Collecting Breitling Navitimers, An Owners Overview

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Profiling Breitling Navitimer owners is like a multiple-personality case study. This multiplicity is no trait of the watch – which has remained remarkably steadfast through parts of seven decades – but of the users who are drawn to Breitling’s living legend. No two watch collectors are alike, but connoisseurs of the Navitimer are a special genus; these are their species…

The Actual Pilot

He’s real deal. No, the Actual Pilot knows what it means to recover a stall, land in a crosswind, and bend his machine – the big one – to his will. Whether commercial, private, or military, this Navitimer owner is the direct descendant of the original 1950s Navitimer’s intended audience.

Developed in cooperation with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots’ Association (AOPA), the first Navitimer of 1952 – or 1954; nobody’s really certain – was a professional tool intended for use by aviators in a cockpit or pre-flight environment. Like the contemporary Rolex GMT-Master ref. 6542, the Navitimer used a combination of timekeeping and calculator bezel features to enable more precise navigation and airborne situational awareness. But while the GMT-Master assisted in judging Greenwich and local airport time, the Navitimer was designed to permit all mathematical calculations necessary for the safe conduct of a flight.

Although not Breitling’s first circular slide rule wristwatch – that honor belongs to the 1942 Chronomat – the Navitimer became the most famous and enduring member of this Breitling specialty line.

Its calculator bezel permitted rapid resolution of airspeed, drift, groundspeed, fuel consumption, and more. This was an era when national space programs relied on slide rules to place men into orbit, and the Navitimer represented the state-of-the art; one could call it the original smartwatch. During the mid-1950s, the Breitling Navitimer’s combination of time display, chronograph stopwatch, and calculator offered an unrivaled tool for the Actual Pilot.

Today’s Actual Pilot no longer navigates by Breitling’s slide rule watch, but he wears his Navitimer in deference to his profession’s heritage. Let’s be clear; for a modern licensed pilot, analog flight computers are a backup system.
However, most civilian and military professional pilot training programs still require trainees to learn the use of a circular slide rule during indoctrination. Like modern divers who wear mechanical dive watches, the Actual Pilots of the world wear their Navitimers in part as a calling card of their trade… and, in part, as the ultimate fail-safe.

The Purist

He’s probably an erstwhile vintage collector and general retro grouch. Ok, perhaps that’s a touch harsh. But this variety of Navitimer owner is the most likely to ride a 1960s Triumph, wear black-rimmed glasses, and pitch a fit over pre-tied bowties. And no, he never wears a watch with a tux (and shame on you for asking). Although he can be a tough character if you serve him filet mignon with white wine, The Purist is an evangelist for his idiosyncratic passions.

In general, the Purist does not own many contemporary Breitling models; nevertheless, these Navitimer owners can be prolific collectors of Breitling’s most famous watch. The Purist’s collection may include one or more late-model Breitling Navitimers, but rest assured that none of them surpass 41mm in diameter. Vintage is where it’s at for The Purist and his ilk.

This strain of Navitimer owner is the most likely to own a museum of Breitling’s mid-century greatest hits; early ref. 806 Valjoux 72? Check. Venus 178 with syringe hands, monotone black dial, and beaded bezel? Naturally. The Purist sweats details like the larger post-1963 sub-registers and the evolving AOPA winged logo.

Although he likely pledged allegiance to a “Young Republicans” cadre at some juncture of his academic life, rest assured, Komrade, The Purist harbors a soft spot for ref. 809 Cosmonautes.

The Company Man

He’s the opposite of The Purist. He bleeds Breitling, dreams in polished steel, and his wrist burns at the touch of brand X cases. He may or may not be aware that Breitling ever knew a home beyond Grenchen, but he fetes the fruits of Solothurn.
Do not be alarmed by The Company Man’s voluminous John Travolta film collection; pay no heed to the life-size Vinnie Barbarino wax figure in his office. This is normal… mostly.

