Breitling has returned to one of its core territories (quite literally) for the premiere of the 2022 Navitimer, reports Debbie Hathway.
At the time of writing, the watch world is in a frenzy. For the first time since January 2019, invited international media, watch aficionados, collectors and retailers are packing for Switzerland to attend the world’s biggest watch fair: Watches and Wonders Geneva 2022. The exhibition will feature 38 of the most prestigious luxury watchmakers, a wonderful mix of centuries-old establishments and avant-garde independents. And it will do so physically this time, from 30 March to 5 April. This event replaces the traditional Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, fondly known as SIHH, after it was forced to launch virtually when the pandemic hit in 2020.
Meanwhile, Breitling is preparing to host one of the world’s most exciting watch launches, somewhere on the flight path from Zurich to Geneva, the day before the fair opens. In flight! Can you imagine? If you can’t, go to the BreitlingOfficial channel on YouTube and watch Summit Webcast #7. You can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ just like the invited guests on that plane! I will be one of them and although I can’t attend Watches and Wonders owing to clashing schedules, I am grateful to have the chance to experience it online.
When Breitling CEO Georges Kern introduces a new watch, particularly one connected to aviation, his excitement is infectious. Whether he’s launching the Super AVI to honour four legendary planes from the 1940s (Summit Webcast #6) or travelling back in time to reimagine key moments of the brand’s history (Summit Webcast #4), his passion is palpable.
The launch of the 2022 Navitimer is next level. “We don’t throw the term ‘icon’ around lightly,” he says. “The Navitimer is one of the most recognisable watches ever made. It’s on collectors’ lists of the greatest watches of all time. What began as a tool for pilots has gone on to mean something profound to every single person who has had this timepiece along on his or her personal journey.”
One of these journeys, in 1962, was even into space and it seemed fitting to redesign the collection to mark this anniversary. The watch’s most classic features have been enhanced with modern refinements and bold colour, making it the perfect companion for incredible journeys.
Breitling’s campaign, ‘Navitimer – for the journey’, is spearheaded by the Navitimer Squad, comprising basketball superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland and aviation pioneer and explorer Bertrand Piccard. All of them have pursued their own incredible journeys to get where they are today. And each one is charting a course to achieve future ambitions with guts and determination. “This project means a lot to me because it celebrates not only where I am in life, but where I’ve come from and where I am going,” says Misty. “There is an absolute parallel between navigating towards a physical destination and navigating towards the vision of where you want to be in life. You’ll see that theme come through in (our) stories.”
Appointed watchmaker to world aviation
A 1963 advertisement for the Navitimer Cosmonaute, the first Swiss wrist chronograph to travel in space in 1962, declared Breitling to be the ‘appointed watchmaker to world aviation’. But not even its inventor, Willy Breitling, could have imagined its success. Only 10 years earlier he had developed a wrist-worn chronograph with a circular slide rule, designed to enable pilots to perform all necessary flight calculations. In 1954, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the largest aviators’ club in the world, announced the design as its official timepiece. Once the association’s winged logo was emblazoned at 12 o’clock, the ‘navigation timer’– or Navitimer – was born.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter wore the watch in space so that he could tell day from night (it has a 24-hour display), but it was just as popular among celebrities such as Miles Davis, Serge Gainsbourg, Jim Clark and Graham Hill.
When watchmakers update an icon, they usually remain faithful to the most recognisable aspects of its design and Breitling is no different. The Navitimer design codes are evident from a distance: the circular slide rule, baton indexes, trio of chronograph counters and notched bezel for easy grip. However, connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike are sure to love the contemporary styling that is more easily discernible up close.
The new Navitimer
A flattened slide rule and a domed crystal create the illusion of a more compact profile. The metal elements gleam with understated lustre, thanks to the finishings that are alternately polished and brushed.
A slimmer silhouette on the oscillating weight enhances the view of the COSC-certified Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01 through the open caseback. This movement is backed by a five-year warranty, provides approximately 70 hours of power reserve and allows the wearer to change the date at any time. The date is now visible through a discreet window in the subdial.
The watch comes in 46mm, 43mm or 41mm sizes in stainless steel or 18-karat red gold. The updated dial colours are blue, green and copper, and the watch can be fastened with either a semi-shiny alligator strap or a seven-row metal bracelet. The AOPA wings are once again in pride of place at 12 o’clock.
More about Breitling
Breitling was founded in 1884. The company established itself as a leading Swiss watchmaker by inventing the modern chronograph and pioneering the navigational tool watch. Today, it sees itself as “still breaking new ground as a casual, inclusive and sustainable luxury brand”.
Breitling has more than 150 industrial loft-inspired retail locations worldwide, featuring collections modelled around air, land and sea pursuits in a modern-retro style.
Each watch movement is a COSC-certified chronometer and the brand is one of very few
independent watchmakers equipped to produce their own manufacture calibres.
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