It’s iconic. It’s complicated. It’s the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43. Without a doubt, the Navitimer is Breitling’s flagship model. When you think of Breitling, an image of the circular slide rule bezel surrounding three subdials is the first thing likely to pop into your head.
My dad and I always talk about space and aviation. It’s been a staple topic of conversation since I was a little kid. Aerospace has been my dad’s passion since he was a child. Over many decades he’s passed that same interest on to me. Whenever I mention the Omega Speedmaster to him, my dad quickly reminds me (in the way dads do), “…you know? The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is the real space watch.”
There is an element of truth in that statement. Dads are usually right and modern marketing is not always consistent with history. Omega wasn’t the first to market watches with astronauts just as the United States space program didn’t start with a Moon landing. A vintage Breitling advertising campaign depicts the (at the time) larger-than-life NASA Astronaut Scott Carpenter. Scott Carpenter famously wore the Breitling Cosmonaut-Navitimer (24hr dial) on the NASA mission Mercury-Atlas 7 (May 24th, 1962). This took place seven years before the Moon landing.
Throughout many iterations since its commercial release in 1952, the Breitling Navitimer continues to retain most of its original design and functional elements. Is there a modern place for yesterday’s analog pilot’s tool in today’s upscale modern life? As a fashion item, sure, but what about as a useful tool? To assess the Navitimer B01 we will look at the watch with a critical eye, but we will also provide instructions for operating the watch’s slide rule bezel in order to focus on its often overlooked functionality as a tool.
The Navitimer that Breitling lent me for review came on a black calfskin leather strap with a tang-type buckle. The leather strap felt substantial between the Navitimer’s 22mm wide lugs. Breitling wisely chose a thick leather to back up the proportions of the 43mm Navitimer. The calfskin strap tapered from 22mm to 18mm at the buckle and was slightly padded. In the interest of full disclosure, I swapped the Breitling strap for a Barton Silicone Elite because I don’t care for leather. That is just a personal preference and does not take away from the high-quality Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 leather strap. With the five options listed above, you can find something you’ll like, for sure.