A Comprehensive Look at Georges Kern’s First Collection with Breitling

It’s been a little over six months since we heard the news that longtime Richemont executive Georges Kern was leaving the confines of the luxury conglomerate to join Breitling. Today, after months of teasing his work on his personal social media account, we received word on what Kern’s first collection will look like and it’s a doozy.

The Breathing Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph.
The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph with a black alligator strap.

We’ve got five new additions to the iconic Navitimer line in a variety of colors and styles. Called the Navitimer 8 collection, these new watches are unlike any Navitimer we’ve seen in the 21st century. The Navitimer line has always been distinguished by its signature function, an aviation-inspired circular slide rule bezel, since its introduction in 1952; however, the dial of these new models have been scrubbed clean and are almost unrecognizable as one of the brand’s tentpole novelties. Breitling describes these watches as being influenced by a vintage chronograph taken from the Huit Aviation Department that the brand founded in 1938. The new timepieces will be offered alongside the classic Navitimer, with its slide rule function, as a complementary piece rather than as a complete shift in design ethos.

The Breathing Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph.
The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph.

Out of the five new watches, the model that has quickly garnered the most attention on social media and throughout the horological blogosphere is the Navitimer 8 B 01. It’s a 43 mm, stainless steel chronograph that uses the B 01 movement — yes, the same caliber that we recently saw inside the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph — which means that it’s COSC-certified and has a 70-hour power reserve. Arabic numerals and luminous hands complete the aviation-inspired look. There are plenty of options here style-wise with the most striking look, in my opinion, being the matte black dial on a bracelet, but there’s also a blue dial option and the availability of either a blue or black alligator strap with a deployant clasp. Breitling is also offering a version with an 18kt rose gold case, bronze dial, and brown alligator strap. The only pricing information we have so far is an MSRP of CHF 7,100 (approximately $7,572 USD at time of publication) but we’re unsure if that is standard across materials or if the leather strap version will cost less than the bracelet version.

The Breathing Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph in 18kt gold.
The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph in 18kt gold.

Next up, we have a revival of Breitling’s classic worldtimer. The Navitimer 8 Unitimer brings one of the brand’s most celebrated vintage pieces back to production. The key word here is simplicity. The uncluttered layout is highly legible and represents a departure from recent years of Navitimer production that has been dominated by the chaotic layout of the slide rule function. Like the B 01 Chronograph, the watch is 43 mm, has a convex AR-coated sapphire crystal, and is water resistant to 100 m. The movement used is the in-house B35 that is COSC-certified and has a 70-hour power reserve. Like previous worldtimers from Breitling that have used this caliber, there’s a neat trick that enables the user to pull out the crown and simply turn it backward or forward in both directions for smooth and easy adjustments of both the local time and date. It’s worth noting that when this caliber was released in 2015, this was the first in-house Breitling movement since the debut of its base B01 caliber without an integrated chronograph function. There are a few different design options here as well. You can choose between a black or gray dial and a bracelet or alligator strap. There’s no pricing info just yet.

The Navitimer 8 Valjoux Chronograph offers a slightly different dial layout compared to the B 01, but it adds a day/date complication. It uses the COSC-certified Breitling Caliber 13, which is a modified ETA 7750 and has a 42-hour power reserve. It comes in either stainless steel or steel black DLC, a black or blue dial, and either a steel bracelet or a leather strap. This is clearly an attempt at opening up the collection to a larger audience with a more accessible price point. While there is no pricing info just yet, a quick look at the materials and movement means you can expect the watch to land on the south side of $5,000.

The Breitling Navitimer 8 Valjoux Chronograph.
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The Breitling Navitimer 8 Valjoux Chronograph.

We’re getting increasingly simple as we move through the different timepieces available and here we have the Navitimer 8 Day-Date. This is a nice-looking, simple-take on a traditional Day-Date timepiece that comes in at 41 mm. The COSC-certified Breitling Caliber 45 is the beating heart inside the wristwatch and it offers a 42-hour power reserve. It comes on a black or blue dial with the choice of a bracelet or leather strap.

The final model of the revamped Navitimer collection is a classic time-and-date only piece. At 41 mm, it’s graceful enough to pass as a dress watch in a pinch as well as being suitable as an everyday wearer. It follows the design trend of the rest of the collection with numerous colors (black and blue dials, of course) and either a steel bracelet or leather strap. The watch uses the COSC-certified Breitling Caliber 17 with a 40-hour power reserve.

