January 29, 2018
by Bilal Khan
After several weeks of teasers posted on its official social media channels, Breitling has at last launched the new Breitling Navitimer 8 collection with a variety of models. Today’s Navitimer 8 collection is a nod to that extensive heritage as well as all that the Navitimer is loved for like its reliable movements and masculine case – while the busy dials appear to have taken a lesser role in this new, vintage-inspired spin on the Navitimer. A clear message from new Breitling head Georges Kern is the decision to forego Breitling’s winged-B logo for the older simple B logo. This new collection is made up of five watches: the Navitimer 8 B01; the Navitimer 8 Unitime; Navitimer 8 Chronograph; Navitimer 8 Day & Date; and the Navitimer 8 Automatic. Worthy of note and bordering on sacrilege here is the fact that three out of the five Navitimer 8 watches are not chronographs leading to the question: should this just have been a new collection altogether?
The Navitimer 8 is named after Breitling’s “Huit Aviation” department that Breitling had set up in 1938 specifically to design and produce cockpit instruments and “wrist chronographs” for military use. These included a range of cockpit instruments with 8 days of power reserve, as well as a number of chronograph wristwatches with different scales and levels of complexity to cater to WWII pilots.
We’ve seen many new Navitimer models over the years, and some have stepped away from the original quite spectacularly. The original Breitling Navitimer was launched in the early 1950s specifically with pilots in mind. With it’s prominent “Slide Rule Bezel,” Breitling improved on the Chronomat model with a feature deemed as a “navigation computer” that allowed pilots to track speed, fuel consumption, conversions, and climb rate. It can (and realistically should) be argued that the 1950s original had a seriously busy dial. The new Navitimer 8 collection heavily channels the original concept while also presenting a refreshing modern look. If there is one thing to be said about the Navitimer 8, it’s that it improves on all things legibility and may prove a great first real addition to the Breitling catalog under its new CEO, Georges Kern.
Let’s start going through the collection, starting with the Navitimer 8 B01, which obviously features the in-house Breitling caliber B01 movement that boasts a 70-hour power reserve. Sized at a reasonable 43mm wide and 13.97mm thick, the Navitimer 8 B01 strips away the arguably vestigial Slide Rule Bezel while offering a 30-minute counter, 12-hour counter, and a date window. The Slide Rule Bezel has likely been the most prohibitive factor keeping many, many people (including myself) from considering adding a Navitimer to their collection while the aggressively macho styling of the Chronomat and Avenger kept as many people away on their own.
So, this Georges Kern special is bound to please a lot of vintage design lovers who have been scared off by contemporary Breitlings. My initial take? It’s cool looking, if a bit safe by design. A lot is going to hinge on the execution and how the watch feels in the metal. High-quality finishing on the case, hands, dial, and bracelet could make this a come-from-behind challenge to pieces from brands like IWC (I wonder why). One thing I have to say is that the varying orientation of the date window, hour numerals, and minute numerals all in the same area give me a feeling of knocked over building blocks. I’m just having a hard time unseeing that.
The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01 is going to be available in both steel and gold. There are going to be two steel models, with a blue or black dial available on a bracelet or leather strap. The red gold model will have a bronze dial and will only be available in a brown alligator leather strap. Oh, and all the models will have an exhibition caseback but no images of those yet, sadly.
Next up is the other chronograph in this collection of five new Navitimers, the Navitimer 8 Chronograph. Marketed as the more price-conscious (Breitling’s words, not mine) chronograph, this model uses the less “illustrious” (again, their words not mine) Breitling Caliber 01 movement, which unfortunately for those of us plagued with minds that demand design symmetry has sub-dials at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock. The caliber 01 operates at 28,800bph and has a 42 hour power reserve, which is passable if the value is there.
Measuring the same 43mm wide as the Navitimer 8 B01, the case is a little thicker at 14.17mm wide and water resistance is the same at 100m. You’re not going to get the bells and whistles like an exhibition caseback here, either, as we are told to expect a solid screw-down caseback. In addition to the chronograph sub-dials, there is a day of the week aperture and date aperture at 3 o’clock.
The Navitimer 8 Chronograph is also going to be available in stainless steel or a black DLC case on bracelet with either a blue dial or black dial.
This is the most simple of the new Navitimer 8 models, the 3-hand and date Automatic version. Inspired by on-board clocks used by pilots, this simple and clean model wisely measures 41mm wide and retains the bi-directional rotating bezel, which has a pointer that can be set to measure time. Using the caliber 17 movement, the Navitimer 8 Automatic operates at 28,800bph with a 40-hour power reserve.
As I mentioned, the case is 41mm wide and 10.74mm thick with 100m of water resistance. Again, the caseback is solid, which is completely fine as this movement is not the best looking (though tried and reliable). As with the other Breitling Navitimer 8 watches, it’s available in a steel or black DLC case with a blue or black dial on either a steel bracelet or leather strap. Overall, the package could come off a little bland to those like myself but the right price combined with the Breitling heritage sans-Air Force Travolta attitude could be a winning value proposition.
Designed with travelers in mind, the Navitimer 8 Unitime immediately recalls a pared-down version of the far overpriced $11,200 Transocean Unitime. Here, the world time indication is used by moving the hour hand forward or backwards via a crown which also adjusts the date window as well as the time. By positioning the city which corresponds to the timezone selected at 12 o’clock, the counterclockwise rotating 24-hour ring allows you to tell the time in each of 24 time zones based on local time. We’ll share this system in action once we get our hands on these watches.
This Navitimer 8 Unitime (named so to stand for “Universal Time” mind you) measures 43mm wide and 14.38mm thick and features an exhibition caseback. The watch uses the Caliber B35 movement which has a 70-hour power reserve. The Unitime comes in either a black or silver dial, but I have to say that the legibility on the silver-dialed model seems very lacking so unless something drastically changes when we get this watch hands-on, I imagine suggesting to go for the black dial.
The Navitimer 8 Day & Date is the one that least elicits any emotion from me, with a day window at 12 o’clock and date window at 6 o’clock. Measuring 41mm wide and 11.10mm thick, this Navitimer 8 solves the problem that I’m sure must exist for someone out there of a day window being too small. Using the caliber 45 movement, it operates at 28,800bph and has a 40 hour power reserve. The bi-directional rotating bezel has a pointer that can be used to set reminders, as with every Navitimer 8. The caseback is a screwed down steel piece and the watch has 100m of water resistance.
Keeping with the color schemes in this collection, the steel watch will be available with a blue or black dial on either a bracelet or leather strap.
The entire Breitling Navitimer 8 collection will be available Summer 2018. Stay tuned for detailed pricing and our hands-on impressions coming very soon.