Breitling has reimagined what a pilot’s watch can be with the new additions to its iconic Navitimer collection. Normally aimed at men, these 36mm and 32mm iterations take the tool watch out of its comfort zone and turn it into a trendsetter.
First launched in 1952, the Navitimer was Breitling’s successor to the Chronomat. Unveiled in 1941, the Chronomat was the first attempt of Willy Breitling, grandson of founder Léon, to create the ultimate chronograph, one that didn’t just measure elapsed time but that could be used by scientists and engineers to make calculations. For this he introduced the moveable slide-rule bezel. At its most basic, a slide rule uses two logarithmic scales to perform multiplication and division. To explain precisely how to use it would necessitate a tome, but luckily a Google search can help on that front.
In the early 1950s, responding to a demand from commercial pilots for a timepiece on which calculations could be performed, Breitling, along with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) – the US-based non-profit organisation that advocates for general aviation – developed the Navitimer (a portmanteau of “navigation” and “timer”). At its heart, or rather around its dial, was the circular slide rule adapted to measure the three most important units for pilots: STAT for standard mileage, KM for kilometres and NAUT for nautical miles. Its adoption by the AOPA as the organisation’s official timepiece, combined with Willy’s clever marketing campaign aimed specifically at pilots, cemented the Navitimer’s reputation as a vital cockpit tool. It spawned an entirely new category of watch – that of the wrist instrument, an essential piece of kit for professionals but one that was also available to curious civilians. There have been various iterations of the Navitimer throughout Breitling’s history, with the collection expanding to include non-chronograph models, but it has always been a design aimed at men. Until now.
The collection’s horizons have broadened with the introduction of two new case sizes, 36mm and 32mm, and a reimagining of what this timepiece can be. This isn’t the first time the Navitimer has had its dimension altered; 2020 saw it drop six millimetres for a 35mm version, although the aesthetic codes remained essentially unchanged. But now Breitling has decided to use its most celebrated design to explore the concept of “watch as jewellery”. The 36mm automatic version sticks to the codes that made the Navitimer famous – slide rule, beaded bezel – but transforms them into something less functional and more fabulous. There are the chic metallic dial colours in mint green, silver and glittering anthracite with baton indices, or an elegant mother-of-pearl version with round-cut diamond hour-markers. There is also the option of a full-gold case and bracelet to really lean into the luxurious. In keeping with Breitling’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, the diamonds are lab-grown, and the gold comes from Touchstone, an artisanal mine in Colombia that meets the Swiss Better Gold Association (SBGA) standards.
The 32mm version experiments further with the possibilities of a pilot’s watch. The slide rule has been removed for a streamlined dial design more suited to its case size. The dial is mother of pearl, in pastel pink, baby blue (a Breitling first) or classic white. There are also lab-grown diamonds and a full artisanal gold option. Powered by Breitling’s Calibre 77, its COSC-certified SuperQuartzTM movement, it’s a Navitimer that will shock purists, but delight anyone who finds flair following function more exciting than form. And with a campaign fronted by Charlize Theron, what more could you want?
From £3,400; breitling.com