swiss movement (base ETA 2893, I believe), which they call their Caliber 32 movement. It operates at 4Hz with about 42 hours of power reserve and also features the date, in addition to the time and 24-hour GMT hand for a second time zone display. Breitling has each of the movements COSC-Chronometer certified.
The Breitling Avenger Automatic GMT 45 comes in steel with a combo polished and brushed case design. It debuts exclusively with a blue dial and index-style hour markers with a case that is available either on a matching blue textile (leather-lined) strap or a handsome three-link steel bracelet (my choice). Things get a lot more interesting with the Avenger Automatic GMT 45 Night Mission with its black and khaki tan themes.
The Breitling Avenger GMT 45 Night Mission is a handsome little devil in a black DLC-coated titanium case paired with a “sand” leather strap. The dial uses a mix of indexes and stencil-style hour markers, which has always made for a good look. I suppose one can criticize Breitling for being too cautious about design innovation at this stage in the brand’s operations — and you might be right. That said, Breilting today is doing a great job of boiling down the core Breitling aesthetics into very fashionable styles (even if they aren’t too original within the brand). Give it a few years and I think we will see more innovation when it comes to design from Mr. Kern. For the time being, I think he is still in the process of trying to distill the core essence of Breitling across the various brand pillars (Aviation 8, Navitimer, Premier, SuperOcean, etc…).
Breitling now has two interesting GMT model contenders, but the competition in this area is fierce. I think these two Avenger Automatic GMT 45 watches are a hit but will take a bit of time for people to really appreciate. At that point, Breitling will likely have fleshed out the collection a bit more and experimented with how Breitling can do a GMT watch with a flair no one but they can achieve. Price for the Breitling Avenger Automatic GMT 45