Breitling Navitimer History

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Breitling Navitimer History

Post by koimaster » March 26th 2019, 11:57am

After the great success of one of the first watches ever equipped with a sliderule : the Chronomat, Breitling decided to launch in 1952 the Navitimer.

The Chronomat was focussed on the Engineer and Businessmen market, at this time the sliderule was the only simple machine to achieve calculation : having it in your watch was a great addition to the time and chrono functions.

The Navitimer was designed for pilots and the "Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association" (AOPA) decided immediatly to make the Navitimer their official watch .

This watch was combining 3 essential tools for navigation : a watch, a chronograph and a sliderule.

It was called the navigation timer = The Navitimer


The Chronomat 1942

The Navitimer was designed with the Venus 178 movement, a very nice chronograph movement with crown wheel.

The first Navitimers where produced with a black dial and arabics and with the famous AOPA logo. On the very first models "Breitling" was only seen on the case back.

Shortly after Breitling added its name over the AOPA logo, sometimes topped with the "B"

The reference of this watch was 806 and remain unchanged until the introduction of a complete new generation in the 70's.

(this watch is described as generation 1 in the "50 years" gallery)


The Navitimer "AOPA" first model 1952

For an unknown reason (it might have been because of Venus 178 shortage) Breitling produced in 1954 and 1955 some Navitimers with the Valjoux 72 movement.

This watch is not commonly known, even by watch collectors, and is one of the rarest from the Navitimer familly.

The quantity produced is unknown but significant (perhaps as high as thousands), the reference number is also unknown, perhaps Breitling stuck to the 806 number, but the rare exemples I had the occasion to observe where without any reference number.

(this watch is described as generation 2 in the "50 years" gallery)


The Navitimer Valjoux 72

After ten years of success Breitling decided to "relift" their top seller.

The most visible point of this redesign is the introduction of the white subdials , but you might also notice the end of the "all arabics" markings : only the "12" remained on the dial. Breitling name is now on all the watches, but the AOPA logo remained on it.

Shortly after Breitling decided to introduce a new bezel type : the old "rice bead" version was replaced with a brand new design.

The 60's saw the introduction of Navitimers without the AOPA logo, but with the new Breitling logo : the two planes

(Theses watches are described as generation 3 and 4 in the "50 years" gallery)

The 806 with two planes logo

Breitling introduced a minor relook of the 806 in the late 60's

The white subdials where now bigger changing significantly the aspect of the watch, in the meantime and probably for the same reason as the Valjoux 72, Breitling used for some of theses Navitimers another movement : the Valjoux 7736.

This model closed the long story of the 806 which remained to the Breitling line of product in the early 70's, but would soon be replaced by new Navitimers with later movements.

(this watch is described as generation 5 in the "50 years" gallery)


The 806 "big subdials"

The request for Navitimers remained very high in the late 60's and Breitling decided to do a major move changing the movement of the Navitimer :

The famous Venus 178 was then replaced with a Valjoux 7740, a "modern" movement , in this operation the Navitimer lost its crown wheel movement, but gained the date display on the dial (at 4')

For today's collectors eyes this might be missed, but at that time Breitling wanted to follow competition, reducing their cost and offering new features to their customers, we should not forget that the Venus 178 was a 40's type design.

Breitling changed the reference number for 7806

(this watch is described as generation 6 in the "50 years" gallery)


The Navitimer 7806 with date

1968 is a major date for the Navitimer history : a famous race between two watch companies began 3 years before : the issue is to launch the very first automatic chronograph.

Two groups were fighting in this race : The group of Movado/ Zenith versus Heuer/ Breitling/ Hamilton/ Dubois Depraz. Heuer/Breitling/Hamilton won the race by a few months. Both companies showed officially their watches at the Basel fair in 1969 but Breitling introduced in pre-series the Chronomatic in September 1968.

The new automatic movement was called the Breitling type 11 : see the dedicated part of this site for more infos on the Chronomatic

Breitling changed the reference number for 1806

(this watch is described as generation 9 in the "50 years" gallery)

The Navitimer "Chronomatic"

The early 70's saw the introduction of a revolutionary technology in the watch industry : the Quartz, all the industry changed coming from micro-mechanics to electronics.

Japan introduced on the European and US markets cheap watches, very accurate and fashion, it was very hard for the Swiss watch industry to follow this technological change and the cost of labour in Europe could not compete with Asia at this time.

Breilting tried to follow the tendency and launch in 1973 Quatz Navitimers, the first ones with LED (light electro luminescent diodes) technology : a black display until you push a button on the side of the watch to light the LED's, followed by LCD technology (liquid cristal display)

Many variations of the Navitimer were introduced : refer to the "50 years gallery"

Theses were the last Navitimers before Breilting shut down in 1979

The LED Navitimer

Ernest Schneider who took over the Breitling company in 1979, bought the Breilting and Navitimer trademark.

From 1979 up to 1986 some watches were sold under the Navitimer name, they are described in the collector's gallery of this site, but might not be considered as "real" Navitimers. The real rebirth of the Navitimer was in 1986 with the introduction of the 81600 model.

The 81600 was directly inspired from the 806 design, mechanical movement is back : the manual wind Lemania 1872 with a classic 'tricompax" subdial layout.

This model was shortly followed in 1987 by the 81610 automatic, powered by the famous Valjoux 7750 and introducing its subdial layout at 12, 6 and 9'.

(theses watches are described as generation 14 and 15 in the "50
years" gallery)

The Navitimer 81600

The 90's saw a new wave of success for mechanical watches, customers bored by "disposable" watches started to look back to tradition and quality.

Breilting powered by a new wind of success continued to devellop the Navitimer model and introduced on the market in 1993 the "Old Navitimer II" :

This model was equipped with the state of the art technology : a sapphire crystal with anti reflection coating on both side, the Navitimer is now waterproof and equipped with the Valjoux 7750.

It is the first Navitimer with the little "B" on central second hand, available in a variety of dial colours (white, blue and the traditionnal black)

(this watch is described as generation 18 in the "50 years" gallery)

Old Navitimer II

50 years passed since the introduction of the very first Navitimer. Breitling is one of the most famous watch brands in the world.

The Navitimer always had a special place in the Breitling range of product : an emblematic model nearly unchanged since its introduction, a legend watch.

In order to celebrate this anniversary the Navitimer 50th anniversary was devellopped, the design of the watch is as close as possible to its ancester, taking back for the first time since 1979 the famous double plane logo.

The mechanical movement is the Breitling type 41 : ETA 2892A2 based and like all Breitling, since 1999, it is a certified chronometer.

(this watch is described as generation 19 in the "50 years" gallery)

The Navitimer 50th anniversary edition

2003, the Navitimer has never been so strong, it is one of the most desired watches. Again Breitling sligthly modify the model and the standard Valjoux 7750 movement is now modified in order to stick back to the "tricompax" layout for the subdials (at 3,6 and 9')

Main charactetristics of the model remain unchanged apart from the introduction of this new type of modified Valjoux 7750 named Breitling type 23 (note that this dial configuration obliged Breilting to loose the "quick date change" feature)

The Navitimer is now a whole range of products, including luxury models in Gold, but also complicated models such as the Navitimer QP.

But for fans of the Navitimer, the basic model remains : steel, black dialed with its famous sliderule

(this watch is described as generation 20 in the "50 years" gallery)

Download the pdf with photos and history of watch

Navitimer history and generations.pdf
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