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      The History of the Breitling Navitimer

      The quintessential pilot's watch is the Breitling Navitimer, a chronograph equipped with a flight computer.

      The Navitimer celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012, but is still popular with pilots around the world.

      It is also used as standard equipment for air force pilots in many countries.

      Actor John Travolta is also known as an aviation enthusiast who owns a Boeing 707 and a Bombardier Challenger 601. He is also a Navitimer user and serves as a brand ambassador.

      This time, we would like to introduce the history of the Breitling Navitimer, the iconic pilot's watch.

      1952: The Birth of the Breitling Navitimer

      The Breitling Navitimer is an evolution of the Chronomat, which was launched in 1942 and featured a rotating slide rule on the bezel. Breitling further improved this very practical bezel, and in 1952 the Navitimer was born.

      A rotary slide rule is designed to eliminate the need for multiple tools to make the complex calculations required when flying an airplane.

      The 1942 Chronomat uses the Venus 176 movement.

      The Chronomat was adopted by the United States Air Force for a long period of time, which helped to clarify Breitling's business philosophy.

      Our philosophy is to be a brand for pilots.

      In 1884, the then 24-year-old Léon Breitling came to the town of Saint-Mitier in Switzerland to put his watchmaking expertise to good use and create his own chronographs.

      This year is considered the official founding year of Breitling.

      In 1892, the company moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds, also in Switzerland, and began manufacturing pocket watch-type chronographs under the name G. Léon Breitling SA Montbrillant Watch Factory.

      Over the next few years, Breitling noticed an increasing demand for airplane dashboard clocks and military chronographs.

      So in 1915, Breitling introduced the world's first wristwatch chronograph.

      With a central seconds hand and a 30-minute counter, this chronograph allowed pilots to perform basic calculations with ease.

      Breitling advertisement

      Breitling advertisement

      Background: Breitling's Pilot's Chronograph Watch

      In 1923, Breitling introduced the first chronograph with push buttons.

      Until then, chronographs were typically started and reset using the crown.

      Then, in 1934, Willy Breitling, who succeeded founder Leon, developed the two-push button chronograph.

      This idea of ​​one button for start/stop functions and the other for the reset function would remain the standard for chronographs for decades to come.

      Furthermore, in an effort to further advance calculating tools, Willy commissioned mathematician Marcel Robert to create a bezel with a rotating slide rule that could be used for complex logarithmic calculations.

      He created a ruler that could convert between the three units most important to pilots: STAT (statute miles), KM (kilometers), and NAUT (nautical miles).

      In the 1940s, pilots had insufficient tools and struggled to make calculations, but this wristwatch-style slide rule allowed pilots to calculate fuel consumption, average speed, and rate of climb.

      Breitling Chronomat

      Breitling Chronomat

      Breitling Navitimer: A Minicomputer for Pilots

      In 1952, early Navitimers featured the AOPA (International Pilots and Owners Association) double-wing logo on the dial, and by 1960, an actual collaboration with AOPA had begun.

      The name "Navitimer" is a combination of the words "navigation" and "timer."

      The first edition released was the Ref. 806, which featured the column-wheel manual chronograph, the Venus 78.

      These early models are highly sought-after collector's items, with values ​​ranging from €2,000 to €10,000 (approximately JPY 250,000 to JPY 1.3 million) depending on the condition and edition (AOPA version, gold-plated or stainless steel, full black or reverse panda, etc.).

      The stainless steel version is fairly common and is also the most popular model, while the later gold plated version is less popular.

      The rare 18K gold edition can go for up to €10,000 (approximately 1.3 million yen).
      In 1954, the specifications became special. It was equipped with the Valjoux 72, the same movement as the vintage Rolex Daytona.

      This makes it one of the most popular collector's items.

      Breitling Navitimer 806 1952 AOPA

      Breitling Navitimer 806 1952 AOPA

      In the late 1950s, Breitling began the initiative that would lead to the successful branding it enjoys today: marketing and ambassadorship.

      Willy Breitling enlisted the help of Georges Caspari, a Swiss advertising firm, to develop a campaign targeted at pilots.

      This worked, and demand for navigation chronographs skyrocketed.
      Not only that, Breitling continued to be a supplier of board instruments to major aircraft manufacturers.

      For example, the Boeing 707, introduced in 1957, was equipped with Breitling dashboard instruments.

      Some of the instruments are still in use on John Travolta's plane.

      Breitling Navitimer 809 Cosmonaut

      Breitling Navitimer 809 Cosmonaut

      Breitling Navitimer: A Pioneer

      Technological innovation in the watch industry never stopped: automatic movements became the industry standard for three-hand watches, and additional functions such as date, day of the week, and moon phase displays became widely adopted.

