Breitling Navitimer Introduction
A watch born from innovation, the Breitling Navitimer is one of the most iconic pilot watches that was purpose built to navigate aviators across the skies. The Navitimer was the first wrist watch that enabled pilots to perform vital calculations like average rate of speed, fuel consumption, and so much more. On top of that, the Breitling Navitimer was the first automatic chronograph, which was a giant leap in watchmaking technology in the 1960’s. Fast forward 60 plus years and what we have now is an icon that has stood the test of time.
In this article we’ll cover the history of the Breitling Navitimer, my hands-on experience, pros & cons, features, how it compares to other pilot watches, specifications, and it’s value.
The Birth & History Of A Legendary Pilot Watch
Before there were on-board navigational computers in modern airplanes, pilots had to rely on maps and hand-held slide rules to venture across the skies. Imagine flying an unsophisticated aircraft all while using clunky equipment to set courses or calculate fuel consumption. In 1952 the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) demanded better and approached Willy Breitling to innovate the way pilots operated in the cockpit.
For the Breitling Navitimer to be successful it needed to assist pilots with calculating distance traveled, average speed, fuel consumption, conversion of miles to kilometer/nautical miles, and the rate of climb or decent. To accomplish this feat, Willy Breitling borrowed from a logarithmic slide rule from an earlier Chronomat and positioned it with a rotating bezel. To improve ease of use and on the go calculation, the 1954 Breitling Navitimer has a case diameter of 41mm. At the time, 41mm was considered a massive watch but size was needed to maintain quick legibility of the dial.
When the original Breitling Navitimer was introduced to the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association they fully embraced it. It was at that time that the most iconic pilots watch, the Breitling Navitimer, was born.
The next great leap in innovation for not only the Breitling Navitimer but also chronographs as a whole came in 1969. That was the year that the watch industry saw its first mechanical automatic chronograph. This emergence in new watchmaking technology was revolutionary and it was the Breitling Navitimer that was on the forefront of what was to come. It was this feat that partly forged the Breitling Navitimer’s heritage to what many of us know them for today.
Breitling Navitimer Review: Hands-On Experience
In 2022 George Kerns introduced the Breitling Navitimer in many new and interesting colorways and sizes during that years Breitling Summit. It was the option of choice that really captivated my attention and brought me in closer.
For a watch that has so much going on with the dial, you would imagine that there would be legibility issues but that hasn’t been the case. I find it quite easy to not only read the time but all the other functions with ease. In particular, the colorful dials are even more legible because they have black sub dials and slide rule bezel. This allows the alternative functions of the watch to blend in the background unless they are being sought out. Additionally the lume at night has always been great. The hour markers luminosity surface area isn’t large but they glow with a bright green that will shine all night long.
The movement of the Breitling Navitimer is an in-house calibre B01. This automatic chronograph movement has been extremely accurate and even after wearing for weeks at a time, I never noticed issues keeping precise time. After getting some good wrist time in you also notice the attention to detail that was given to the calibre B01 automatic movement. Specifically, when the watch hits midnight, the date wheel immediately changes the date. To those outside of the watch community one may think that is normal but in all reality it’s not. I even own a couple Rolex and none of them come close to flipping the date like the Breitling Navitimer does. Add on top of that a 70 hour power reserve and you have got yourself a solid workhorse of a movement. The only drawback to the B01 movement is that the finishing is sub par for a manufactured movement at this price point. There are many surfaces of the calibre that received little to no artistic finishing.
Like many who get hands-on with a Breitling Navitimer, I played around with my new slide rule bezel and performed as many new calculations as I could. It took me about one hour to really get the hang of it. To me this has been such a useful feature and one that I have used much more often than the chronograph. I found it so fascinating that the Breitling Navitimer was the first smart watch before modern smart watches. With enough time and patience, there isn’t much this watch can’t calculate. The rotation of the bezel was also a pleasant surprise. It is the most smooth operating bezel I’ve ever been hands on with. It is slightly difficult to move at first, for obvious reasons, and then gradually become more fluid to rotate.
