Breitling, founded in St. Imier by Léon Breitling in 1884, is a brand that has built its name and reputation on purposeful, functional timepieces — predominantly chronographs. Today we explore three of the Flying B's most iconic families; the Navitimer, the Chronomat and the SuperOcean.
Breitling's most famous watch is, without doubt, the Navitimer. A catchy conflation of the words' Navigation' and 'Timer', the watch, which debuted in 1952, is built for pilots. At the core of the enduring appeal of the Navitimer is its unique circular slide rule positioned on the timepieces rotating bezel. This tool makes on-the-fly calculations such as airspeed, rate or time of climb or descent, distance and fuel consumption possible. And while in the modern era, sophisticated instruments and avionics have primarily made the distinctive dial instrumentation of the Navitimer an anachronistic talking point, when the watch debuted it would have served a very real purpose.
The Navitimer was developed for the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and for the first few years, it was available exclusively to members. In 1956 the watch went public and has been a staple for the brand ever since. That's not to say it hasn't evolved over time. The movements have changed from the manual Valjoux and Venus calibres to more modern automatics, starting with the 1969 Chronomatic calibre. The 1970s saw a date added, and, as the decade moved on, Breitling even introduced quartz Navitimers. And while today the Navitimer is less of an essential pilot's tool, it's still an essential watch in the brand's collection, offered in a range of sizes and configurations, all with that iconic slide rule. If it's good enough for John Travolta, it's good enough for you.