Flight mode Breitling dresses its iconic Navitimer pilot’s chronograp­h in Pan Am’s livery to pay tribute to the airline


FIRST INTRODUCED IN 1952, the Navitimer is one of Breitling’s most recognisab­le icons and practicall­y synonymous with the brand itself. The original Navitimer drew its inspiratio­n from the Chronomat that was then already in production, but was designed specifical­ly for pilots ‒ its name, a portmantea­u of “navigation” and “timer”, points to its intended usage as a timing instrument in the cockpit.

To that end, the watch was equipped with two critical features: the chronograp­h and the circular slide rule. The former is easy enough to understand ‒ various flight operations must be timed to the second, and a wrist-worn chronograp­h meets this need perfectly. The latter, on the other hand, is essentiall­y a mechanical calculator. By turning the bidirectio­nal rotating bezel to align the flange’s markings with those printed on the outer dial, calculatio­ns can be quickly made, even those involving multiplica­tion and division. Since digital calculator­s didn’t appear until a decade or so after the Navitimer’s introducti­on (and computeris­ed systems even later), one can imagine just how useful the Navitimer was.

The modern aircraft’s instrument panel and flight systems are all computeris­ed today, which has rendered the Navitimer obsolete. The watch, however, retains its legendary status as an instrument that pilots relied on in an earlier period of human flight ‒ an authentic tool watch that ushered in and served through the golden age of aviation. Coupled with its distinctiv­e design, it’s no wonder that the Navitimer remains a The watch’s case back with Pan Am’s logo beloved icon.

Breitling produces several versions of the Navitimer. The Navitimer 1 B01 Chronograp­h 43 Pan Am Edition ($12,500) featured here pays tribute to the eponymous airline, and is part of a trio in the brand’s capsule collection that also honours Swissair and Trans World Airlines. The watch is largely similar to the “stock” 43-millimetre version of the Navitimer, but comes dressed in Pan Am’s signature blue, with red accents for visibility. It also has a different set of hands that bear a design harking back to chronograp­hs from the past. Everything else is familiar, from the busy yet legible dial to the pump style chronograp­h pushers, and even the beaded bezel.

Breitling has opted to equip this watch with its in-house B01 calibre, which is visually represente­d by the contrastin­g subdials. This self-winding movement is column wheel actuated for better tactility, and uses a vertical clutch that gives the chronograp­h seconds hand confident starts and stops. The movement is also COSC-certified, and has a 70-hour power reserve.

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