Before you go on reading this article, it should be known that I am a sucker for re-issues of heritage pieces. Especially when they are exact reproductions of the original design and even more so if they kept the case size. The new Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition fits all of the above-mentioned criteria which naturally got me really excited.
I don’t have to tell you that today, the Navitimer has become one of the most recognisable collections for Breitling. And this is, for the most part, thanks to the slide rule that takes up most of the room on the dial. These days, flight computers do the necessary calculations in a fraction of a second but the slide rule harks back to the days when Pilots could use this watch to simplify the complex calculations needed when making a flight plan (e.g. Airspeed, rate of ascent/descent, kilometer-nautical mile and gallon-liter fuel conversion).
According to Gear Patrol, the Navitimer chronograph was jointly created by Breitling and the American-based Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) way back in the 1950s and made its debut to the public in 1954. This design that you see here on the re-issue was from 1959 and in order to properly celebrate it, Breitling kept as many elements as possible faithful to the original.
I mean, when you go the level of ensuring even the beaded bezel has the same number of beads – 94 if you’re wondering – as the 1959 model, I think we can trust that they are taking this re-issue quite seriously. I have yet to see this piece in person but I think the design speaks for itself. One cool thing to note is that even the logo is a classic unsigned AOPA wing logo which adorned the early Navitimers in Europe; of course, the Navitimers sold in America had the signed AOPA logo on them. If you look around for the models that came after 1964 though, you are likely to find the early Breitling twin-jet logo on their dials.
The case size for the re-issue is 40.9mm, which is modest by today’s standards but back in the 1950s this would have been considered huge. Back in the day, a 34mm or 36mm watch was considered the norm. The convex crystal is not sapphire but acrylic instead so you’ll probably put a fair number of scratches and dings into it, and that’s okay.
Aesthetically the watch is near identical to the original, but thankfully, beneath the dial is a different story. Instead of the Venus 178 movements which would have probably been in the original, the re-edition sports an in-house Breitling Manufacture Caliber B09 which is based on the B01 chronograph but made to be hand-wound. Automatic chronographs only came in 1969 (for Breitling it was their jointly-developed Chronomatic, or more widely known as the Calibre 11). This is what I love about re-issues, you get (almost) the same story telling and emotion of wearing one of the most historically relevant watches from the brand, but without the hassle that comes with a 60-year-old movement.
Case: Stainless steel
Case size: 40.8mm
Movement: Breitling Calibre B09 (hand-wound chronograph)
Water Resistance: 3ATM (30m)