The Navitimer is undoubtedly Breitling’s best-loved timepiece. Introduced in 1952 and revised in 1959, it swiftly became the ultimate pilot’s watch, revolutionising wrist-worn chronographs in the years that followed. Its name – a portmanteau of ‘navigation’ and ‘timer’ references the brand’s reputation as a respected manufacturer of precision timing devices for the world’s airlines and aircraft manufacturers, not to mention the Royal Air Force, in the run-up to the Second World War. Sixty years on, the brand has released the Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition (£6,520), which adheres closely to the original. Even the 94 beads on the bezel remain the same as the original; the number varied from 125 in the early 1950s to 93 beads in the ’60s, but the Ref. 806 had precisely 94. As well as the beading, which allowed a better grip, the bezel incorporated a rotating slide-rule. This groundbreaking design enabled vital flight calculations such as fuel consumption and air speed to be made on the wrist. The 41mm stainless-steel chronograph has a black dial and is presented on a smart black leather strap. Fittingly, 1,959 individually numbered pieces are available.
Continuing a legacy
The Navitimer was conceived under the direction of Willy Breitling, who took up the reins of his father Gaston’s company in 1932, at the tender age of 19. He ran the eponymous company until 1979, when in failing health, he sold it to Ernest Schneider. He was an entrepreneur and fittingly, also a watchmaker and a pilot. Breitling created the chronograph in response to the growing commercial and recreational aviation market of the post-war period. Jazz sensation Miles Davis was among its many early fans and, today, it remains popular not only with pilots, but with horology aficionados the world over.
Attention to detail
The Breitling Navitimer Ref.806 Re-Edition matches not only the aforementioned bezel, but almost every other detail of the original 1959 Navitimer. Its 41mm stainless- steel case has an all-black dial with tone-on-tone small seconds, 30-minute and 12- hour chronograph counters. The dial, like that of the first model, is protected by a highly domed Plexiglass, and its winged logo is unsigned, just like the logo used within the European market at the time. The hand-finished detailing on the dial also stays true to the original, adding to the re-edition’s old-school charm.
Better than ever
However, several updates make the new Navitimer even more attractive. First, it’s powered by the COSC-certified in-house Calibre B09, which is based on the historic Breitling Calibre 01. The updated movement, specifically created to be used in hand- wound re-editions such as this, has an approximate 70-hour power reserve and is water-resistant to 30m. Meanwhile, the Super-LumiNova® deployed on its hour and minute hands has been adapted in colour to replicate the luminescence used on watches from the late 1950s and 60s. In celebration of the year the first Ref. 806 was produced, the 1,959 watches available have been individually engraved with their number, along with ‘Breitling’ and the company’s simple ‘B’ logo.
A must-have for Breitling fans
Georges Kern, Breitling’s CEO since 2017, was well aware of the success of the Navitimer Ref.806 1959 Re-Edition. He commented: “We’ve been thrilled to learn that there are so many people who’ve been passionate about Breitling’s legacy and that there’s enormous interest, not only in our new products, but also in our heritage and our early timepieces. The Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition will give new Breitling fans and people who have followed the brand for decades a chance to own and enjoy their own exclusive piece of our legendary past.”