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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 Breitling changed the reference number for 1806
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
Theses were the last Navitimers before Breilting shut down in 1979
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'.
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)
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.
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.
The Navitimer 816 with Valjoux 72 movement
The 806 has not been the only Navitimer to be fitted with a Valjoux 72 : in the late 60's Breitling produce a Navitimer 816 (Navitimer in "large case" type) with this movement instead of the "standard" Venus 178.
The reference number for this one is known : 816-72 , you can see that the finish of the Valjoux 72 is typical of the period (silver finish) , here again a spacer was needed to fit the Valjoux 72 in the case
The Navitimer 806 with Valjoux 7736 movement
From 1967 Breitling start to produce some Navitimer 806 with the Valjoux 7736 movement, this was perhaps because of a Venus 178 shortage (but nothing is sure in this statement) , the Navitimers produced with this movement had the Reference 806-36 (or 806-E)
This Navitimer is a "large subdial" type with the double plane logo. Even if this watch is rarer than the 806 with Venus 178 its value is chaeper due to the movement : the Valjoux 7736 movement is a "modern" movement without crownwheel.
The Navitimer 816 with Valjoux 7736 movement
The 816 has been also equipped with the Valjoux 7736 movement , again the reasons for that remain unknown today, may be for the same reason as the 806-36 So like the 806 the 816 have seen 3 different movements : the classic Venus 178 , the Valjoux 72 and the Valjoux 7736
Breitling produced in the 70's a limited number of Navitimer in black case, black cases where very "fashion" at this time and gives a very distinctive look to the watch , unfortunatly this black coating is fairly fragile, so few good exemples remain avalaible on the market today
The references of "black" Navitimers are follewed by an "M" : Ref 1806-M and Ref 7806-M
Uncommon Navitimer hands
n the late 60's Breitling introduce their Navitimers in large cases (48 mm) the first Navitimer producted in this case was the 816, at the same time Breitling adopt a new design for the hands : square type , due to the fact theses two has been introduced at the same time, it might be possible to simply think that square hands where used in large cases and the old design sword hands where used in "standard" cases
The AOPA with white subdials
A certain number of "new" 806 dials have pop-up out of e-bay months ago, I personnally suspect thoses to be manufactured recently, and I am not sure that they have been done Breitling , thoses dials have appeard later on 806 watches, again sold on e-bay or on other auction sites :
The two very strange features of theses dials are : Arabics + white subdials : I have never heard of any 806 Navitimers having such a configuration : arabics where on the first model of 806, and when the Navitimer adopted the white subdials, arabics where replaced with batons
The second very curious thing is concerning the place of the AOPA logo, on this one the wing is over the Breitling text : I was not abble to find any vintage navitimer with this (apart some 809 "cosmonaute"). You can find an illustration of such a dial in the richter book, but this is a drawing and not a picture, this drawing have some other mistakes on it
My very own feeling is that theses dials never existed, they have been producted recently in order to replace old dials, but doing this copy theses two mistakes where done.
I am not 100% sure of theses facts and I am of course ready to modify this article if anyone could bring me evidence of the authenticity of theses dials.
The LIP 806
You might find some Navitimers 806 with the LIP logo on it , for French collectors I will not tell you what LIP is ;-) , but for the foreign visitor I just remind you that LIP was the biggest french watch manufacturer.
But why should we find some 806 with another brand logo ? , simply because LIP take some distribution agreement in the 60's with Breilting : the Navitimer was sold on the French market during this period with the LIP logo on the dial
This uncommon variation is interesting and might be difficult to find out of France
I have found in a book : "la folie des montres" by René Pannier edited by Flamarion (page 230) a picture of a Navitimer with a curious dial :
This Navitimer of the 60's have the following marking : "35" between 1 and 2' , "195" between 3 and 5' , "45" between 7 and 8' and "185" between 10 and 11'
I have never seen such a dial before and have absolutly no information on this , I even do not know if this marking was done by Breilting or afterwards by someone els
One of the first batch of the Navitimer Montbrillant with date had a mistake on the marking ! : it was stating 49 rubis , some of theses dials have been replaced by the aftersale service when servicing the watch , but some exemples of this watch might be found
How to spot a "new" Navitimer 806 dial ?
Breitling manufacture a serie of 806 dial in order to restaure 806 watches , theses dials produced recently seems only to exist in the "large subdial" version : but how to spot theses compared to original dials ?
The first point to check is that the luminous material of "new" dials is in Luminova : the luminova have a "smooth" finish compared to the tritium , but one other point might help you to spot them :
The "double plane" logo is slightly different on the "new" dials compared to the original : look to the angle of the "wings" on the two logos
Navitimer 1806 pre-serie
About 1 year ago I was hunting for a good 1806 when I saw the model shown here on an auction site. My curiosity was arroused by two little facts not very common on Navitimer 1806 : the bezel is "all black" and the date is black.
I decide to buy this watch and of course checked the serial number : I was very surprised to see a 1968 serial number ! : the Navitimer Chronomatic was supposed to be presented for the first time in March 1969, I have decided to write to Breitling to know a little bit more about this watch.
Breitling confirmed me that this watch is a pre-serie, camming from the very first batch of Navitimer Chronomatic, and this is of course very interesting due to the famous "war" between Zenith and Breitling to know who was the first company to introduce an automatic chronograph .... this watch is a proof that Breitling does win the competion and produced Chronomatics in 1968
It might be possible to find other watches from this very first batch, I have personnaly saw 1 other : spot the 2 features : "all black" bezel (replaced later by a black and silver bezel : the black paint is removed on the edge : repport to the chronomaic section of the site) and the date in black instead of red , and of course check the serial number of the watch