The same week that we received the Navitimer 806, we also had a trade in of another iconic but seldom seen Swiss vintage Breitling replica watch. It is imposing, eye catching, and a bit ridiculous. It’s a vintage watch for the extrovert.The Co-Pilot ref. 7651 Chrono-Matic is an exceptional watch in several respects – it uses the world’s first automatic chronograph movement (if we ignore Zenith’s claims to the contrary), and it has a massive 48mm case.
Officially Breitling unveiled the Calibre 11 after the El Primero prototypes were shown, but the Calibre 11 was the first design to hit the market in the form of production models. It was based on a Buren base calibre, and developed as a modular chronograph in partnership with noted atelier Dubois Depraz.
The 7651 was one of a series of models introduced by mens fake Breitling watch in 1969 that featured the Calibre 11 (sometimes called the Calibre 12 family, which refers to a later revision of the design), the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. Of course Zenith likes to claim that the El Primero was the first, and some would say it was the Seiko 6139. Truth is all three were unveiled in 1969 around the same time, with development starting a few years prior, so arguing who precisely was the first is splitting hairs.
In the Breitling lineup watches featuring the Calibre 11 had the same basic layout – bicompax registers for the minute and hour counters with a date window at 6 o’clock, and no running seconds. Open the caseback and you’ll be surprised to see that this supposedly automatic movement doesn’t have a rotor… Because it isn’t a traditional automatic with a full width rotor riding on a centre pinion, it uses a micro-rotor that is hidden inside the middle of the movement. At first glance it looks like any other manual wind chronograph movement of the 1960s-70s, aside from the odd placement of the crown on the opposite side of the pushers (a feature shared with the Heuer Monaco, the most collectible of these early automatic chronos). In design it is a Buren micro-rotor base calibre with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module added onto the back side. When you look at a schematic you can clearly see the two separate modules, with a near-standalone base movement on the dial side and the chrono module built onto the back.
The bezel is graduated in minutes and hours, allowing elapsed time calculations, and rotates via an indirect mechanism. Rotate the PVD coated outer ring and the inner bezel turns via a series of hidden gears, a clever design that was intended to make the watch more water resistant (Navitimers rotate the glass, ring, and inner bezel as a single piece, requiring a large gasket between the assembly and the case).The Co-Pilot is similar to the Navitimer Chrono-Matic of the same era, but features a unique dial with a simpler bezel, without the slide rule of the Navitimer.
It might also appeal to someone who wants a distinctive vintage watch with modern, oversized proportions. In any case it is a standout piece that will surely attract attention on the wrist. While values are relatively strong for Co-Pilots when they (very rarely) come up for sale, they are a relative bargain considering how scarce they are. Add to that some genuine history in the form of the “world’s first” automatic chronograph movement, a well-preserved case and dial, and a first-year production run (the serial number suggests 1968, but actual production should be around 1969-1970), and you’ve got a winner.
The Co-Pilot is one of the most distinctive and eye catching vintage watches I’ve handled in a long time, and it has a design that looks remarkably modern for something that was made over 40 years ago. Normally I’m not a big fan of oversized sport watches, but there is something appealing about the Co-Pilot, and I must say it is a shame that it wasn’t more popular at the time. As it stands it is a rare curiosity, an uncommon watch that offers a lot of exclusivity to someone who wants an interesting vintage Breitling copy watch that isn’t a typical Navitimer, Chronomat, Superocean, or Cosmonaute.