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Clock Gears

BREITLING & THE HISTORY OF THE NAVITIMER

The Chronograph, The Chronomat & The Collaborations


The history of the iconic Breitling Navitimer dates back to 1934 when Willy Breitling, the son of Gaston Breitling, filed a patent for a new type of chronograph with separate pushers for starting, stopping, and resetting. This innovative design was ideal for aviators and gained popularity during World War II when the Royal Air Force ordered a large quantity of these watches. In 1940, Breitling was granted a patent for their innovative Chronomat watch, which boasted a rotating slide rule bezel designed by mathematician Marcel Robert. This bezel allowed pilots to perform quick calculations, an essential feature at a time when computers were massive and calculations had to be done mentally.


The Navitimer, a fusion of the words "navigation" and "timer," carried forward the chronograph and slide rule bezel from the original Chronomat. The watch was explicitly designed to simplify complex calculations like distance travelled, providing ease of use for pilots who were already occupied with their flying tasks.


The 1952 version of the Navitimer featured a hand-wound column wheel chronograph movement supplied by Venus, while another variant with the Valjoux 72 movement was introduced in 1954. These Valjoux-powered Navitimers are highly sought after by collectors. Although all Navitimers of that time displayed the winged AOPA logo, it wasn't until 1959 that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association officially recognized the Navitimer as their official watch. In the 1960s, the Navitimer made its mark in space travel when it was worn by Lt. Command Scott Carpenter during his three orbits of the Earth. The watch was modified for space use and became known as the Navitimer Cosmonaute. It featured a hand-wound column wheel chronograph movement and played a significant role in astronaut missions.


Willy Breitling, Jack Heuer, and Gérald Dubois collaborated to develop the innovative Calibre 11, a chronograph movement built onto an automatic base provided by Büren. This groundbreaking partnership introduced features like a hidden micro-rotor and a left-hand crown placement, adding a unique touch to watches like the iconic Navitimer 1806, affectionately known as the "fried egg." However, despite the success of the Calibre 11 and the popularity of the Navitimer, Willy Breitling faced challenges during the quartz crisis. In 1979, he made the difficult decision to close the company and sell everything, including the beloved Navitimer, to Ernest Schneider. Schneider's acquisition breathed new life into Breitling, marking the beginning of a transformative journey for the brand.

Breitling time advert with yellow background

Breitling B01 Caliber


The introduction of the Caliber B01 in 2009 marked a significant milestone in Breitling's history. This remarkable chronograph was meticulously engineered with a column wheel mechanism, elevating it to the realm of high-end chronographs. Unlike cam-actuated chronograph complications, the column wheel design offers enhanced precision and smooth operation. At the heart of the Calibre B01 is a 47-jewel movement that beats at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (VpH). This impressive movement delivers not only exceptional accuracy but also a substantial power reserve of up to 70 hours. With its COSC Chronometer certification, the Breitling B01 movement is a testament to its highly precise performance, ensuring a minimum accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day.


In a surprising and groundbreaking collaboration, Breitling and Tudor joined forces in 2017 to create a unique exchange program for their movements. The partnership aimed to leverage the strengths of each brand and address Tudor's reliance on ETA movements from the Swatch Group. As part of this exchange, Breitling provided its esteemed B01 chronograph movements to Tudor, while receiving Tudor's three-hand MT5612 movements in return. What makes this collaboration even more intriguing is that the modified version of Breitling's B01 movement can be found in the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph, known as caliber MT5813. This partnership demonstrated a departure from the traditional norms of the Swiss watchmaking industry, as brands typically maintain a certain level of secrecy and competition.

 

Available Now


The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph is a true icon, meticulously designed to meet the demands of aviators and watch enthusiasts alike. Equipped with the legendary circular aviation slide rule, the Navitimer ref. UB0121211F1P1 stands as a testament to Breitling's aviation legacy. Whether you are navigating the skies or making a statement on land, the Breitling Navitimer is your ultimate companion. Its timeless design and remarkable functionality make it a true collector's piece. You can check out this stunning unworn preowned watch below:




Up close shot of Breitling Navitimer with Grey dial and rose gold bezel

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