Breitling’s new Navitimer Automatic 41 showcases an epic piece of watchmaking history

The Swiss brand celebrates 140 years of firsts, marrying the classic with the contemporary, a nod to heritage and innovation in each timepiece

By Debbie Hathway

 In his preface to The Navitimer Story, The Epic Saga of the Breitling Chronograph, Gregory Breitling remembers his father, Willy’s, excitement every time he saw a Navitimer on someone’s wrist. Archival photographs show Miles Davis wearing his Navitimer on a wide wristband at a performance in Paris in 1968, while Formula 1 drivers Jo Siffert, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, and Jackie Olivier were all Navitimer fans. Stars of the silver screen Tony Curtis, Alain Delon and Yves Montand chose to wear it, as did NATO pilot Commandant François Derval in the James Bond film Thunderball. Willy would exclaim: “Look Gregory, another Breitling, fantastic!” 

It’s a typical reaction for watch spotters of all ages. Willy was a “visionary” and a pilot who quickly grasped the significance of aviation instruments to the aeronautics world. His idea was to develop the Chronomat, an onboard chronograph designed for engineers within the British army and several civilian airlines, followed by the Navitimer watch for pilots. Its black dial resembled onboard instruments, and its slide rule could perform crucial cockpit calculations, such as rate of climb and fuel consumption. 

“An exceptional destiny awaited this remarkable timepiece… Lieutenant Scott Carpenter, the fourth American in space, chose a Navitimer for his mission after seeing it on the wrist of an RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) pilot,” writes Gregory.

This particular watch was customised with a larger bezel for better handling with gloved hands, a simplified slide rule, an extendable metal bracelet, and a movement based on 24 hours instead of 12. On May 24, 1962, it became the first space-going wrist chronograph.

Breitling collector Fred Mandelbaum notes in the book that the current Navitimer collection is deeply rooted in the design DNA defined by Willy Breitling – “immediately recognisable on the wrist, truly iconic.” 

Gregory’s answer to “How can you spot an icon?” is that it is immediately and durably identifiable among similar objects.

Fred’s advice to newcomers wanting to start a Navitimer collection when the book was published in 2022 was simply to get a larger watch box and start hunting for the best example of each execution over the years. An addictive pastime, indeed. Breitling began redesigning the Navitimer line that year, starting with the original chronograph. Fred would no doubt have known, too, about the plans to launch the new watches to commemorate Breitling breakthroughs in timekeeping for air, land, and sea over the last 140 years – extensions to the line that include a three-hand Automatic in a universally wearable 41mm diameter. 

These models perpetuate the Navitimer’s iconic look without the chronograph by maintaining a balanced dial composition. The 24-hour scale’s central placement highlights the intricate slide rule while streamlining the overall aesthetic. A notched bezel adds a contemporary touch while alternating brushed and polished finishes invite an engaging play of light. 

Classic colours of black, blue, silver, ice blue, and green define the dial colours, encased in stainless steel or 18k red gold. There is a two-tone variant for the Automatic. The full-gold versions carry the Origins label, signifying responsibly mined gold in line with the Swiss Better Gold Association’s environmental and social standards. Straps in alligator leather and bracelets fastened with a butterfly clasp are both comfortable and convenient. 

Headlining the Navitimer Automatic 41 campaign are Breitling’s all-star sports ambassadors, pro footballer Erling Haaland and pro basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo. The synergies are clear. Erling is known for his powerful performances, authenticity and down-to-earth personality. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Breitling because I love watches. If you know my style, you know that I’m all about a clean look. It’s the perfect watch for everything I do,” he says.

Meanwhile, Giannis’s willpower, dedication, unwavering vision, and desire to give back inspire the Breitling squad and fans alike. Navitimer was his first Breitling watch and the first campaign he worked on with the brand, so it has special significance. According to A Blog to Watch, he wears the Navitimer and the Chronomat, but when asked about his preference, he replied, “I definitely switch between them, but to be honest with you, it’s the Navitimer; I love it a lot.”

And what’s not to love about a watch that’s all about inclusive luxury? It’s designed in classic colours to suit your style, is water resistant up to 30 metres, and has a power reserve of around 38 hours thanks to the self-winding Breitling Caliber 17. Needless to say, it’s COSC-certified for accuracy. 

Dials display hours, minutes and seconds with Super-LumiNova® luminescence to enhance readability in dim light and come in silver, green or ice blue depending on the reference. Depending on the model, case materials are 18k red gold or stainless steel, again with complementary strap options in alligator leather with folding buckle, or 18k red gold, stainless steel or two-tone seven-row Navitimer bracelets with butterfly clasp.


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