The History and Evolution of the Breitling Navitimer

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The Breitling Navitimer watch is an iconic symbol of aviator watches that has made an impression on the world since its invention. It was one of the greatest innovations of the day insofar as pilots were concerned. What made this aviator watch so significant is the chronograph that features an integrated flight computer. Breitling has an interesting history and the evolution of the Navigator has been consistent in making strides forward. Sixty four years have passed since its inception, and it is still in use by pilots today.

History of the Breitling Navitimer

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Willy Breitling had a strong desire to employ mathematical concepts to develop a calculation tool that would be useful for performing calculations for nautical miles, kilometers and miles. With the help of a skilled mathematician, the slide rule bezel was developed.

Breitling chronograph watches have been around since 1923 and earned their place as the aviator’s choice. It was not until 1942 that the forerunner of the Navitimer was invented. The Breitling Navigator is an evolutionary progression of Breitling’s Chronomat. The first Navitimer became available in 1952 and quickly gained worldwide acclaim as the official pilot’s watch. The Navitimer is a true pioneer that earned its name because of its multiple functions serving as both navigation tool and time piece. Its power source was the Venus 178 movement which was considered to be innovative at the time.

Early versions of the Navitimer, particularly those featuring a manual chronograph movement, are highly collectible items. Some models were crafted of stainless steel and a few 18k solid gold Navitimers were circulated. 1954 Navitimers received a special upgrade with the addition of the Valjoux 72 movement which was a reasonable upgrade to make. This was just the beginning of the changes that the Navitimer would undergo.

The Evolution

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Breitling saw the benefit of partnering with an advertising expert and launched a marketing campaign towards the end of the 1950s. The target audience were pilots. Soon, the demand for Breitling chronographs grew dramatically. This began a series of new versions which became popular in the aviation field.

  • The 1960s were a time of change for Breitling watches. Keeping in step with current trends in watch technology, Breitling replaced the Venus 178 with the Valjoux 7740 movement. A new date feature was added to the Navitimer which now sported a manually wound movement that was cam operated. The moon phase indicator was also a well received addition.
  • The next innovation took place in 1969 with the addition of automatic chronograph movement in the Breitling Calibre11. With assistance from experts in the field, Breitling kept good pace with the current trends of the day, making improvements as needed to maintain modernity.
  • The Breitling Navitimer Chronomatic 1806 featured an LED digital version in the early 1970s. Because of the influx of swiss watches, Breitling’s sales declined and he was forced to sell his business to Ernest Schneider. The new owner had built a reputation for manufacturing cheap watches and it was at this point that the future of the Navitimer was uncertain.
  • The Navitimer started a new chapter and continued in its forward progression. In 2003, the new ChronoMatic was released. It featured a 49mm case with the crow positioned on the left and a new movement.
  • The Breitling 01 was developed in 2009 and it was equipped with its own in-house automatic chronograph movement. This marked a milestone in the history and evolution of the Navitimer. It appared that the change in ownership would be a positive force to continue production of the aviation icon.
  • In 2012, a 60th anniversary edition was made as a limited edition. The watch features the in house movement with a dark blue sky dia adn a caseback that is clear so the movements may be seen.
  • The 2014 edition is the Breitling Navitimer 01 46mm. changes include a larger case and a boost in diameter to 48mm for a special edition. There was a flurry of special releases of limited edition models of the Navitimer. The case sizes for this time period range from 42mm to 48mm.
  • The continuation of the Navitimer has given the world several new editions, some with greater collectible value than others but each having the prestige of belonging to an iconic class. The collectible value is largely dependent on the edition of the watch, and the condition that it is in. Older editions in pristine condition tend to have the highest value.

What the future holds for the Navitimer

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One thing is for certain, the Breitling Navitimer will maintain its popularity with pilots for some time to come. Navitimer watches that are inspired by their counterparts of the 1950s and 60s are still being manufactured and their popularity is immense. Vintage Navitimers are still in demand by collectors and they successfully hold their own or increase in value. The future looks as bright for the Navitimer so far as its popularity with collectors.

Final thoughts

The development of an icon with significant historical value occurs through the passage of time. The Navitimer experienced a period of intense popularity along with economic uncertainties and question as to what would become of the line. Breitling persevered as did his predecessor in moving the Navitimer well into modernity while preserving the integrity of its original charm. The famous aviation slide rule is a feature that is still in demand today.There are some Navitimers floating around that are made with original parts purchased from the last of the original business owner’s stock. Others are produced by the secured right to use the dial design.

Along the path of its evolution, changes were made that left a series of highly collectible Navitimers for the world to sell, trade, dream about and wish for. As far as anyone can tell, the Breitling Navitimer will continue to be sought after for their historical significance and rich history. As long as there are pilots who fly the skies and savvy collectors who understand the monetary and historical value of these watches, there will be a demand for their circulation.

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