After a lengthy teaser campaign on Instagram, Breitling finally took the veil of its new Navitimer 8, the first collection presented under the helm of CEO Georges Kern. In this post I'll go over the background and details of this latest member of the Navitimer family.
In April of 2017 CVC Capital announced that it had acquired a 80% stake in Breitling, leaving former owner Theodore Schneider with the remaining 20%. Some three months later the story broke that Georges Kern would serve as its new CEO (with a rumored 5% stake). Mr. Kern is best known for his 17-year long career at Richemont, 14 of which were spent as CEO of IWC. His final months at Richemont were spent as Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital.
Under Mr. Kern's wings IWC is said to seen its revenue grown almost eightfold, and the surprise move to Breitling thus left many insiders & collectors curious about his vision for this brand. When his third picture shared on Instagram as CEO of Breitling was a repost of noted Breitling collector & scholar Fred Mandelbaum (@WatchFred) it became apparent that he was quickly immersing himself in-depth in both the history of the brand as well as the passionate community of collectors that make it tick. In fact, it would soon turn out that our friend Fred was only one of a number of high-profile collectors and professionals that soon found themselves associated with the brand - in either an official capacity or in more of an advisory capacity - among them Louis Westphalen of Hodinkee, Breitling scholar Rene_JK, and noted watch designer Guy Bove of IWC and Chopard / Ferdinand Berthoud fame.
From chats with Fred I gathered that one of their first priorities was to properly catalogue Breitling's past, which would serve as a foundation for the forthcoming restructuring of the brand and its collections. It is safe to say that expectations were high by now, and I for one couldn't wait to see the new watches. The first proper hint was dropped on January 17th of 2018, and after about two weeks of teasing the first collection of the Kern-era was finally introduced in Shanghai on January 28th. Enter the Navitimer 8!
The 8 in Navitimer 8 is an homage to Breitling's Huit Aviation Department - with huit of course being French for eight. This department was set up by Willy Breitling in 1938 as a dedicated division for clocks, watches and instruments related to aviation. The timekeepers made by the Huit Aviation Department were designed to be highly legible, functional and robust. After all, they they were to be used in the harshest environments. They were subjected to challenging tests that proved each instrument could handle the shocks, vibrations, extreme temperatures, and magnetism that pilots were likely to encounter in the cockpit. With World War II approaching, a sizeable order was placed by the Royal Air Force, who required board clocks for its fighter planes. These values & this heritage is what served as the main source of inspiration for the Navitimer 8.
One specific watch that inspired Guy Bove when designing the Navitimer 8 is the reference 768 pictured above. The 768 featured a coin-edged case and a black dial. The bezel (including the class if I recall correctly) could be rotated, through which a single triangular marker could be set to time events - it is at 12:00 in the picture. Time is indicated through a set of luminous hands, with a so-called railroad track for both the seconds and minutes, and oversized Arabic numerals as hour markers.
While the Navitimer 8 is very a contemporary case, it is easy to spot how several of these elements influenced the new collection. Though each of the models has its own distinct character, each of them has a case with a notched rotating bezel marked by a single triangle. The typography of the Arabic numerals is near identical, though they are now filled with SuperLuminova rather than radium, as is the shape of the hands. All scales are of the railroad type, with the triangles on the minute track serving as the final nod to the 768 and its single marker.
In each of the versions the case sports a brushed finish with wide polished bevels. The lugs are relatively short, which should indicate that it'll wear well no matter your wrist size. Water resistance is set to 100 meters, which is a welcome upgrade over the 30 meters of the current Navitimers.
Now, before going into the various variations that were presented, I feel a few points need to be addressed in order to fully understand the collection. After all, these are Navitimers without the iconic slide rule, without the winged B logo, and in some cases even without a chronograph!
Perhaps most important is the fact that these are not meant to replace the regular Navitimer. The most iconic of Breitling's will always have its place in the collection. Certain elements however will find their way into the sliderule Navi too, like the logo, the case design and finish, and who knows what else (water resistance?). I'm sure we'll see shortly.
Furthermore, I was told that wether or not to use the Navitimer name for this collection was subject of much debate. In the end the marketing department won over the purists, arguably looking to capitalize on the Navitimers fame. It must be noted however that the Navitimer name has been used for watches sans chronograph before, even as early as 1956 - only a couple of years after the launch of the 806. And the missing wings? Throughout the years a number of logo's have graced the dial of the Navitimer, like the AOPA, the B as seen here, and the twin planes. I like the clean & simple style of the new logo, though I am curious to see if it will be implemented in models like the Chronomat as well.
Navitimer 8 01
The flagship of the collection is the Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph. This version has a case of 43mm, which houses Breitling's in-house caliber B01 chronograph movement. It is shown in red gold (RB011713) or stainless steel (AB011713). The bracelet features polished center links. The alligator strap has tone-on-tone stitching, which is something we hadn't seen before.
Navitimer 8 Unitime
Also powered by an in-house movement is the Navitimer 08 Unitime, which for now is only presented in stainless steel (AB352113). It is powered by the self-winding in-house caliber B35, which Breitling debuted in the 2015 Galactic Unitime. The case measures 43mm across.
Navitimer 8 Chronograph
The case of the Navitimer 8 Chronograph measures 43mm, but it is powered by the Valjoux-based caliber B13 rather than one of Breitling's in-house movements. It is presented in either stainless steel (A1331410) or DLC-coated 'Blacksteel' (M1331410). The former is also available on bracelet, which for this version is fully brushed. No polished center links! The calf leather strap is a new design, which seems to be inspired by the trend for vintage'esque straps. Pretty cool.
Navitimer 8 Day & Date
At 41mm, the Navitimer 8 Day & Date is slightly smaller. The case is made of stainless steel (A4533010) and it comes with either a black or a blue dial. It is powered by caliber B45, which is based on ETA's caliber 2834. Here too we see the completely brushed bracelet.
Navitimer 8 Automatic
Last but not least is the Navitimer 8 Automatic, the time+date entry model, which comes in either stainless steel (A1731410) or DLC-coated 'Blacksteel' (M1731410). Unlike the latest SuperOcean which features a Tudor-sourced movement, it is powered by Breitling's B17 caliber which is based off ETA's 2824. It is rumored that Tudor just can't keep up with Breitling's demand for this movement!
This is it for now - probably for the better at almost 1200 words. I will update the article with prices, more information and links to our eBoutique as soon as possible.