The world of Breitling is rapidly being changed by its new CEO, Georges Kern, the former CEO of IWC and Head of Watches at the Richemont Group. A (necessary) restructuring of the Breitling catalog not only resulted in existing models receiving updates but also in an entirely new collection called the Navitimer 8. Instead of replacing the other Navitimer models, the 8 is an extension of one of their best-known collections.
The Navitimer 8 comes in many varieties, including a three-hand version. The chronograph version is available with an in-house movement, the Breitling caliber B01, or with the proven ETA 750 movement. It’s easy to distinguish between the two models: The B01 model always has subdials that contrast with the main dial (a reverse panda), while the ETA-based version has a dial and subdials in the same color.
Robert-Jan Broer and Oliver Siegle are here to share their thoughts on the new Navitimer 8.
To be clear: The new Navitimer 8 is not for purists nor is it meant to be. While the Navitimer 1 (especially versions with the B01 movement) is clearly aimed at purists and those who admire the heritage of this 1950s icon, the Navitimer 8 has a cleaner and fresher design to attract a new type of customer to Breitling!
This is a smart move from Breitling. The bezel rotates and only has one marker on it, and yet it still feels a bit awkward to me. For me – and I consider myself a semi-purist, as I am open to innovation and evolution but only with respect to the original version – the thing that is truly missing is the slide-rule. As far as I’m concerned, that’s part of the deal with a Navitimer. I know some other past Navitimer models also didn’t have one, but that doesn’t make it right in my opinion. Even some of the early digital Aerospace predecessors were called ‘Navitimer,’ but that was the 1980s.
Then again, it is a nice-looking watch and I can imagine people will love it (and they do from what I’ve seen so far). Like many other brands, Breitling has been plagued by too many models and model names. Therefore, perhaps the only logical thing Kern could do was give this model a number, thus the Navitimer 8. The Navitimer 1 is clearly a nod to the original Navitimer from the 1950s. By giving it the number 1, it can get the respect and recognition from the current Breitling management that it deserves. The three-hand models come in various editions as well: a large 50-mm Super 8 B20 model, a 41-mm Day-Date version, a 43-mm Unitime (with 24 time zones), and a plain Jane version in stainless steel or with a PVD coating.
The Navitimer 8 with a third-party movement starts at €3,600, while the in-house B01 chronograph in steel costs €7,000. If I had to choose, I would go for the Navitimer 8 with the B01 movement or the three-hand version in black steel. The latter looks pretty neat on the wrist. However, with a difference of only €600 between the Navtimer 8 B01 and the Navitimer 1 B01, both on a leather strap, I would definitely go for the Navitimer 1 B01 and happily part with the extra €600.
Is the new Navitimer 8 a real Navitimer? From a purist’s perspective, the answer is clear: of course not. From an “I just happen to really like watches”-perspective the answer is: Who cares? If watch brand CEOs only produced what purists and collectors wanted, there would be an enormous amount of 37-mm watches (which I can’t wear), radium would be used to tell the time in the dark, dials would still be of low quality and fade in the sun, and great watches would never experience the slightest changes to their designs. Plus, the watch industry would sell a lot fewer watches.
While the new Breitling Navitimer 8 may not be a “true” Navitimer, it’s still a really great watch. That is likely enough to satisfy most watch buyers. For me, the perfect size of a sports chronograph sits between 42 and 44 mm. The 8 definitely ticks this box. I also like having the option to choose whether I want to pay a premium for an in-house movement or to go for a reliable, more affordable ETA-based version. Then there is the missing slide rule bezel. In my opinion, it’s better without it. It makes the watch a cleaner, more simplistic sports chronograph, something the watch industry doesn’t offer enough of as a whole.
Overall, I view the Navitimer 1 and the Navitimer 8 as two distinct models. If I wanted one of the biggest watchmaking icons with a long history, I would instantly choose the “old” Navtimer 1. If I wanted a modern sports chronograph with a straight-forward, no-gimmick design that I can wear to almost any occasion, I would choose the Navitimer 8.