Precision for Pilots: The Navitimer

I promised I would eventually write about the original Navitimer after my post on the 1940s Chronomat, so here it goes.  Initially I thought the Navitimer was the first Breitling model ever made; I was wrong!  While the Chronomat was launched in 1942, the Navitimer was not introduced until 10 years later in 1952.

Breitling had already tapped into the aviation world in the 1940s when it first started booming.  By the 1950s, aircrafts were increasingly being used for both military and recreational purposes.  At that point in time, Breitling wanted to create a timepiece designed specifically for an aviator’s needs.

The result was the “Navitimer,” a contraction of “navigation” and “timer,” and a model that has become a staple to the Breitling brand.  The watch was designed to be easily legible for pilots and help them with all navigation calculations, such as distance covered, fuel consumption and average speed.

The Navitimer was equipped with a new slide rule where the outside scale and inside scale were inverted, providing aviators with multiplication or conversion tables without having to turn the bezel.  The timepiece also clearly indicated the time up to the nearest second along with a chronograph function of course.

Breitling has since had unbelievable success with the Navitimer and released the 50th anniversary of the model in 2002.  There is speculation and hope that Breitling will soon use the in-house B01 movement in the Navitimer.  Only time will tell!

Breitling Navitimer 50th Anniversary Edition


6 thoughts on “Precision for Pilots: The Navitimer

  1. Love the 3 – 6 – 9 sub dial layout with the date between 4 – 5. Don’t care for the word “date” on the dial below the numerals which I’ve seen on some models.

  2. George, as you probably know, ETA will not provide the blanks, on which the Breitling Caliber 13 is based, after this year (2010.) The B01 is the future of the (relatively) inexpensive automatic chronograph. For now, Breitling is charging an early-adopter premium for the B01, but eventually they will replace the Caliber 13 with the B01 in essentially all chronographs. When their new factory at La Chaux-de-Fonds is fully operational, the switch from the 13 to the B01 will be on. They started with the Chronomat, because it is their most popular model. The Navitimers are produced in low numbers. We may actually see a B01 Super Avenger before a B01 Navitimer. I even expect a B01 Colt (or Colt Ocean) within the next five years.

    • You definitely know your stuff Filippo. I am impressed. I hope I have you on this one…do you know what movement was in the original Navitimer?

      • Well, as far as I know, the early Navitimers used Venus 178 or Valjoux 72 – based mechanisms. Later the Valjoux 7736 and 7740 was used. The 7750 was developed in the 1970’s. As far as I know, neither Venus or Valjoux exist as independent companies: ETA swallowed them all. The Swatch company (that owns ETA,) now controls all makers of basic swiss mechanical “blanks.” They also control directly Breguet, Blancpain, Omega and Longines, among others. (This is from the Swatch group website.) The antitrust implications of this fact are staggering, except for the fact that Switzerland does not have real antitrust laws.

      • Wow! You are correct, Filippo…the original Navitimer (reference # 806) housed the Venus 178 movement. You certainly are a Breitling guy.

  3. I really like the history behind the Navi, but it’s not a watch for me. I’d have no need for a slide rule so that’s the hold up for me. The bracelets they come are fabulous however.

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