Flight from the Past: Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition

In 1952, Breitling secured its leading role in the history of aviation watches with the launch of the iconic Navitimer. Sixty years ago, it released one of the most collectible variations on that watch’s original design, the Ref. 806. This year, the company is offering a limited, contemporary version of that watch, which hews faithfully to nearly every period detail. Here’s what we know about the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition, which made its debut at Baselworld 2019.

Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition - reclining
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition (Ref. AB0910371B1X1)

The original 1952 Navitimer, as its legions of admirers know, became a mainstay of airline cockpits in the 1950s and ’60s thanks to its groundbreaking design, incorporating a rotating slide-rule bezel, which enabled pilots to make vital flight calculations from their wrist. The 1959 version stood out from past and future versions of the Navitimer thanks to its all-black dial with tone-on-tone subdials and its use of a beaded edge on the slide rule bezel — presumably for east gripping by a pilot’s gloved hands. The Re-Edition, which replicates the original’s 40.9-mm stainless steel case, retains the same lugs profile and finish as the original, and its rotating bezel has the exact same number of beads, 94, on its edge as the 1959 model. The number of beads was known to vary widely on Navitimer bezels throughout the years, from as many as 125 in the early ’50s to as few as 93 in 1960, so this detail is significant, connecting this contemporary edition to a specific vintage model’s year.

Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition - side
The Re-Edition has the same profile and dial details as its 1959 ancestor.
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition - bezel CU
The rotating slide-rule bezel has been re-created down to the exact number of beads on the edge.

The tricompax dial, under a period-appropriate high-domed acrylic crystal rather than a modern sapphire one, is notable for its use of a vintage all-caps Breitling logo and an unsigned winged emblem beneath it. This latter was used in the past for watches sold in the European market, whereas Breitlings sold in the U.S. were instead adorned with the logo of the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), whose members had widely adopted the Navitimer model.

Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition and vintage watch
Can you tell them apart? The 1959 Re-Edition next to its vintage inspiration

Among the new watch’s very few “concessions to modernity,” as Breitling puts it, are its increased water-resistance to 30 meters, the use of Super-LumiNova on the dial elements (in a color that approximates that of the luminous material on the original), and — as one would expect, the movement inside the case. Breitling Manufacture Caliber B09 is an all-new, manual-wound iteration of the automatic Breitling B01 Caliber used extensively throughout the brand’s portfolio. Like its self-winding parent movement (and, in fact, all movements used in Breitling timepieces), Caliber B09 is COSC-certified for chronometer accuracy; includes a built-in chronograph with a column wheel and vertical clutch; and stores a substantial power reserve of 70 hours. Breitling says that this caliber will be used to power other historically-inspired pieces yet to come.

Live shot of the Navitimer Ref. 806 Re-Edition at Baselworld 2019.
Live wrist shot of the Navitimer Ref. 806 Re-Edition at Baselworld 2019.

The Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition is mounted on a vintage-look leather strap that recalls that of the original model, and closes with a steel pin buckle. The price for this ticking touchstone to mid-20th-century aviation is set at $8,600.

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  1. Elaine Lawson

    Interested in this as a surprise present for my husband. UK based.

  2. Martin Ziese

    Nice article, I see that Breitling must have been keeping tabs on various watch forums and noticed that there were members on these forums looking to purchase this Iconic time-piece. I love my 1969 gold plated Twin Jet which I inherited from my dad. Of course mine has a reverse panda face and sub-dials. Maybe I am a bit partial, but I like the classic reverse face and dials. I wonder if they will re-issue a gold or at least a gold-plated version similar to mine? My watch was a present from my mom to my dad in 1969. She paid a whopping $350 for it back then. It cost me 4-1/2 times that to have it cleaned and repaired. Even Breitling’s repair facility would not touch it and their representative gave me the name and address of one of the few horologists that is certified by them to work on their vintage time-pieces. All he repairs are Breitlings and he is so back-logged, it took close to a year to get it back.

    Loved the read…. MZ

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