Breitling's Navitimer, the minicomputer that ushered in watchmaking innovation

The Navitimer is a model that has been driving Breitling's popularity for many years.

The history of the Navitimer begins in 1952 .

This watch was developed to assist pilots in flying and not only keeps accurate time but also incorporates various gimmicks such as calculation functions.


Among watches equipped with chronographs, the Navitimer boasts a long history and is popular due to its excellent performance.


The face of the watch features a familiar logo. The Breitling logo has large wings on either side of the initial B. This design also shows the strong connection between Breitling and the sky.

So why did they decide to specialize in making watches for aviation?


This time, I would like to look back on the history along with the models that have been released.





1952 The birth of the Navitimer

The Navitimer was created as an evolution of the legendary model "Chronomat" released by Breitling in 1942. The Navitimer was born from the development of the slide rule basel. By incorporating this slide rule basel, it became possible to perform complex calculations during flight using only this watch, without the need for other instruments. This function was truly revolutionary. As a result, the Navitimer became popular among many pilots, including those in the U.S. Air Force.


Breitling Navitimer / 1952

(Image: Breitling Navitimer, released in 1952)

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Now, let's go back in time a little and trace the history of Breitling.

In 1884 , Leon, the founder of Breitling at the time, came to Saint-Ymer, Switzerland, where the watch industry was thriving, to make the first chronograph. Breitling was founded in the same year. In the early days, Breitling mainly developed clocks for use in aircraft dashboards.


In 1915 , Breitling introduced its first chronograph, a watch with a 30 -minute counter and a central seconds hand to help pilots with calculations.


In 1923 , Breitling first fitted a pusher to a chronograph. Willy, who took over the company in 1934 , introduced the now-standard two -pusher watch, which made it easier to start and stop timing. Looking for further innovation, Willy enlisted the help of mathematician Marcel Robert to invent the slide rule basel, which made it easier to calculate complex logarithmic equations.


The scale that Willy invented together with experts in various fields was truly revolutionary. It had three units that were important to pilots:


1. Basic flight information for measuring aircraft mileage

2. Display of kilometers ( km )

3. Display of knots ( naut )


The Navitimer met all of these requirements and became popular as a watch exclusively for airline pilots.



Minicomputers for pilots

The early Navitimer released in 1952 had the logo of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the world's largest pilot association, designed on the dial. It is no exaggeration to say that this is proof that the performance of mechanical watches is globally recognized. It was an honor for Breitling.


The Navitimer is named after a combination of the words "navigation" and "timer." Early editions are popular among collectors, and the stainless steel version is said to cost as much as 10,000 euros (approximately 1.3 million yen). These models are equipped with the Valjoux 72 , the same movement as the vintage Rolex Daytona. The excellence of this movement is also one of the reasons why it continues to attract fans.



In the late 1950s , Breitling began to focus not only on the performance of its watches but also on public relations and marketing. Willy Breitling, together with Swiss public relations expert Georges Caspari, took the innovative approach of co-developing watches with a group of talented pilots. It is said that it was around this time that the company became an official supplier to airlines. In 1957 , it was in charge of the dashboard instruments for the Boeing 707 .