Although Breitling has always been a luxury watchmaker associated with flight instruments and aircraft, it wasn’t until after it produced its first dashboard clocks that the company’s chronographs began working their way into a pilot’s essential toolbox. Perhaps no Breitling watch could be more famous, however, than the Navitimer. It is arguably one of the most successful and widely recognized luxury pilot’s watches of all time.
The first Navitimer watch was developed by Breitling in 1952. Since then, the collection has evolved to become the brand’s most successful line. The chronograph watch displays one distinguishable feature in particular – a slide rule bezel, and its design walks the line between a navigational tool and an accurate timer. Capable of carrying out the same mathematical calculations as a computer, the slide rule bezel has become one of the watch’s most handy features for pilots, whilst the Navitimer as a whole package is a timepiece synonymous with impeccable taste and luxury. Reaching far beyond the capabilities of a typical chronograph, the Breitling Navitimer can determine fuel consumption, climb and descent rates, and speed, amongst many other calculations.
Since 2009, the Navitimer has been outfitted with an in-house developed movement, adding to its desirability. In addition to chronograph timings and the slide rule bezel, the Navitimer also promises a legible display housed inside classic aesthetics. There are, however, some models that forego the slide rule bezel completely for a more streamlined and simple design. These go by the name of the Navitimer 8. Some of the top models within the Navitimer range are crafted from 18ct gold. Others feature an advanced split-second chronograph. Navitimer 806 watches are particularly interesting for collectors since their design faithfully recreates an original Navitimer model from the year 1959. These models were produced in 2019 during the same time as the three-handed Navitimer watch with slide rule bezel was released. These models ranged in size and material, measuring 35mm at their smallest and 41mm at their largest.
Despite being around since the sixties, the Breitling Navitimer has never lost its wow factor. The slide rule bezel itself does away with the need to ever own a calculator again – if you know how to read it. This element itself makes the Navitimer a bit of a connoisseur’s choice because to be able to enjoy all its features, you really need to invest the time into figuring out how the slide rule bezel works. Not many people do, since part of the watch’s desirability is owed to its unique look and its high-end status.
Learning how to use the slide rule bezel for things like fuel consumption can be a lengthy process, yet there are some simple processes to pick up quickly. For multiplication tasks, look for the red fixed 10 and align one of the numbers in your multiplication sum with this location. Then take the second number in your multiplication sum and put it opposite this location. Read off the answer underneath this second number. For currency exchange, find out the conversion rate before you start and align that number on the outer ring with the red fixed 10. Then if you’re converting pounds to Czech koruna, for example, the pounds can be aligned in the inner scale, whilst the K28.50 is on the outer scale. The equivalent amounts for each currency sit opposite one another on the two scales.
As mentioned, Breitling’s Navitimer watch first came onto the scene in 1952. It was the successor to the Chronomat, another iconic watch, instantly recognizable for its rider tabs on the bezel and stylish Rouleaux bracelet. The slide rule bezel equipped the Navitimer watch with a logarithmic scale that spans all the way back to 17th-century astronomy. The idea to adapt the slide rule bezel by Breitling was to enable pilots to measure NAUT for nautical miles, STAT for standard mileage, and KM for kilometres. By doing so, it opened up options for calculating tasks like fuel consumption and average speed whilst in the air. The Navitimer was officially targeted at professional pilots.
During the 1960s, Breitling chose to replace the Venus 178 movement with the Valjoux 7740 before the revolutionary Caliber 11 was introduced into the Navitimer series in 1969. The movement was most memorable because it necessitated a left-hand crown. The watch then lay low during the quartz crisis, only to resurface back in the 1990s when Valjoux 7750-equipped Navitimer watches were met with resounding success once again. 2009 takes us up to the point where in-house movements began powering this expert pilot’s watch. The Breitling 01 Calibre featured a column-wheel chronograph – a movement still used in current models from this range today.
The Breitling Navitimer Automatic 38 watch ref. U17325211G1P1 is a great option for those with smaller wrists. Its compact 38mm size delivers all the sophistication and complexity of the slide rule bezel, paired with luxurious 18ct rose gold elements against a 30-meter water-resistant stainless steel case. This Navitimer watch is fitted on a classic brown leather strap with white contrast stitching, giving the timepiece a resolutely vintage-inspired feel. Features like its white dial, luminous hands and gold stick hour makers, paired with a red triangular-tipped central second hand, make timekeeping easy, as does a date window at 6 o’clock. This version of the Navitimer watch is powered by the Calibre 17, which provides a 38-hour power reserve and performs at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour.
The Breitling Navitimer ref. AB0910371B1X1 is a faithfully recreated version of an earlier model manufactured by Breitling in 1959. Its all-black dial, with tone on tone sub-counters for the chronograph functions, is protected under a domed plexiglass front. The watch features the slide rule bezel, a date function, central luminous-treated and cathedral-shaped hour/minute hands, as well as a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, and small seconds counter at 9 o’clock. Housed in a 30-meter water-resistant stainless steel case, the in-house manufactured B09 Calibre works peerlessly to produce an impressive 70 hours of power reserve, whilst its sleek black leather strap keeps the Navitimer looking classic enough for everyday wear.
The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Pan AM ref. AB01212B1C1A1 has a striking red and blue aesthetic and is powered by the popular in-house B01 Calibre from Breitling. The model is distinguished by one of the most recognizable logos in the history of aviation printed on its transparent sapphire caseback. The watch belongs to Breitling’s Airline capsule and features a vintage-inspired mesh-style stainless steel bracelet to match the material of its 43mm case. Equipped with the distinct slide rule bezel, red hands and silver-filled chronographs counters set against a vivid blue dial, this Navitimer watch echoes the livery of Pan American World Airways and will make a great choice for those with a preference for retro-looking timepieces, as well as fans of the Navitimer pilot’s watch itself. The in-house movement provides a 70-hour power reserve, making this option an appealing one for those who like to alternate their wristwatch with another favourite over the course of a weekend.
The Breitling Navitimer Automatic 41 watch ref. A17326241B1P1 is perfect for you if you’re not keen on chronographs. It has a less-busy and parred-back dial design, which keeps timekeeping to the essentials. Its 41mm stainless steel case features the slide rule bezel, along with luxurious rose gold hour markers and hands. Luminous treatment assists with timekeeping in the dark, whilst a subtle date window resides at 6 o’clock. This Breitling Navitimer Automatic 41mm is powered by the Calibre 17 and is fitted on a traditional-looking black alligator leather strap with white contrast stitching and a classic steel tang-style buckle.
Due to its vast range of materials and sizes, the Navitimer is equally vast in price. You can expect to pay around $6,500 for a smaller-sized steel watch in mint condition from the B01 range of Navitimers - that’s those powered by the in-house manufactured B01 Calibre. For a larger 46mm rose gold edition, you can expect to pay around $19,000 or $7000 for a stainless steel version.
For a more affordable version of the Navitimer watch, look to those that are still fitted with the Calibre 13 – a movement based on the Valjoux 7750. These can cost around $4,100 in a pre-owned condition, whereas a never-worn-before edition can cost around $5,500. For Navitimer watches with additional complications like a rattrappante, these cost around $9000 from the preowned market and are powered by an in-house developed split-seconds chronograph movement. Breitling’s anthracite dial version of this model, released in 2020, however, costs considerably more and is priced at around $24,000. The rose gold version is limited to just 250 pieces worldwide and can cost around $33,000.