Cambered sapphire crystal with dual side AR coating
< 300 metres
38mm to 46mm
Screw-locked, two gaskets
£3,000 - £28,000
Ask a group of watch enthusiasts about their favourite mechanical chronograph watches and I would be shocked if I didn’t hear a few mentions of the Breitling Navitimer. Made in the 1950s, this watch was designed for pilots by pilots and as an upgrade of the successful Chronomat. What made this watch in particular stand out so much was one of its key features – the ‘slide rule’ bezel. This allowed pilots to make quick mathematical calculations necessary pre and mid-flight such as how far they had flown based on speed or how many gallons of fuel was remaining. In fact the watched was liked so much, it became the official watch of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).
Over the years the Navitimer has evolved in its looks and use. Making its way into the luxury mainstream, it is easy to see the clear difference in design and usability of the 1959 edition and the present Navitimer Automatic. This being said, both watches are an absolute delight to look at, the craftsmanship and detail in the dial, alongside the premium steel or gold casing allows you to understand why such a watch is still rate so highly after over 60 years.
There have been over 100 Navitimer references since the 1970s, each with a unique look, movement, strap or casing. With the standard emphasis on pilot watches being a bit bigger than the standard, the Navitimer does offer 38mm to 46mm in sizes, which is great news for both men and women. Being such an impressive historical timepiece the growth in movement has likewise been impressive. The original piece in 1952 was powered by the famous Valjoux 72 movement, subsequent iterations have made use of the Venus 178 and then the automatic caliber 11. The peak of change came in 2009 when the Navitimers were finally powered by the in-house Breitling 01 caliber.
For the Navitimer dial, Breitling makes use of a refined “épargne” process applied to a pure silver or gold base and ensuring peerless radiance and readability. Personally I prefer the the old style “B” wings on the dial, as I believe these added a level of pride to the level of classiness of the classic Navitimer watches. The new Navitimer B01, B03 and Automatic do however come in a delightful range of styles and colours, keeping up to the date with modern simplicity, whilst retaining its originality and famed readability.
All Chronograph references of the Navitimer come with a three-register Panda style contrast dial showing off its original design with a range of colour variations. From the blue and red of the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Pan AM, to the white and black dial of the Navitimer B03 Chronograph Rattrapante 45. Finding a dial that suits you is unlikely to be a problem. Personally I have a strong preference for the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-edition. The level of detail and flawless all-black dial lets me know that the hand-finished application for all parts of this reference are certainly worth it around my wrist.
The Navitimer Automatic on the other hand comes with a simple single register dial with a date window at 6 o’clock. Available in alluring black, blue or silver colour dials, the Navitimer Automatic looks and feels just as impressive as its chronograph counterparts.
The Navitimer references all come in either a steel, steel and 18k red gold or pure 18k red gold cases. The later is more expensive for obvious reasons, but does not detract from the visual appeal of this timepiece. The great thing about the look and feel of the casing is in how it accentuates its presence on the wrist, sizes 43 and 46 really draw the eye and is sure to get many wandering stares of admiration. All Navitimer Chronographs come with a screwed in case-back, with the exception of Navitimer B01 Chonograph 46, which all come with a transparent sapphire crystal caseback. This allows you to see the high-performance self-winding Breitling Caliber 01 which is certainly mesmerising in its movements.
As with most of the other watches in their collection, Breitling are known for using dual gasket, non screw-locked crowns for their watches and it is the same across all Navitimer watches. All the watches also make use of premium cambered sapphire crystal glass with anti glare coating on both sides of the glass. This in effect should almost guarantee perfect readability amongst all the busyness of the dial’s features.
As mentioned earlier, all Navitimer watches come with an bi-directional ‘slide-rule’ bezel, even the base level Navitimer Automatic 38. Personally, I have no idea how to use it for working things out, but I’m sure it would be of great common use to others out there (or as a cool gimmick to your friends and family).
Apart from looking like something you would use in a futuristic control station, can the same level of detail be said for the performance of the Navitimers? As expected all the watch references are COSC-certified as standard. There are 5 caliber types in use across the Navitime variants these include:
Breitling 01 (Manufacture) caliber for all Navitimer BO1 references – with approx. 70hr power reserve and 47 jewels
Breitling 03 (Manufacture) caliber for all Navitimer B02 references – with approx. 70hr power reserve and 46 jewels
Breitling 09 (Manufacture) caliber for Navitimer 1959 Edition references – with approx. 70hr power reserve and 39 jewels
Breitling 13 caliber for all Navitimer Chronograph base references – with approx. 48hr power reserve and 25 jewels
Breitling 17 caliber for all Navitimer Automatic references – with approx. 48hr power reserve and 25 jewels
The Navitimer Automatic 38 seems to have been designed for men with smaller wrists or women who want the look and feel of the watch but as a smaller model. The Navitimer Chronograph 41 (Steel and 18k Red Gold), is the heaviest watch in the collection weighing around 160g without the strap. The lightest and thinnest watch in contrast is the Navitimer Automatic 38 (Steel) at only 63g without the strap. On average the watches weigh between 110g to 150g. So it is important to understand whether you prefer weightier watches or lighter watches if looking to purchase a Navitimer.
Depending on the style you prefer, these watches offer various colour leather, nubuck and croc-style straps for optimum comfort, meaning they suit most outfits from casual to smart casual, in fact you may even get away with wearing the B03 Chronograph Rattrapante (with black croc-style strap) on a three-piece suit. For the more professional enthusiasts the steel strap is available, I do really like the steel clasp straps as they retain the winged ‘B’ logo.
The Navitimer price range (depending on the edition and year) can vary, from a few thousand pounds to £28,000+ for the top line references. Below is a rough idea of the base prices depending on the Navitimer you like best
Breitling Navitimer World – from £2,500
Breitling Navitimer 8 – from £1,800
Breitling Navitimer B01 (43-46mm) – from £6,500
Breitling Navitimer B01 (43mm) pre 2018 – from £4,500
Breitling Navitimer Heritage – from £3,500
Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante – from £8,500
Breitling Navitimer GMT – from £5,000
Breitling Navitimer B03 (45mm) – from £9,000
Breitling Navitimer Automatic (41mm) – from £3,200
Breitling Navitimer 1959 Edition – from £12,000
Although most are reasonably priced, it is clear where the quality lies with the limited edition pieces (the latest costing around £28,000). These are more in the “collector’s item” category rather than for daily wear, so purchasing one would only be recommended if you simply have the cash lying about or are also mesmerised by the wonderfully set dial configuration.
Having met the needs of pilots for decades and successfully transitioning into mainstream use, it is a big watch, with a big tag. This however does not come at the cost of its elegance or clean aesthetic. Get it, if you wish to make a bold statement and can make effective use of the 'slide rule' mechanism.