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.
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.
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.
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.
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.