A quick primer on and review of the legendary pilot’s watch
Among pilot’s watches, few are as legendary as the Breitling Navitimer. Its iconic design is transcendent and its outsized functionality reminds us that watches, especially those of the aviation variety, are tools. Today, we’re taking a look at the classic Breitling Navitimer 01.
First, a little history. Breitling first introduced the Navitimer in 1952. It was designed specifically for pilots and was an evolution of the Chronomat. The first Navitimer – the 806 – became the official watch of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Like the Chronomat, the Navitimer integrated the slide rule – more on that below – which was used for taking in-flight measurements, making it perhaps the ultimate tool watch for a pilot.
Originally powered by the famous Valjoux 72 movement, subsequent iterations made use of the Venus 178, the automatic caliber 11, a digital quartz movement (believe it or not) and then finally the in-house Breitling 01 caliber. That’s what’s inside, now let’s talk about that famous dial.
The Navitimer dial, for me, is an enigma. It’s super busy, yet strangely legible. You’ve got three registers – running small seconds at nine o’clock, minutes at three o’clock and hours at six o’clock – in a reverse panda color scheme. The date window between four and five o’clock somehow doesn’t seem out of place or in the way. You get a nice dose of color with the raised ‘B’ wing logo and the red sweep seconds hand. And then there’s the lume applied on the hour markers and minute and hour hands – a few minutes charge gets you a few hours of time-telling in the dark.
This is all ringed in, of course, by the slide rule. What does a slide rule do? A better question is actually what doesn’t a slide rule do? With the slide rule you can multiply, divide, measure average speed, productivity rate, calculate currency conversions, gas consumption, ground speed, miles per minute, rate of climb, rate of descent, the tip on a dinner bill and, oh yeah, elapsed time.
But wait, there’s more. Using the bezel and the current position of the sun in the sky you can even use the Navitimer as a compass. And lest you be disappointed that it doesn’t have a see-through caseback, engraved on the solid caseback is Celcius to Farenheit conversion table. Unfortunately, however, the Navitimer will not walk your dog for you.
The chronograph is your uber-classic two-button pusher configuration. Stop/start button at two o’clock, reset button at four o’clock. I have a couple other chronographs in my collection and the action on these pushers is very different than others. A harder click is required, especially when starting the chronograph. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it ensures you’re not going to accidentally start the timer. The harder push is actually fairly satisfying as well as it emits a solid click.
Pilot’s watches tend to be on the larger size and the Navitimer is no exception. Though there are 38mm and 41mm versions of the watch, you’re most likely to see the 43mm and 46mm sizes. I’m wearing the 43mm in these photos. In general, anything larger than 40mm is a non-starter for my smallish wrist but sometimes large watches wear smaller and that is my experience with the Navitimer.
If you scroll up to the first vertical photo in the post, you can see that the watch is not at all imposing. It’s downright comfortable to wear and from a style perspective, works extremely well with anything spanning rugged to casual to even smart casual. Hell, with the black croc strap, you could make a case for wearing it with a suit, even a double-breasted one. I think it looks pretty good right here. Don’t you?
Because I travel so much, I love watches that are useful tools for traveling. And although I’m not a pilot, I’ve enjoyed learning the many ways that I can use the slide rule in everyday life. could I calculate a tip faster with the calculator on my iPhone? Probably. But, you know it wouldn’t be as cool or satisfying as doing it on my watch!
The Breitling Navitimer 01 in 43mm configured as you see in this post will set you back $8,590. For more information, visit Brietling online.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style