Breitling have not always been quite so apart from the mainstream as they seem to be now, but the signs have been there for decades. Still very much a private company, there’s more than a hint of old-school Swiss mores and independence about the brand if you care to look past the black and yellow branding.
True to form, the latest versions of the Navitimer, unveiled (if that’s the word) at Baselworld a few weeks ago, completely ignore the industry’s direction of travel over the last five years or so. It seems to be almost traditional at Breitling to set your face against prevailing trends and carry on regardless. While the likes of Rolex and Heuer simplified their chronographs almost to the point of abstraction during the 1960’s, the Navitimer was one of the few watch 1950’s designs to Breitling replica go through the next decade almost unchanged.
And so, while the rest of the watch industry has spent the post-crash years getting back to basics and competing to produce the cleanest, simplest and smallest watches, Breitling introduce new 46 and 48(!)mm diameter versions of the Navitimer. Is this just Breitling tradition, or are they just too far up their Jura valley to have received the memo? Hard to tell.
I’ve always liked the Navitimer in its more usual 42mm size. It’s a complicated, but somehow very pure design; its descent from 1950’s navigational aide being clear and surprisingly readable given the density of numbers and scales squeezed into the dial, so a 46mm version (while simply too large for me to actually wear) ought to be worth looking at. Breitling’s designers have pushed the scales and slide-rule functions away from the centre, creating a much more open feel, so it does work.
The 48mm Navitimer has a perpetual calendar, its proper name being the Navitimer 1461 (that number being the length of a leap-cycle). You might assume the extra size would allow a similarly uncluttered Breitling replica watches feel to the design, but it doesn’t really come off – this is a watch that’s almost in the wear-over-your-flying-overalls territory. Its most redeeming feature was the shock it induced in fellow visitors to the Breitling stand. Personally I was happy to admire the 46mm from afar, as proof that Breitling are confident in their individualistic ways.