Fellow readers, today I will talk about one of my personal watches – the Breitling Navitimer 01 Ref. AB012012.
Imagine, you are at the airport. Not a big European airport in its current post millennial design and architecture. Imagine a smaller airport, only 1 big hall for all the passengers. You have your ticket and you are on the way to your flight. You are passing 3 old fashioned booths from Pan-am, Swissair and Aeroflot. Then you are starring at the grey, long runway.
Lots of military aircraft parked on the side of the runway. There is the smell of kerosene and oil in the air and you are standing in front of an old Junkers Airplane turning around. The propellers are still moving and the big wheels are turning. You can hear the noise of the brakes and the propeller fading out.
The door opens, about 20 passengers leave and after them, the crew. Last person to leave is the captain, the pilot – beautiful black jacket, white shirt and a tie on. He comes down the stairs checks and first thing he does – he checks his watch. Turns the bezel and you start to recognize, this watch may have had a job up there. From the eyes of the pilot and his gesture you begin to realize, this watch is not a jewelry. It is a tool. A pilot’s tool.
After this you check your wrist and suddenly the uncomfortable feeling is there. You, the traveler, all around the world, now the question, for which tool is your wrist made for? You better need a tool too, you need a Breitling Navitimer on your wrist as well. Everybody wants to be a pilot.
Heritage and History of Navitimer
Maybe the best way to start describing this incredible Breitling Navitimer is to face the fact that this watch has a really great heritage and is seen as a legend in aviation. The name is unique and comes from the mix of Navigation and Timer.
The History of the Breitling Navitimer begins in 1952, with the Navitimer 806. As an evolution of the Chronomat with now a new movable bezel, it shows a scale where complex logarithmic calculations could be solved.
This evolution is based on the request of the pilots to have a kind of mini calculator directly on their wrist. In case o failure, they need to rely not only on instruments. So back then, Willy Breitling did his homework and introduced this scale, which principle is the same until today.
Basically it can show standard miles, nautical miles and kilometres and even better, it can calculate distances into other units. Pilots were able to shift the bezel to receive information about speed, distance and velocity, as well as fuel consumption of the plane. Even more is still possible for a skilled pilot and someone who is „fluent“ with the navitimer scale. So as well climb rate and sink rate could be calculated. All those parameters are calculated after the same mathematical principle, with the use of the outer scale in combination with the inner scale and the markers. So in our modern days, could or should we express it maybe as a smart watch – a smartwatch as well?
Form and appearance of Breitling Navitimer 01 Ref. AB012012
With a Diameter of 43 x 43 mm and a nice leather strap, this beautiful timepiece comes at a pretty handy size for most people.
A nice folding clasp gives a nearly perfect feeling during wearing and it has a really fancy advantage. Against the most common folding clasps, this one doesn’t need to pierce the leather band. It just slides into the folding clasp and you can adjust the length by sliding more of the band into the clasp or out.
So the clear benefit here is, that you don’t „damage“ the band by piercing holes into it, which can then become worn over time. I think this is a wonderful idea. In such an „old fashioned“ market, such as the watch market, new ideas are not often very welcome and not often earn more hate then fame.
However I really appreciate this step by Breitling, to bring something „new“ to the market, with real benefit. I think this provides more value than hundreds of limited editions each year.
The complete watch appears to me, as a wonderful piece of craftsmanship. The bezel ring made of stainless steel with the pearls moves absolutely well. The sapphire glass has a good anti-glare and provides best view onto the dial with the beautiful wings and totalizators. When I look at my Breitling Navitimer, I almost get drawn into the black dial (kind of blue in the sun). I immediately get the feeling of being in a pilot chair. There is this massive flood of dials and numbers, which makes it so special.
That is one of the most reasons people don’t like the navitimer and they are right as well. For somebody who just wants to know the time and to have a chronometer function, this is maybe a watch with „too much information“. For others, as for myself, this is a tool for aviation.
With the hands floating around each other and especially the red chronograph hand, with the Breitling B as a counter-weight at the end, it is absolutely fascinating from all aspects of design.
The lume used on this Navitimer is Superluminova. At 12 o clock it has 2 stripes of lume for always recognizing where it is.
But not only the dial and the bezel are amazing. If I take a look at the B01 specs and character, it is like a complete upgrade of the Navitimer’s other movements that we know from previous editions and a real statement in the world of modern chronographs. The height of the caliber is 7,2 mm, it has 47 jewels and lives in a housing of 14,3 mm.
I mean, this B01 caliber has a huge 70 h power reserve on my hand, it runs with 28.800 a/h and it is COSC certified. Putting such a caliber into a housing of 14 mm is considered a modern masterpiece. On my hand, it runs with 4 seconds plus during the day, so within the COSC range. Of course, Breitling takes a price for the watch, but if we compare it with popular chronographs it does not look like completely overpriced.
The pushers have to really be pressed in order to work. Sometimes I have the feeling that some springs within the watch are really under tension and in the moment you press the start button the whole force of this tension is unleashed, screaming and running to count the seconds for you. But this is OK if I compare it to others. Resistance is hard, but OK.
However, I have to admit that this B01 caliber is protected by a housing which allows only 3 bar of water resistance, which is… nothing, obviously. Maybe not even enough to wash hands and by mistake let some water flow over the wrist and the watch. I would have expected at least 5 bar or 10 bar here, because even a pilot sometimes has to relax from all the stress at a pool bar or run to the cab in heavy rain. Looking at the turning bezel and chronometer function, I am not confident that 3 bars testing are enough to cover all the use cases of the watch.
The case-back is solid stainless steel and it has an integrated scale for turning Celsius into Fahrenheit and vice versa, as well as a nice Breitling Logo with wings and the statement that this is a chronometer with 3 bar water resistance. (I cleared the SN on the case-back)
Last but not least, I want to praise Breitling for this incredible polish they have. The Steel case looks absolutely on the point. For some watch-guys it is a fact, that the polish & the edges that Breitling uses are next to perfect.
This watch shines, reflects and mirrors nearly everything it can. The edges, the surface and the buttons are perfectly finished.
So with this last picture let me close my review now. The Breitling Navitimer for me is a symbol. A symbol for aviation, for a pilots life, for redundancy to instruments and for an absolute precision tool in the air. A tool that is getting more and more obsolete with modern computer cockpits. However it is simple mechanic, which we can still rely on in 100 years.
For more pictures, you can visit my Instagram channel.
Text by: Ivo C.
Photos by: Ivo C.
For the Breitling Aerospace Night Mission review, see our article.