Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 46
For 2022, Breitling has redesigned its iconic Breitling Navitimer Chronograph watch, which for decades has been a staple of high-end tool timepieces originally designed for commercial airline pilots in the early 1950s. The Navitimer has seen countless iterations over the years and is one of the world’s most recognized luxury sports watches. It has not, however, experienced a recent makeover under Breitling’s current stewardship by Georges Kern. The updated Breitling Navitimer for 2022 is known officially as the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph and comes in three case sizes with a variety of different dial options, many of which have never been offered in a Navitimer watch before. The team was able to go hands-on with all of the new Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph watches and below is our take on this modern version of a timeless classic.
For me, the Navitimer has always been a staple of tool watches because of its focus on computational utility. Its core design element is a slide-rule bezel that once allowed pilots to make various necessary calculations such as time to their destination or fuel consumption rate. The rotating slide-rule bezel mixed with the chronograph offered a small universe of capabilities. Only the smartest and most competent pilots would be seen wearing such a wrist instrument, and the legacy of the learned aviation professional lives on in this decidedly Breitling brand watch. With a design DNA that was perfected long ago, according to many timepiece enthusiasts, what was Breitling able to do with a modern Navitimer that hasn’t been done before?
It is important to mention some useful context at play when Breitling designed the new Navitimer. First of all, it was the brand’s goal to make the Navitimer look and feel as pleasant as possible while fitting into contemporary trends in luxury timepieces. That means the watches also need variety and be able to appeal to multiple audience sizes and color preferences. While the slide rule feature is truly iconic, few Navitimer customers are known to actually use this piece of functionality, which means the feature needs to be there but Breitling doesn’t really talk about it much. In fact, Breitling has a series of prototype Navitimer watches with more water resistance (hard to accomplish with the bezel functioning as it does). None of those ever made it to market because the resulting watch cases don’t really look “Navitimer enough.” So, Breitling’s goal with the redesigned Navitimer is mainly two-fold: to create a commercially successful luxury watch that fits into Breitling’s “relaxed luxury lifestyle” brand personality, and to offer a product that looks and feels like the classic Navitimer enthusiasts love. Note that to make the dial a bit cleaner, this generation of Breitling Navitimer Chronograph watch dials do not have a tachymeter scale, and I don’t think a single person will really miss it.
It was also important that Breitling get to feature its extremely competent in-house caliber B01 automatic chronograph movement but also to make the Navitimer case thinner. Older Navitimer watches are thinner, but they are also manually wound (versus automatic). The 2022 Navitimer watches are about 1.5mm thinner than previous-generation models, and they also feature an exhibition caseback. The case thinness (they are all about 13.6-14mm-thick, depending on the version) is thanks to a redesign of the slide-rule bezel system, which is now flat instead of sloped, as was the case on previous models. The dial doesn’t appear flat, however, thanks to the recessed subdials. Many people will not notice, at first glance, the different architecture of the Navitimer dial, but it is very apparent once you start to inspect it or compare it to other recent Breitling Navitimer Chronograph watches.
Breitling decided to go very commercial with the dials in terms of colors and finishing. That’s a business decision that probably makes sense, but purists will probably still be more attracted to some of the more historic-looking recent Navitimer watches that have more of a “tool watch” look. The various metallic colors and copious reflective surfaces test well with luxury seekers but make the new Navitimer B01 Chronograph watches quite “blingy” when compared with the classic models. Adding to that look are new colors, including two different greens (one is a fun mint), two blues, and a variety of grays, whites, and black tones mixed together. There are even 18k red-gold case options in addition to the main steel-cased versions to offer an even more high-end feel. The dials are very nice, but I prefer a more matte style to watches with this level of dial detail, and for the snazzier shiny look, I am still very much taken by Breitling’s Chronomat 42 masterpieces.
For me, the most jarring aspect of the new Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph case design is the polishing. While not always true, most recent Navitimer watches have had all-polished cases — really nice polished cases. For 2022, Breitling goes a different route by maintaining the core Navitimer case style but offering both polished and brushed surface finishing over the case and the available bracelet. This adds a lot of visual interest to the case and bracelet, but the dual-finishing of the 2022 Navitimer watches do make them stand out from the rest of the modern versions of the watch and will probably help them stand out to customers who have previous-generation Navitimer models.
On the dial, we see a return to the AOPA Breitling “wings” logo, which has been used on some retro-remake models but no standard collection pieces, until now. Breitling CEO Georges Kern presided over the Navitimer B01 Chronograph launch event and explained something very interesting about the brand’s logos. The problem is that none of the current logos work with all of the watches. Some logos appear better on the modern watches but not the classic ones. Some of the watches have just a Breitling “B,” and others have mere graphic logos. It is great that Breitling has so much history to pull from to make this possible, but it is also interesting that the brand’s current logos don’t actually work well on all watches. Breitling isn’t the only watch brand now to play with different logo designs on contemporary watches but probably has the best reasons to use multiple logos across product collections.
To serve the needs of various customers (including women), Breitling made the correct decision to offer what is essentially the same watch in three different case sizes. It is true that some dial color configurations are only available in some sizes, but for the most part, Breitling makes sure that the 41, 43, and 46mm-wide Navitimer B01 Chronograph watches are more or less the same in terms of style and look. Having worn all three sizes, I would say that my personal preference is the 43mm wide version, but I would gladly wear any of them. The cases are water-resistant to 30 meters, and 13.6, 13.69, and 13.95mm thick, respectively. Watch size is a matter of taste and not a matter of correctness. So the correct size for you will depend on your anatomy and, to a degree, the watch dial colors that you prefer.
Breitling’s B01 automatic chronograph movement powers each of these watches and, for the first time in a Navitimer Chronograph piece, you can see the very nice movement through an exhibition caseback. This was designed by former Rolex engineers who worked on the chronograph movement inside the Daytona and is very accurate. Each is a COSC-certified Chronometer and operates at 4Hz with 70 hours of power reserve. The watch features the time and date (integrated into the lower subdial), as well as the 12-hour chronograph. All of the watches are available on a brown or black alligator strap, or a matching seven-link metal bracelet (steel or gold depending on the version). The bracelet option (in steel) costs just $400 more and also features a new butterfly-style deployant clasp, a serious upgrade from the previous fold-over deployant clasps.
The new for 2022 Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph comes just in time for the 70th anniversary of the original Navitimer from 1952. The collection is as dazzling and handsome as ever, while Breilting hopes the invigorated new colors and styling will help the thinking person’s tool watch appeal to a more general luxury audience. There are no fewer than 15 new versions available at launch, and the full pricing for all of the latest Breitling B01 Chronograph watches