January 29, 2023
As one of the most famous luxury watch brands in the world and the company responsible for inventing the modern two-pusher chronograph, Breitling has quite a few noteworthy models in its portfolio. With that in mind, the Navitimer is easily Breitling’s most famous watch, and its unique slide rule bezel has made it one of the true icons from the world of horology. Although the inaugural Chronomat was technically the first Breitling model to feature this signature detail, it ultimately became the Navitimer’s calling card, and when someone says the word “Breitling,” it is usually the Navitimer that first comes to mind. I’ve always admired the Breitling Navitimer, and I love how the highly utilitarian design of a wrist-mounted analog flight computer ultimately became one of the most recognizable luxury watch designs in the world. However, as someone who has fairly thin wrists, most of the Navitimer models that have been released over the years are just a bit too large for my personal preferences, and their inherently rather bold styling does little to mitigate their size. Despite objectively being a fan of the Navitimer, it has always been a model that I have admired from afar. However, Breitling has been significantly expanding its signature collection in more recent years, and the current Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is a model that I could easily see myself wearing in everyday life.
The current Breitling Navitimer collection includes watches with case sizes that range from 35mm to 46mm in diameter, with the chronograph models available in 41mm, 43mm, and 46mm. That said, it is the 43mm version of the B01 Chronograph that is the core offering within the lineup, and while 43mm still represents a fairly sizable case diameter, it is significantly more manageable compared to the 46mm and 48mm monsters from the brand’s back-catalog that often come to mind when someone thinks of the Navitimer collection. On top of that, the listed 43mm dimension actually refers to the diameter of the grooved rotating bezel that hangs over the edge of the case, and if you measure the diameter of the middle case itself, it actually comes in closer to 41mm with an overall lug-to-lug profile of approximately 49mm. Similarly, the official thickness of the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is 13.6mm, but that also includes the domed sapphire crystal with blue anti-reflective coating that sticks up above the rim of the bezel. While a 43mm Breitling Navitimer is hardly a shrinking violet, the watch itself ultimately wears noticeably smaller than its on-paper dimensions might otherwise suggest.
Further helping mitigate the perceived size of the watch is its case finishing, and the sides of the stainless steel middle case receive linear brushing that contrasts against the polished top surfaces of the lugs. A similar approach is taken with the finishing on the pushers, which have brushed sides with high-polished ends, and these brushed surfaces throughout the case components helps temper what can sometimes be a rather “blingy” overall appearance when fully high-polished. Beyond that, everything else is very much what we have come to expect from modern Breitling Navitimer watches, and the B01 Chronograph 43 features a large signed winding crown flanked by two pushers, along with a screw-down caseback that is fitted with a sapphire display window to offer a view of the internal movement. Given that the Navitimer is a pilot’s watch, water resistance isn’t really a priority, and the inherent nature of the model’s complex design creates multiple points for potential water ingress. While the Navitimer isn’t going to be your underwater timekeeping companion (that would be the Breitling Superocean), it is still sufficiently protected against daily incidental encounters with a fairly standard 30 meters of water resistance.
At the present time, Breitling offers the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 with a variety of different dial colors, but the particular example I received for review is the ice blue version with black sub-dials. The primary surface of the dial is a metallic pale blue color with a prominent sunburst finish, applied polished batons for the hour markers, and the fan-favorite AOPA wings emblem sitting just below the 12 o’clock location. The trio of recessed sub-dials and the internal rotating slide rule bezel are all finished matte black for added contrast, and neatly sitting inside the sub-dial at the 6 o’clock location is a rectangular aperture that functions as a date window. To help promote legibility with the ample amount of text, the printing is done in black on the ice blue surface, while it appears in white against the black sections, and in typical Navitimer fashion, a different color (bright red in this case) is used for the key markings on its slide rule bezel. All of the hands receive polished surfaces to match the hour markers, although the hour and minute hand get furnished with thin luminous inlays, while the seconds hand is painted bright red for added contrast and increased legibility when using it in conjunction with the logarithmic scale on the bezel. Everything about the overall layout of the dial is very traditional and exactly what you expect from a Navitimer, yet the mix of metallic ice blue with small pops of bright red ultimately create a fresh aesthetic that nicely toes the lines between resplendent and sporty.
Powering the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is the brand’s Caliber 01 automatic movement. Originally introduced in 2009, the Breitling 01 is the brand’s flagship in-house chronograph caliber, and it can now be found in a wide variety of different models that are currently in production. The 47-jewel integrated chronograph movement features a column wheel with a vertical clutch, and it runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz), while offering users a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. In addition to being a twelve-hour chronograph with a date display, the Breitling Cal. 01 movement is also a COSC-certified chronometer, which means that it is guaranteed to keep time to within -4/+6 per day. Although the Caliber 01 is essentially Breitling’s workhorse chronograph movement, it is reasonably decorated and nice to look at through the Navitimer’s display caseback, and it includes Geneva stripes and gold-filled engravings on its skeletonized rotor and upper bridges. In real-world use, I found that the Breitling Caliber 01 movement keeps time within its intended specifications, and the column wheel mechanism offers a nice and snappy action whenever starting or stopping the chronograph.
While the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is available with the option of a stainless steel bracelet, the particular example I received for review was the version fitted with a traditional black alligator leather strap. Featuring a medium amount of padding with white contrast stitching and a bright yellow lining, the strap tapers from 22mm at the lugs to 18mm where it connects to its pin-buckle style deployant clasp that features a convenient double push-button release. While the strap material is slightly stiff when brand new, it quickly conformed to the shape of my wrist, and it ultimately became quite comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The quality and comfort of the included leather strap is certainly nice enough to the point where there is no real reason to seek out an alternative (other than for the sake of variety). However, with standard 22mm lugs and a reasonable amount of space between the springbars and the edge of the case, a nearly endless list of compatible options is also on the table.
When it comes to Breitling’s chronographs, I’ve always been partial to the Chronomat over the Navitimer, although it’s undeniable that the Navitimer is the true star of Breitling’s catalog. In addition to being one of the most famous chronograph watches ever created, its distinct design makes it arguably more recognizable than other mega-famous chronographs, such as the Omega Speedmaster or Rolex Daytona. While some stray ends of the Navitimer collection can occasionally wander away from the model’s core aesthetic, a classically styled Breitling Navitimer is a watch that can be immediately identified from across the room, and it offers a rich history that ranks up there with the very best in the industry. When fitted with a leather strap like the example featured here, the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 has an official retail price of $9,100 USD, which makes it slightly more expensive than comparable models from the Chronomat collection. Although Breitling makes a smaller version of the Navitimer B01 Chronograph with a 41mm case, I’m not actually sure that I would opt for the smaller model in this particular instance, even though I frequently prefer more compact case sizes. Aside from the fact that I prefer the dial color options from the 43mm range, the Breitling Navitimer is supposed to be a big and rather extroverted watch, and if I was going to wear this bold and iconic style, I think I would want to lean into a bit and get myself one of these 43mm models. For more information on the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43, please visit the brand’s website.