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Breitling’s flagship Navitimer is one of the toolsiest watches in the industry. The timepiece is equipped with what’s known as the slide rule bezel, designed to help pilots calculate flight legs, fuel consumption, and all sorts of other information long before the advent of digital avionics. But even this purpose-built giant couldn’t resist the unbridled reverie going on in the watch world, where the most prestigious brands in the industry are dressing their dials with emojis, DJing pandas, and hand-carved Spider-Man figurines.
These days, there aren't too many flyboys squinting down at its busy dial in a noisy cockpit. The Navitimer's utility has long been eclipsed by onboard instruments, and even its chronograph is readily replaced by the significantly more accurate timer in one's iPhone. That, however, hasn't stopped the Navitimer from flying off the shelves.
People love the model’s historical ties to the golden age of commercial aviation, its sophisticated looks, and its excellent build quality. At 41mm, the original was a large watch for the time, and subsequently, even larger versions have made an appearance on the scene—variations can get as big as 50 millimeters, which is like wearing a White Castle burger on your wrist. Today, however, Breitling is reversing that trajectory with the introduction of new Navitimer watches in 36mm and 32mm, with Academy Award winner Charlize Theron as the face of a new campaign.
Dubbed rather succinctly the Navitimer 36 and 32, the new, smaller pilot's watch—like the 41mm references in the collection—maintains the slide rule bezel but eschews the chronograph function of the original model. In the mode of recent Oyster Perpetual watches from Rolex and Seamaster Aqua Terra watches from Omega, the colorways are happy and pastel-like, though there's also a handsome anthracite option for those who prefer a more classic, subdued look.
Several versions of the 36mm in different metals are on offer: Three in stainless steel ($5,000-$5,300) feature mint green, silver, or anthracite dials with baton indices, while a fourth version ($7,250-$9,650) matches a steel case to a mother-of-pearl dial with round cut, lab-grown "better diamonds," an 18K red gold bezel, and a matching two-tone bracelet. Looking for something flashier? Have no fear: A final version crafted from 18-karat, traceable red "better gold" ($12,950-$33,000) likewise features a mother-of-pearl dial and diamond indices.
With its classic beaded edge, the bio-directional slide rule bezel offers the Navitimer's owner the ability to compute all sorts of flight-centric information: Should your on-board computer break, a quick glance down at your handy wrist companion will allow you to calculate speed, distance, and even fuel consumption. Hopefully this doesn't happen, and your Navitimer remains a mere time-telling accessory, and nothing more. (None of the references, it should be noted, have date windows, making for an overall cleaner design.)
Powering each watch is a chronometer-certified (read: highly accurate) Breitling Calibre 17 automatic movement with 42 hours of power reserve. While chronograph versions of the Navitimer are significantly thicker, the lack of complication in this movement makes for a watch measuring just 11.42 mm tall — certainly thin enough to slip easily under a cuff. A glare-proof sapphire crystal and a signed, push-pull crown ensure 30m of water resistance — not enough to go SCUBA diving, to be sure, but more than enough to pilot your Cessna…or to walk comfortably down the street in the rain.
Finally, each new Navitimer comes with either a seven-row stainless steel, two-tone, or 18K red gold bracelet (as the case may be) or an alligator leather strap in a dial-complementing color with a folding buckle and an 18-to-16mm taper.
For collectors who have long enjoyed the idea of a Navitimer but prefer a smaller-diameter watch, the new Navitimer 36 is a welcome addition to the Breitling catalog. (The 32mm size on offer is quartz-powered and completely does away with the slide rule bezel—however, it's still COSC-certified and features 50m of water resistance.) Produced with sustainable materials, it’ll no doubt be attractive to a younger, more eco-conscious buyer, and its pastel-hued dials should appeal to the fashion set.
Purists will likely scoff at the lack of chronograph functionality and the absence of the original Navitimer's "all-business" aesthetics. But for those whose taste runs more to classic midcentury tool watches, there are still plenty of those in the greater Breitling collection. These latest Navitimers, on the other hand, are perfect for the more sartorially adventurous among us.
Originally Appeared on GQ