Breitling Navitimer: The Insane Story Of How It Came To Existence

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Breitling Navitimer
Breitling Navitimer 1 and Breitling Navitimer 8

Whilst speaking of luxury tool watches, there is a plethora of names that flood the mind. Some are pretty popular like the Rolexes, while others have had the misfortune to have lost their edge in the industry. Nonetheless, today the markets are full of luxury watch brands that were once watchmakers who made timepieces for a purpose. Be it car races, underwater diving, mathematical engagement, or armed forces, the world of watchmaking has been closely associated with all kinds of fields and their respective representatives. One such name that has not only done a pretty good job at retaining its stature as a tool watch but has also earned its position is Breitling’s very own Navitimer.

The Navitimer is a post-war invention that made its debut in 1952 and changed the course of history for the Swiss watchmaker. The Navitimer was the rightful successor of the original Chronomat, a watch that saw the light in the war-driven 1940s and was later discontinued. Nevertheless, the ‘Navi’ was conceived out of the ashes of the Chronomat along with the famous slide rule bezel. The bezel played an important role in the process of the watch becoming a stalwart amongst international watches.

A Humble Start: Breitling Chronographs

The history of Breitling with chronographs is nothing short of a romantic affair. The first ever chronograph from the watchmaker came in 1884 when Leon Breitling, an already seasoned watchmaker reached St. Imier to finish the deed. The unit eventually moved to La Chaux de Fonds and started creating pocket chronographs. Before anyone knew, Breitling scored another sweet victory in the form of their first wrist chronograph in 1915, a simple timepiece with a mechanical chronograph module and a 30-minute counter.

A Step Forward: Pilot’s Watches

It was rather inevitable that a brand of this stature would sooner or later enter the pilot’s watches segment. 1923 stood witness to the arrival of the chronograph with a pusher. This achievement was later topped by a chronograph with two pushers. The watch debuted in 1934 and changed the way watches were made. To this day, the trend of double push buttons is being followed.

Soon, with the help of popular mathematician of the yore, Marcel Robert, Breitling came up with the idea of a watch that was able to facilitate complex arithmetic calculations. This was the beginning of the Chronomat. The Chronomat, originally used by mathematicians, was later used by pilots to calculate average speed, fuel consumption, and even climbing velocity.

Breitling Navitimer

In 1952, Breitling launched the first Navitimer. Hardly did anyone know that this watch would change everything for the brand for years to come. The original Breitling Navitimer used a Venus 178 manually wound chronograph movement and was named as Ref. 806. From 1954, the Swiss horologist started incorporating the Valjoux 72 in some watches. This was the same movement that was used in the earliest Daytona watches. o

Marketing And Advertising

Breitling realised that the watch was bound to be a huge success because of its complications. It was not long before the brand started to target specific groups of pilots which eventually led to a greater demand for navigation chronographs. In addition to this, Breitling resumed its duties as the supplier of official dashboard instruments to airliners like Boeing.

Constant Drive For Innovation

Breitling may not be the most flamboyant or the unorthodox in the industry but it is definitely one that thrives on a constant pursuit for innovations and breakthroughs. After the end of the 1960s, the brand chose to move on from the loyal Venus 178 and switch to a better and refined Valjoux 7740. The movement was yet again a manually wound mechanical calibre, but with a date display.

The First Automatic Chronograph – B11

The only thing that withheld Breitling from being a true horologist now was an automatic movement. The solution introduced itself in 1969 when the brand finally revealed the Breitling calibre 11, a creation of Gerald Dubois. In essence, Dubois worked with Willy Breitling and Jack Heuer of Heuer Watches and made the idea of an automatic chronograph into a reality. This led to the launch of Ref. 1806, a 48mm giant of a watch with the crown located on the left side.