Ever since George Kern took over the helm at Breitling, the brand had seen some interesting developments – both in its concept, as well as the philosophy of the brand. The new Navitimer collection is a glimpse into what the new Breitling is all about.
Breitling is a brand that is synonymous with aviation. Its deep history is perhaps entrenched in one of its most iconic collection: the Navitimer. First launched in 1952, the Navitimer is one of the watches that many pilots swears by – especially with its signature slide rule complication that serves as a back-up in terms of calculations in the event that flight computers were down.
The new Navitimer 8 is an interesting prospect. The collection pays homage to Huit Aviation Department, which was incepted in 1938 to produce cockpit flight instruments and classic pilot’s watches. “Huit”, which stands for 8 in French, is notably a reference to the 8 days power reserve that these flight instruments possess.
There are a total of 5 new additions to the Navitimer 8 collection, covering a plethora of complications. This includes the chronograph, day-date, automatic, and the world timer. For today’s article, we will be taking a look at one of their most popular pieces: the Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The Navitimer 8 is a new collection altogether, and it is significantly different from the typical Navitimers that most of the collectors are used to. One of the most obvious difference is the omission of the slide rule complication. The slide rule is one of the signatures of the Navitimer, but the Navitimer 8 has done away with that. We reckon the reason behind it is the fact that Breitling wants the Navitimer 8 to be a simpler entry-level collection for younger collectors, and the Navitimer 1 will remain as the flagship for its pilot’s watch collection. While many collectors have reservations behind this, we feel that the new Navitimer 8 is a breath of fresh air, and in fact is historically correct. In fact, we feel that the simple design is rather appealing and aesthetically-pleasing as well.
The 43mm timepiece has a simple dial layout. It features 3 sub-dials, of which two is used for the chronograph function and the other for the seconds indicator. There is also a date indicator which lies at the 4:30 position. It is accompanied by the sword-shaped hands, with a white-tipped chronograph hand for the seconds display.
The dial is available in three different colours for the stainless steel pieces: either black, silver, or blue. There is also a special bronze dial, for the 18K rose gold model. The sub-dials and numerals are in contrast, to allow for better legibility. We personally prefer the blue dial variant – in which we feel that the sunburst dial adds a new dimension to the watch itself. We might have been a little bias for that though…
Finally, the watch features a bi-directional bezel, finished in contrasting mirror-polish. The bezel has a triangular pointer, in which it is an indispensable element of early aviation watches. This allows the user to easily measure short time intervals by rotating the pointer to the desired position. Not only is this functional, but it also pays homage to the classic pilot watches and in-flight instruments that were used in the 1930s and 1940s.
The Movement: Calibre 01
The beating heart of the Navitimer 8 B01 is none other than Breitling’s in-house Calibre 01. The movement first made its debut in 2009, for the company’s 125th anniversary. It was also featured in some of Breitling’s other pieces, such as the SuperOcean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44 and the Avenger Hurricane.
The self-winding movement is COSC-certified, and it boasts a decent power reserve of around 70 hours. The movement consists of 346 components, and it beats at 28,800 bph. Several notable touches include the dual directional ball-bearing rotor, as well as a patented self-centering system (with a heart-shaped lever) to reset the chronograph to zero. The finishing is decent for a timepiece of this price point as well, in which it can be viewed via the sapphire crystal that is fitted on the exhibition caseback.
Breitling supplies this movement to Tudor and is featured in the Black Bay Chronograph.
Prices for the Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph starts at US$7,710 (approximately S$10,648) for the stainless steel variant with a leather strap. The steel bracelet version has a slight premium, at US$8,080 (approximately US$11,159). Finally, for the 18K rose gold version, it comes with a retail price tag of US$21,030 (approximately S$29,043).
There are certainly no shortages of pilot watches that are available in the market to compare with Breitling’s latest offerings, in terms of its price point and specifications.
The Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Rider is one of the closest competitors, in terms of price point and specifications. The watch is priced at S$11,200, and it features the brand’s in-house El Primero 4069 movement.
It is an interesting timepiece, with an evocative and rustic-looking dial. It has a massive wrist presence, with a case dimension of 45mm (case diameter) by 14.25mm (case thickness). This is probably designed for someone who likes big and bold watches, with a vintage touch to it. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but we do see it as an option for someone who likes a conversational timepiece with a classic touch to it.
Next, we have yet another brand that has a strong heritage in pilot’s watches: IWC. The IWC Pilot’s Chronograph is one of the most popular pieces in the collection as well, and the Reference IW377710 is the latest iteration of the classic timepiece from the Schaffhausen-based watch manufacturer.
The greatest difference between this and the B01 perhaps lies in its movement. The IWC is fitted with Valjoux-based movement, and it is perhaps a better comparison with the Navitimer 8 Chronograph 43 that shares a similar movement. Nonetheless, for someone who is looking for a pilot’s chronograph, the IWC is certainly a contender. It is priced at €4,490 (approximately S$7,113) for the base model, and it is a good alternative for someone who is looking for an entry-level pilot’s chronograph without placing too much emphasis on the movement that is fitted with the watch.
Finally, we have the Breguet Type XX. Understandably, the Type XX is often one of the more overlooked options, as the watch manufacturer is more well known for its dressier and complicated pieces.
The Type XX offers collectors something different. It is an unusual choice, but not one without merits. The watch, at 39mm, is a tad more discreet than most of the other alternatives in the market today. It also features a very classic dial layout, and in addition the movement is fitted with a flyback complication.
Priced at S$15,200, the Type XX is definitely the priciest amongst the few watches that we have highlighted in today’s article. However, for someone who is looking for an uncommon pilot’s watch with an interesting provenance, the Breguet is surely worth a double-take.
The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph is certainly a welcoming addition to the brand’s line-up. We feel that the Navitimer 1, which is the icon of Breitling, might not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea due to its complicated dial layout. The Navitimer 8, on the other hand, is much simpler and easier on the eyes.
The choice of using an in-house movement also gives Breitling an edge against some of its competitors. With a price point that is slightly above the S$10,000 mark, the Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph offers collectors an interesting value proposition, especially for someone who is looking to own their first timepiece with an in-house chronograph movement. Coupled with its rich aviation heritage, the timepiece is surely something that is worth considering as well.
What are your thoughts on this latest novelty from Breitling? Do you think it is an excellent addition, or does it dilute the brand’s heritage and philosophy? Let us know your opinions in the comments section below.