Breitling’s Navitimer takes flight again with modern sophistication

Swiss watchmaker reinvents the “tool watch par excellence”, introducing a fresh design reflective of the brand’s commitment to heritage and innovation in every timepiece

By Debbie Hathway

Chronograph addict, avid watch collector, and Breitling consultant Fred Mandelbaum describes the Navitimer as one of the most significant lines in Breitling’s history, with each edition having secured a notable position in the evolution of the collection.

This year’s releases celebrate 140 years of firsts for the brand, which has been instrumental in advancing commercial aviation since its inception. The introduction of its onboard timepieces revolutionised the industry, becoming standard equipment across propeller planes and later in jet aircraft manufactured by industry leaders. The Breitling Navitimer, introduced in 1952, quickly gained favour among airline pilots, providing them with a sophisticated tool for critical calculations during flights. It was born through the adaptation of Willy Breitling’s 1940 design of the slide rule Chronomat as a combination of chronograph and flight computer for pilots and aircraft owners, which he presented to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), intending it to be for their members only. “It quickly became a runaway success in worldwide distribution, becoming part of the Breitling core catalogue and one of the best-selling models of all,” states Fred in an interview for the book, The Navitimer Story, The Epic Saga of the Breitling Chronograph.

The moniker is the contraction of the words relating to the watch’s main functions – navigation and timer. Featuring a circular slide rule, the Navitimer enabled pilots to make essential computations such as rate of climb and fuel consumption. In an era marked by the expansion of commercial air travel, this timepiece emerged as the original wrist-worn onboard computer, solidifying Breitling’s position as the “Official supplier to world aviation.”

As civil aviation flourished, so did the Navitimer’s renown. It captivated pilots and cultural influencers like Miles Davis and Serge Gainsbourg, transcending its aviation roots to become an icon in aviation and pop culture.

In 2022, Breitling embarked on redesigning the Navitimer line, commencing with the original chronograph. This year saw the introduction of new GMT models in a universally wearable 41mm size. These iterations retain the Navitimer’s iconic aesthetics while streamlining its functionality. Notable features include a central 24-hour scale on the GMT, ensuring the prominence of the intricate slide rule while maintaining balanced design aesthetics.

Further enhancing the collection, Breitling incorporated modern elements such as a notched bezel for contemporary flair and alternating polished and brushed finishes for dynamic light play. Comfort and convenience are prioritised with straps in alligator leather and a seven-row Navitimer bracelet with a butterfly clasp.

The palette offers a range of dial colours, including black, blue, silver, ice blue, and green. Depending on the reference, the dial is encased in stainless steel or 18k red gold. The dial display shows hours, minutes, seconds, date, and a second time zone with Super-LumiNova luminescence on all but the date and seconds indicators.

Notably, full-gold versions bear the Origins label, which highlights responsibly sourced gold that adheres to environmental and social standards set by the Swiss Better Gold Association.

Powered by the COSC-certified Breitling Caliber 32, the watches have a power reserve of around 42 hours and are water resistant up to 30 metres.

Beyond its utility for pilots, the Navitimer has transcended into a symbol for individuals navigating their personal journeys through life. Breitling commemorates this significance through its “Navitimer – For the Journey” campaign, featuring a diverse Navitimer Squad, including basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo and football idol Erling Haaland, the face of the Navitimer in the brand’s anniversary year: “I’m super proud to be representing Breitling’s icon. People are going to be surprised this year when they see how many ‘firsts’ Breitling has under its belt. It’s been a game-changer in so many ways.”

Founded in 1884, Breitling has differentiated itself by developing timers and chronographs to measure time. According to The Navitimer Story, this resulted in the filing of numerous patents for a “Vitesse” pocket watch to measure a vehicle’s speed, the first pusher independent of the crown, independent zero-setting enabling someone to perform several consecutive measurements without stopping the chronograph, and the second independent pusher – more user-friendly and forming the basis for the modern chronograph. Breitling was also a leader in split-seconds chronograph development and, together with a group of associates, developed the first self-winding micro-rotor chronograph in 1969.

The brand continues to break new ground with a commitment to sustainability and inclusivity, blending classic watchmaking with the latest sustainable practices to create timeless yet futuristic timepieces. For more information, visit the Breitling SA website.

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