Overall, we’re beginning to see some of the Kern-esque touches that helped him turn IWC Schaffhausen into a blockbuster brand. This is only a first taste of what is to come, but this subdued, back-to-basics approach will only help endear the brand to countless enthusiasts that loved the vintage Breitling aesthetic but were turned away by the oversized cases and bold designs that have populated the Breitling lineups over the past few years. One of the biggest stories leading up to Baselworld 2018 will be what else Kern has up his sleeve and, as for us, we can hardly wait to see.

8 Responses to “A Comprehensive Look at Georges Kern’s First Collection with Breitling”

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  1. These new watches (I’ve seen them in person) strike me as long on marketing strategy and short on (Breitling) inspiration

  2. Agree with Colin in terms of the Breitling losing some of its more identifying brand features with this lineup. Breitling was my “gateway” watch into the Swiss world and I’m also sorry to see it lose some DNA with this series which moves it closer to being “just another swiss miss.” I find the designs rather bland and featureless. I’m also surprised to see their signature, bands/bracelets take a back seat with this series as well. I guess they’re trying to branch out and away from the oversize aviation pieces and have a more refined look, but they lose a great deal in the process.

  3. While I rather like the simpler, clearer and more legible layout of the face, I do not like the somewhat cheap way in which the numbers, markers and indices are now just printed onto the face, compared with former threedimensional metal applications, which added a feeling of value and quality.

  4. Good article but product development is mostly longer so Kerns influence on these are very limited. Next collection will be more influenced by him. Greets frim Switzerland

  5. Sylvio F. Bertoli

    Let us hope that at Breitling Mr Kern can do a better job than he did as head of watches at Richemont. Some of Richemont’s brands were basically destroyed during his term ( notably IWC and Panerai which are two brands that for me, have totally lost their lustre ) .

    • Rnady Rogers

      I would differ, in the Group World of Luxury, with Brand Managers and ego’s, especially those of the old maisons, “group think” is pervasive and LeCoultre, Vacheron, Piaget, Mont Blanc, Dunhill, B&M remain simply names with certain geographic ethnic demand, while the opportunity for Ralph Lauren was entrusted initially to two French guys who failed to allow an incubation into the marketplace. Cartier the old name and top of the pedestal for Richemont, continues to try and re-invent itself. George Kern, I would argue made IWC, gave it a re-birth in his early millennia run, Panarai with it’s own distinct Management Team failed to capitalize on the opportunity that came to them in 1997, in a mono-design Case (okay, two) the story and the Stallone tie-in, Schwarzenneger combined with Marketing genius Franco Cologni created the story, the ethos etc. for Panarai, as Vendome evolved to Richemont, internecine egos began to confuse the story and market targeted position, which clearly should have been as Richemonts challenge to the King, Rolex! Sadly, they initially tied the availability for Panarai to the carrying of Piaget as well, major investments in Inventory that was a false premise, that failed to identify the potential and the path of the Brand, which now finds itself playing with Tourbillions, as if it matters! The chaos that became Richemont with ego’s and hubris, had the only viable “free-thinker”, Mr. Cologni aside, and one who came from the outside (TAG-Heuer) put in the position as Head of Watches, but by then and as today the Manangement, Board etc., are those ultimately responsible for strategic direction. Having spent a brief year at the Group as the initial Head of a Brand that was expanding it’s offerings, I saw very quickly the frozen thought process that was mirrored in “we will always bleed ink at Mont-Blanc”, those words resonated and after giving the Swiss what the Timepiece needed that Norbert took credit for after I left. I, before leaving at S.I.H.H. I advised them “If you need to make a SS Pen (Writing Instrument) to make a SS Watch (Timepiece), then we better make a Stainless Steel Pen”, as the market was White, from Gold and Platinum to SS and Titanium and had been for8+ years. They took the advice and introduced a polished SS Writing Instrument that gave new life to the iconic Meisterstuck in black precious resin as well as Timepieces in a SS cosmetic. George Kern will be very successful at Breitling, I am very happy for him.

  6. Colin J. Prince

    It looks like Breitling have taken a twenty year step back!!!
    They used to be so innovative i.e. the B1 and the Bentley series, now they are back with the everyday design that most people wouldn’t know what brand it is. Too bad for Breitling!

  7. Randy Rogers

    Love the new Bezel, so many opportunities and permutations available, Classic with a fresh look that brings new life and buy-in……………………..

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