It would be difficult to write a Breitling Navitimer review without discussing the comfortable wearing experience of the cushioned leather strap. In my opinion, Breitling is to leather straps like Rolex is to metal bracelets. It’s hard to beat the comfort of a Breitling leather strap. To be honest, the wearability of the Breitling Navitimer is one of the primary reasons why I choose to put the watch on instead of others in my collection. Putting comfort aside, I with that Breitling would do away with the yellow belly of the strap. It doesn’t match the colorways of every reference so I don’t really see the point of making it universal.
Lastly, I feel confident wearing this watch because I know that it isn’t going to tarnish like many other watches. The configuration I choose had the leather strap which obviously isn’t going to have the appearance of thousands of minor scratches. What many may not consider is that the face of the watch is one giant sapphire crystal. Additionally, the case is mostly brushed finished. All of this leads to a watch that will show little blemishes and appear in great condition for many years to come.
Pros and Cons
For a watch that has changed very little since the 1950’s, it is easy to identify why watch collectors simply love it but at the same time there is also room for improvement.
For starters, the main features of the Breitling Navitimer are what makes it such a great watch. The chronograph function and pusher experience is superb and the in-house B01 automatic movement is accurate and reliable. Coupled with the movement is the other aspect of the watch which provides its main attraction and that is the slide rule bezel. The slide rule is easy to use, legible, and takes almost no time getting used to. On the flip side there is some room for improvement with the Breitling Navitimer.
Now I may be nit-picky here but two aesthetics that could be improved are the lack of finishing of the movement and the yellow underneath side of the leather strap. Both could use a little more attention. Lastly, and maybe the most important for collectors, is the Breitling Navitimer is the more expensive option compared to alternative pilot watches. That is not to say that the quality of the watch should command a higher price tag but high quality alternatives can be found for less.
- Accuracy and reliability of the Breitling 01 movement
- Luxurious leather strap
- Multiple colorways
- Slide rule bezel for simple and complex calculations
- Size could be a turnoff for some
- Retail pricing is higher than alternative watches
- Yellow underneath side of the leather strap is niche
- Lack of finishing for the movement for a watch at this price point
The Breitling Navitimer is in no shortage of quality features. Most notably the iconic slide rule bezel, chronograph function, Breitling B01 in-house movement, and maybe the most comfortable leather strap are all worth knowing about for those who are considering purchasing this watch.
Slide Rule Bezel
The most iconic feature on the Breitling Navitimer is the slide rule bezel. This simple tool can do some pretty impressive calculations and conversions that can be used in the cockpit and everyday life. Here is a list of potential uses;
- Flight time
- Fuel consumption
- Rate of climb and decent
- Wind impact
- Ground speed
- Currency exchange
- Celcius to Fahrenheit conversion
- Gallons to liters
- Kilometer to miles
There are some handy guides available that make it easy to learn but be patient because it may take some time master.
One of the main features of the Breitling Navitimer is the chronograph function. This feature allows the wearer to record up to 12 hours and be as precise as 1/4 second. Depending on on the colorways of the specific reference, the 3-6-9 sub dials are either white or black. How the Breitling Navitimer displays its chronograph dials plays a large role in its iconic design and has set the standard for many watches that have come after.
Breitling B01 Movement
Powering the Breitling Navitimer is the B01 movement. This calibre is an in-house chronometer that powers the Navitimer, Chronomat, Top Timer, AVI, and Premier collections. This jewel of Breitling watchmaking has a 70 hour power reserve, frequency of 4Hz, date function, chronograph function, and instant date changing feature. Although the movement isn’t much to look at due to the lack of finishing, there is no doubting that it is a modern workhorse of a movement.
Leather Strap With Deployment Buckle
Breitling is known within the watch community for manufacturing superior leather straps. Take a moment and think of all the Breitling’s you see in the wild or the ones your fellow collectors own. I’m sure that you, just as I have, will notice that the vast majority are on leather straps, which is no coincidence. The leather strap on the Breitling Navitimer is overly cushioned, ultra smooth, form fitting, and provides a luxurious experience.
