70 years high flying
It’s not just a Breitling logo, it’s a true watch industry icon – in the words of Breitling CEO Georges Kern, “We don’t use the word icon lightly. It’s the most recognizable word ever. One of the best watches ever made. Navitimer began as a pilot’s instrument and has become an expression of travel and discovery for generations of enthusiasts.”
Navitimer, whose name stands for NAVIgation and TIMER, is the first partner of aviation and its pilots. Its development began in 1952 with the aim of making it a true “wrist computer”. At the same time, Breitling is accumulating solid aviation experience. No less than 25 airlines are equipped with Breitling onboard chronographs. The aviation industry is gradually becoming mature, and its pilots’ requirements for instruments are becoming more and more perfect. The Navitimer will become their favorite instrument, also loved by fans of aviation and space conquests.
Many people don’t know that the first Navitimer didn’t have a registered name. When Willie fake Breitling developed it in 1952, it was designed for pilots, and he didn’t trademark it until 1955. In the first few years of the product there was almost no advertising, not even anyone – not even its inventor! – Can imagine the success of Navitimer. Word of mouth, however, quickly spread, as it was also in 1953 that Willy Breitling decided to move Breitling’s headquarters to 6 Place Morad in Geneva. Although some pilots continued to land at Les Éplatures, a small airport in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in order to knock directly on the doors of the Montbrillant workshop…
This timepiece was very modern when it was launched: it was the ultimate tool watch with a bezel with a real slide rule. Combined with the two logarithmic scales on the edge of the dial, the Navitimer becomes a flight instrument, displaying information including ascent time, fuel consumption and reserves, as well as conversions from miles to nautical miles or kilometers.
This slide rule, developed in 1952, did not change until 1990. So it’s no coincidence that the famous AOPA (Association of Aircraft Owners and Pilots) made this official watch and placed its logo, starting with the first Navitimer model in 1954. On the dial, this is not only a symbol of recognition, but also a significant honor that marks the birth of the “meter watch”.
Navitimer’s design is a textbook case. First, because it’s rather complicated for those who aren’t pilots or lack serious arithmetic skills. This is a timepiece for professionals. Second, because it was a chronograph – a complication that is essential today, but not the norm for watches at the time. Finally, because this design has barely changed in 70 years. Very few changes and very popular like Navitimer World with dual hour display; and Cosmonaute with 24 hour display, especially Ref. 809 worn by John Glenn and especially Scott Carpenter in May 1962 and the first Swiss Space Travel fake watch.
In addition to these changes, the Navitimer’s design is complemented by various logos that demonstrate the pilot’s attachment to the model. AOPA’s wings have become legendary. The Breitling logo itself also varies: the original stylized “B,” the winged “B,” and sometimes accompanied by depictions of aircraft in flight known as “twin jets.” Sometimes companies and armed forces will place their badges at the 12 o’clock position (Swiss Air, Patrol de France, Patrulla Aiguila Espana, Canadian Snowbirds, etc.).
The first Navitimers were very rare because they were so sought after. The original timepiece “AOPA” Navitimer Mk1.1 developed in 1952 was distributed exclusively to members of the latter from 1954. This is the ultimate collector’s item, featuring the much-loved Valjoux Calibre 72, which appears on a Rolex Daytona nearly 10 years later. The version without the AOPA signature was distributed to the public under reference “806” in late 1955. Equipped with a manual winding Venus Calibre 178, the price is sky-high.
To distinguish an AOPA model from a public model, you have to look at the logo: watches with the AOPA wing logo and AOPA signature are for American Society use only. Products bearing the unsigned logo are sold through Breitling’s universal network. In 2019, Breitling launched a “reissue” of the same 806 model, and its market value of 1,959 limited-backs began to soar.
The Navitimer has since become a fashion icon, worn by musicians such as Miles Davis and Serge Gainsbourg, as well as Formula 1 drivers Graham Hill, Jo Siffert and Jim Clark. The panda-style version was introduced in 1963, and starting in 1965, all non-AOPA aviation chronographs carried the Twin Jet logo.
Launched on 3 March 1969, the Navitimer Chrono-Matic, based on the famous Calibre 11, was one of the first self-winding chronographs (Ref. 1806, supplemented by a manual-winding version Ref. 816). With the crown on the left, the buttons on the right, and the dual-hole dial, it’s a coveted exception. In the same year, in 1969, Breitling also launched the 48mm Aviation Chronograph. The large diameter offset by the short lugs was immediately adopted by young urban customers.
Breitling took the final step in its development in 2009, launching its own in-house movement: the Calibre B01, which is still in use today. The first iteration appeared on Navitimer in 2010 and was already considered a potential collectible.
“Heritage in motion”: This may be the motto behind the model designed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of aviation timekeeping. There are three collections, all equipped with the manufacturer’s Breitling B01 self-winding movement – COSC certified with a 70-hour power reserve, visible through a sapphire caseback – and available on a leather or metal bracelet (steel or gold, depending on the watch) depending) version).
The legendary AOPA wings return at 12 o’clock, while a new date window at 6 o’clock completes the symmetry. The case now features a new alternation of polished and satin finishes. Its short lugs ensure the Navitimer fits perfectly on the wrist.
The first collection is available in 46mm and in four different models: three in stainless steel and one in red gold. The first to feature colors cherished by aviation chronograph collectors: the iconic black-on-white counter; the must-have “Sky Blue” for pilots’ watches; and a new twist on the sleeker, more subversive sunburst green. The latest gold version features an inverse color combination, with black chronograph counters set against a grey background, a gold finish never seen before on the Navitimer 46.
The new 43mm Navitimer uses the same subdivision but is more advanced, with five steel cases and one gold case. The steel version will feature the iconic black dial and white chronograph with its inverted double dial, as well as the three unique colors that bring the Navitimer into the 21st century: bronze, glacier blue and mint green. The gold version also features the classic black aviation chronograph dial.
Finally, the 41mm collection will be greatly expanded with four new models: three with stainless steel cases (with midnight blue, silver or mint green dials) and one with red gold cases and silver dials. For 70 years, the original pilot’s watch has captivated pilots and the most discerning connoisseurs…