There is a lot going on at Breitling. Georges Kern took over as CEO in September 2017, after 80% of the company had been purchased by London-based private equity group CVC Capital Partners. But Georges Kern didn’t arrive just as CEO: he also invested in the company, and so he is primarily an entrepreneur. His policy for Breitling is to expand the audience, by augmenting product lines from its previous identity of air-related watches to air, sea and land, and by appealing to women and the Chinese market with smaller sizes. He is making things easier for customers by means of a seamless Omnichannel experience so that you can buy online or in stores. And his testimonials are not individuals, but “squads,” small groups of experts.
Navtimer 1, an aviator watch that has become a chic jewel
The Navitimer 1 is a good example of the new approach. It’s a time-only automatic and so it doesn’t have the classic Navitimer’s chronograph subdials. The circular slide rule has been retained, operated by a beaded bezel that gives the watch a jewel-like appearance and makes it perfect – particularly the 38-mm version – on women’s wrists. This bezel is based on two of the brand’s heritage watches, the Navitimer 806, and the Navitimer 66. Perfectly functional, bi-directional and operating the circular slide rule, this feature makes the watch a very distinctive timepiece, no longer an aviation watch, but “an ideal companion for the cosmopolitan traveller,” as Georges Kern said himself. It is available in entry-level all-steel versions, with black, blue or silver dials, and a more luxurious 2-colour version with stainless steel case and red gold rotating bezel.
It’s a neat idea. The Navitimer 1 has kept something of the classic Navitimer, with a touch of its massive complexity, while simplifying everything and making it more accessible to the general public. As Georges Kern said in an interview, “how many of the people who buy pilot’s watches are pilots? It’s an attitude.” The circular slide-rule is a throw-back to the distant past. No-one buying a watch like this will use it, and the slide rule numbers are so small that you would need a magnifying glass to actually make a calculation.
Not an in-house movement
Inside the Navitimer 1 is the Breitling Calibre 17, an automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve, COSC-certified for accuracy. It is Breitling-branded but not built by Breitling: it’s based on the ETA 2824-2, possibly the Sellita SW-300. The watch has the standard 3-bar water resistance. The case back is solid, with an attractive design and the Breitling logo in relief.
The Navitimer 1 is available in a wide range, with the 41 and 38-mm sizes, stainless steel bracelets or leather straps, and different dial colours, so that customers have a sense that they are choosing their own favourite watch – as close as you can get to personalization without any bespoke options. Prices start at €3,920, and reach €6,050 for the version with gold bezel. Read more at the Breitling website.