Breitling Navitimer Alternatives
Although the Breitling Navitimer is great on its own, its worth knowing how it compares to alternative pilot watches if you are considering purchasing one. The criteria of what we choose as alternatives to the Breitling Navitimer was simple, it needs to be undoubtably a pilots watch. Pilot watches come in many different designs and not all have the same complications so you wont see every single alternative watch selected to have a slide rule bezel, as an example.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph: IWC makes a great pilots watch and it is mostly what they are known for. In recent years they have fit these watches with an in-house movement, further improving their product quality. This is a comparable watch because it delivers an excellent chronograph that is on par with the Breitling Navitimer
Rolex GMT Master II: The Rolex GMT Master II is undoubtably a pilots watch but just in a different way than the Breitling Navitimer. Instead of focusing on calculations, the GMT Master II main function is allowing the pilot to have multiple timezones on their wrist and looking great doing so.
Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch: One of the most iconic watches of all time is the Omega Moonwatch. This is a close comparison with the Breitling Navitimer because they are both historical watches with an iconic status that have aided in real world missions across our skies and even space.
Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback: Pilot watches can take many forms and one of them involves legibility with large numerals. That is exactly what the Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback is. This is one of the newer watches released by Zenith and it compares to the Breitling Navitimer because they both are excellent in their own form of how they relate to pilot watches. There may not be another watch on the market that is as legible as this one.
Bell & Ross BR03 GMT: It would be hard to discuss alternatives to the Breitling Navitimer without discussing a Bell & Ross. For this comparison we choose the BR03 GMT which has all the wonderful elements of the super legible B&R instrument collection with the added benefit of the GMT function. This watch was chosen because it checks the boxes of legibility and provides pilots with the ability to track multiple timezones.
Current Breitling Navitimer References
Launched in 2022, the 70th anniversary Breitling Navitimer chronographs are now available in more colors than ever before within 3 different case sizes.
46mm Navitimer: The largest of all the Navitimer chronographs is the 46mm references. Available dial colors are black, forest green, blue, and silver with case materials either being stainless steel or gold.
43mm Navitimer: The mid sized Navitimer chronograph is the 43mm references. Available dial colors are black, ice blue, light green, copper, and silver with case materials either being stainless steel or gold.
41mm Navitimer: The smallest Navitimer chronograph is the 41mm references. Available dial colors are black, navy blue, light green, and white.
|Case Diameter||46mm, 43mm, 41mm|
|Case Material||Steel or gold|
|Water Resistance||30 meters|
|Power Reserve||70 hours|
Breitling Navitimer Pricing & Value
The average retail price of a Breitling Navitimer chronograph is $9,300 on a leather strap and $9,700 on a metal bracelet. For solid gold references, the retail price can be as much as $40,700.
At $9,300, the Breitling Navitimer is considered by many a bit more expensive than comparable watches but not by much. It is also worth noting that even though the Breitling Navitimer is a really good value because of its quality, it doesn’t fare well on trade-ins and being sold on the pre-owned market.
Where & How To Buy
Pre-owned Navitimers are readily available, and many at a discount, on all major online watch marketplaces.
Overall I am very pleased with the time I have spent getting hands-on with the Breitling Navitimer. I thoroughly enjoyed how comfortable it wears on the wrist and most importantly I am still in awe of how vibrant the copper dial looks in all different lighting. I was even more sold once I learned the rich history of the Breitling Navitimer, which adds a sense of pride when I wear it on my wrist.
I would highly recommend the Breitling Navitimer to anyone who is looking to add a chronograph to their collection or anyone wanting to wear an iconic watch that helped push watchmaking forward.
Does Breitling Navitimer Hold Value
Although the Breitling Navitimer is an excellent watch, it doesn’t fare well holding its value on the used watch market.
Is Breitling On The Same Level As Rolex
Breitling has a rich history in watchmaking and produces some excellent watches but the majority of the watch community would agree that Rolex is far superior to Breitling.
Is Breitling Considered A Luxury Watch
Breitling is 100% considered a luxury watch. The attention to detail, precision, materials, and innovation of Breitling watchmaking contribute to the brand being recognized as one of the largest luxury watch brands in the world.