      For these reasons, in the late 1960s, Breitling changed its movement from the Venus 178 to the Valjoux 7740, a manually wound, cam-operated date mechanism.

      So, to keep up with the times, an automatic chronograph was needed.
      Then, in 1969, the time came.

      Breitling Caliber 11

      Breitling Caliber 11

      The man behind the development of this new calibre was Gérard Dubois.

      At the time, he was working for the company that would become Dubois-Dépraz. Using Buren's thin movement with a micro-rotor as the base caliber, Dubois worked with Jack Heuer and Willy Breitling on the idea of ​​an automatic chronograph.

      By working together, they managed to stack a chronograph module on top of the Büren caliber (which, incidentally, hides the micro-rotor), and thus the legendary Caliber 11 was born.

      One of the unique features of this movement was the placement of the crown on the left side (the pushers were usually on the right side).

      With the introduction of this movement, the dial of the Navitimer underwent a major change, changing from a tricompax to a bicompax layout and moving the date display to the 6 o'clock position.

      In the 1970s, they introduced a large 48mm model (ref. 1806) called the fried egg. However, even though the models changed, the practical rotating slide rule, a Breitling characteristic, remained in every model.

      Breitling Navitimer Chronomatic 1806

      Breitling Navitimer Chronomatic 1806
      In the 1970s, the Swiss watch industry was faced with an inevitable crisis due to the emergence of quartz: cheap, accurate quartz watches made in Japan were flooding the market.

      Breitling was also forced to respond to the crisis, but even quartz and LCD versions of the Navitimer were unable to halt the steep decline in sales.

      Breitling Navitimer LED Digital

      Breitling Navitimer LED Digital

      In the late 1970s, it seemed like the end was coming for Breitling, as head of the company, Willy Breitling, had no choice but to close the business and sell it.

      The person who bought Breitling was a man named Ernest Schneider, who was also a passionate pilot and ran a company called Shikra that made low-cost watches.

      In 1978, Breitling was sold to Schneider and moved to Grenchen, Switzerland, where it got a new start in 1982.

      The New Breitling Navitimer

      During this chaotic time, a strange thing happened: Navitimers were sold without the Breitling logo.

      The case, back, movement and other components did indeed have the Breitling name on them, but the dial only had the "Sinn" logo.

      The strange thing is that the German manufacturer Helmut Sinn bought almost the entire spare parts stock when they sold Breitling.

      Incidentally, the manufacturer still makes watches inspired by the Navitimer.

      Breitling continued to face turbulent times, but in the 1990s Schneider's plans began to flourish as a new market interest in mechanical watches emerged.

      The Navitimer also made a comeback and became the success we know it to be today.

      The revived Navitimer is powered by a reworked but reliable Valjoux 7750.

      This movement was the most famous and widely adopted automatic chronograph in the world.
      Since then, many editions have been released.

      These include the Airbone, which has four sub-counters (plus a date display at the 12 o'clock position), and the Old Navitimer, which has a reverse panda dial and a design similar to the original Ref. 806.

      Many commemorative models were also released.

      In 2003, Breitling revived the Chronomatic with a modern 49mm case and left-positioned crown.

      However, the movement was based on the ETA2829 rather than the Caliber 11.

      Introducing in-house movements

      Breitling Navitimer 01

      Breitling Navitimer 01

      2009 is a significant year in Breitling's history.

      In fact, something happened that marked a break from the past and a step forward: the Breitling 01, a completely in-house movement that had been in development for many years, was completed.

      This automatic chronograph movement is not a module mounted on top of a base movement like the Caliber 11, but is a one-piece construction, uses a column wheel, and is chronometer certified (as all Breitling movements have been since 1999).

      Breitling Navitimer 60th Anniversary Model

      Breitling Navitimer 60th Anniversary Model

      In 2012, to celebrate the Navitimer's 60th anniversary, Breitling released a commemorative model limited to 500 pieces, with a dark blue sky dial, in-house movement, and a see-through case back.

      The retail price for the 60th anniversary model is €7,270 (approximately JPY 950,000) for the blue alligator strap version and €8,080 (approximately JPY 1.05 million) for the familiar stainless steel bracelet version.

      Breitling Navitimer 01 46mm

      Breitling Navitimer 01 46mm

      The Breitling Navitimer 01, unveiled at Baselworld, the world's largest watch fair, in 2014, had a larger case size.

      The Classic Edition went from 42mm to 46mm, while the GMT Edition went up to 48mm.

      But even as it tries to adapt to the times, the Navitimer remains a Navitimer.

      Whether vintage or modern, it remains one of the world's most famous chronographs and continues to fascinate people.