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.
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.
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.
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.
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.