In the 1950s, Willy Breitling, grandson of founder Leon Breitling, created a revolutionary tool watch. The Navitimer - a portmanteau of ‘navigation’ and ‘timer’ - was a watch that was able to do calculations that were key to pilots, including measuring airspeed, flight time, distance travelled, rate of climb, and remaining fuel, using three different scales of a slide rule, which was based on the E6B flight computer. Based on the principles of logarithms and using a rotating bezel, these invaluable provisions for a pilot were offered up on the dial of the watch.
The first Navitimer, unveiled in 1954, was made specifically for the AOPA, its winged logo with the acronym in a coat of arms appearing at 12 o’clock sans the mention of Breitling anywhere on the dial; ‘Navitimer’ appeared at 6 o’clock. There was no reference number on the caseback, and only about 100 pieces were produced in July 1954. The Navitimer eventually went on to be commercialised, and in its heyday, the 60s, was worn by the likes of Formula 1 racers Graham Hill and James Clark, and musician Miles Davis. It is this decade that the newest models of 2022 are inspired by.
In addition to this, the slew of new Navitimer B01 Chronographs represents something else as well, an aspect that Breitling has made its signature. Giving tool watches a cool lifestyle edge. The Navitimer might have begun as a handy flying apparatus, but in 2022 it has more chic, contemporary style than ever before. The models maintain the signature features – the bidirectional circular slide rule, baton indexes, three chronograph counters, and notched bezel – but with it come dials in contemporary colours like dark green, silver, copper, ice blue, or mint green, along with black and silver, with contrasting chronograph counters. The AOPA wings, sans the acronyms, are back at 12 o’clock, and there is a date window at 6 o’clock. Through the open caseback, one can see the COSC-certified automatic Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, providing approximately 70 hours of power reserve. The watches have a water resistance of about 30 metres.
"Typically, what we do when we launch icons we look to see where the core of their character is. We showed this rather nicely with the Chronomat, and the Navitimer is of course the peak brand icon," says watch collector Fred Mandelbaum, who is also a consultant with Breitling. "This is not a re-edition in any way. We have looked at the core characteristics. It is totally new in every component."
The watches are being offered in 46mm (eight references), 43mm (12 references), and 41mm (eight references), in either stainless steel or 18K red gold, with either semi-shiny alligator straps or seven-row metal bracelets. Their profile is slimmer, thanks to a flattened slide rule and a domed crystal; the case, has alternating brushed and polished finishes. “We looked at the heart and soul of the original Navitimer, so case lines are very similar,” explains Mandelbaum. “Some of them are larger but basically the case lines go to the roots of the very elegant Navitimer cases. There is a redesign of the crystal. The original Navitimer had acrylic crystals with very high domes, so the design team remodelled that and did a dual curve with modern sapphire technologies to have that higher dome. The thing is that the Navitimer can’t really be improved upon. It can be optimised in production quality, and I am happy with the design.
Images: Courtesy Breitling