New Breitling CEO and equity partner Georges Kern would do well to deputize The Company Man in of his forms and in all global regions. This disciple of the marque lives on Breitlingsource.com, floods online forums with B-love, and fights to the finish defending company honor against the heathen fanboys of brands starting with “O” and “R.”

Navitimer owners like The Company Man view their slide rule wonders as part of a COSC-certified arsenal that includes SuperOceans, Avengers, and at least one Superquartz multifunction. He has a Breitling for every occasion and every application. And while The Company Man may have no clue how to operate a circular slide rule, he is a reliable acolyte. When friends ask for watch collecting advice, The Company Man always is quick to offer a test-flight with his Navitimer.

In parting, The Company Man always wishes to remind you that no Breitling watch is too large; some wrists are just too small!

The Monuments Man

He owns one of everything sacred. And only one.

The Navitimer is to Breitling what the Speedmaster Professional is to Omega and the Submariner is to Rolex. The Monuments Man owns an example of each. A prolific collector who wants only THE definitive reference and never repeats a brand, The Monuments Man scales his horological Himalayas one peak at a time.

But The Monuments Man need not be an entry level or sports watch collector by default. When he throws on a suit to do dinner on the town, this breed of Navitimer collector may choose between a Patek Philippe Calatrava 5196 or a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Taille. No slave to simplicity, The Monuments Man may very well consider his A. Lange & Söhne Datograph “Dufour-o-Graph” alongside a circa-Y2K F.P. Journe Tourbillon Remontoir when the occasion calls for a fearsome complication.

The Monuments Man and his fraternity help to reinforce the stature of Breitling’s Navitimer. Beyond his preference for the iconic, this variety of collector may have no budgetary or genre constraints on what he selects. As the definitive timepiece family from Breitling, the Navitimer may find a slot in the monumental collection alongside a Richard Mille RM008 and a Philippe Dufour Simplicity. And the Navitimer belongs there without dispute.

The Fashionista

He flies by the seat of his undersized pants.

Not to be confused with The Purist, the Fashionista has no politics, praxis, or dogmas. His tolerance for jeans two sizes too small is legendary. With a world-view framed through rose-tinted Wayfarers and PBR-inflected beer goggles, The Fashionista is the Metro-Man of tomorrow.

But even though The Fashionista is faking it until he’s making it, his Breitling Navitimer is the real deal. Let’s face it, you’ve got to hang your hat on something, and argyle sweaters just don’t sizzle like they did in 2015. That was like, 4EVR ago, BTW.

The Fashionista owns a fixie, but he forgot the combo to his lock. And although he Ubers himself around the urban landscape while sleeping five nights out of seven on friends’ couches, The Fashionista wants you to know that he takes his watches seriously. From the man himself:

“I mean, DAMN, all those numbers – and the spinning ring – and the buttons! This thing has more digits than my student loan debt! Anyways, I saw a hedge fund dude wearing one of these on Chambers Street while I was waving at my Uber. Moneydude’s hair highlights were rank – no irony at all – but damn, he nailed the watch! Hey, do you mind if I crash on your couch tonight and borrow a spot for Shake Shack? I’m kinda saving my bullets for the iPhone 8.”

Point taken: The Fashionista knows his watches. So what if he wears his little sister’s old jeans? And if he ever finishes his degree, that calculator bezel will come in handy.

The Rec Room Ace

He has 48 airborne kills; 5,000 hours in the F-15E Strike Eagle; hundreds of missions. All in the comfort of his fully-furnished basement man-cave. This hardcore veteran of Tom Clancy movies and Microsoft flight simulator may or may not have a real pilot’s license, but he has a real pilot’s watch.

Nothing can stop The Rec Room Ace. Except pizza bagels in the nuke. And the baby monitor going nuts. And occasional moonlighting as a Necromancer in MMORPGs.

But Rec Room Ace is all of us – well, except the shiftless millennial Fashionista – but the ‘Ace is most of us. He’s a romantic. He mixes life and responsibility with a capacity to escape. He knows the difference between the dream and the day, and he enjoys the purple glow in between. The Rec Room Ace might be you, your family, or a close friend, and a Breilting Navitimer is his watch.