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.