August 22, 2019
by Ariel Adams
Some of the most fun new Breitling watches at Baselworld 2019 (and there were enough to choose from, for sure) were part of the airline-appreciation “capsule collection” watches that came in three versions. Each is a retro-chic iteration of the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 watch that, itself, makes for a comfortable daily wear. Breitling honors historic relationships the Swiss watchmaker has had with airlines TWA, PAN-AM, and, of course, Swissair. Only Switzerland’s main airline is still around, but the pop-culture importance of TWA and PAM-AM are important because both have various entertainment, hospitality, and fashion products associated with their brands. Apparently, in today’s busy and uncomfortable airports (and airplanes), there is a burgeoning nostalgia for the “good ol’ days” of flying (when it was still a mode of transportation mainly for the rich).
Don’t feel like you need to choose a favorite among the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 PAN- AM, TWA, or Swissair Edition watches. They are all lovely in their own way, even though their bold color palettes will, of course, not bet to everyone’s tastes. Breitling was inspired by the airline logo colors, and the visual design is directly inspired by Breitling watches from the 1970s. We can see this notably in the blocky hands, as well as the use of bright contrasting colors. What I like about each of the pieces is that they are both bold and charming, while still appearing serious and mature. Sometimes the more 1970s-era watch styles out there end up looking more fun than expensive, which makes it challenging for consumers to spend luxury-timepiece prices on them.
Price-to-value ratio is important here because the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is not among Breitling’s lesser-priced watches. The polished steel 43mm-wide watch contains the in-house-made Breitling B01 automatic 12-hour chronograph movement that offers a nice “tri-compax” chronograph display and the date. The decorated movement is visible through the reach of the case that has the airline logo printed on the sapphire crystal. It is probably for the better that the airline logos live here on the back of the case, as opposed to on the dial sharing space with the Breitling logo. In that regard, Breitling did a nice job here.
Breitling also correctly points out that, while many watch brands have aviation/pilot-inspired watches that focus on military tradition, there are few that are related to civilian aviation history. It takes a number of years for such products to not feel overly commercial (the irony), but with these watches, you truly do not get the sense that Breitling was excited to help sell more watches because of a collaboration with TWA. Instead, it feels like Breitling had the fun idea to do something related to TWA that helped everyone involved as a result.
More specifically, looking at each of the “Civil Aviation Capsule Collection” watches, the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 PAN-AM Edition leads the pack in price with its blue and red dial, given that it comes on a matching steel mesh metal bracelet. We then have the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Swissair Edition with a black, white, and red dial (my favorite of the bunch) with a simple black nubuck leather strap. Finally, there is the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 TWA Edition that has a cream and red dial with matching brown nubuck leather strap.
What is a capsule collection in regard to these watches? Well, I think it means that they are limited-distribution watches (you likely won’t be able to buy them everywhere) that will be produced as long as both partners want them to. I don’t believe either of these watches will be produced in very high numbers, but there is a good chance they will be produced for at least a few years and with at least a few thousand pieces each. We really enjoyed wearing these fun Breitling “civil aviation” watches in the Navitimer Bo1 Chronograph 43 collection and are happy the 1970s colors are elegant enough for regular display on your wrist. Price is $8,275 USD for the watch on the strap and $9,160 USD for the watch on the bracelet. See more at the Breitling website here.