Hands-On: The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01

By Jason Heaton

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Despite Breitling’s success over the past decade – they are the fourth largest brand in the U.S. by sales volume – they’ve often been the target of criticism from watch enthusiasts, largely aimed at their “busy” dials, their gargantuan sizes, and their shiny cases. It seems as though new Breitling CEO Georges Kern has been listening. In fact, at a press conference in New York last week, Kern acknowledged that he’s taking this feedback seriously and is in the early stages of overhauling the brand. He was in New York to launch the first new watches under his reign, and to discuss his plans for Breitling this year and beyond.

The new Navitimer 8 Chronograph B01.

Among Kern’s goals are an effort to revamp and simplify the Breitling lineup, overhaul everything from boutiques (soon to be called “lofts”), ad campaigns (“no more ‘Betty on the bomb'”) and, most interestingly, take more cues from the company’s incredibly deep archive of watch designs. To that end, Kern visited renowned Breitling collector, Fred Mandelbaum (@watchfred on Instagram) to draw inspiration, even bringing Mandelbaum’s extensive collection of vintage Breitlings to New York for the event. He admitted that Breitling watches of the past have been “too shiny” – even admitting some were “tacky” – and vowed big changes in both positioning and designs.

The Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph has a very different profile from most modern Breitling watches.

Our first glimpse into the “new” Breitling is the Navitimer 8 collection, launched with much fanfare a few weeks ago, as part of a worldwide road show. This includes a 41mm time-and-date model, a day-date, a Valjoux 7750-based chronograph, a worldtimer, and, the flagship model, a chronograph with the in-house caliber B01 movement. I had the chance to get my hands on the collection for a while last week, particularly that Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph and came away with a few distinct impressions.

The inspiration for the name, and the watches, of the Navitimer 8 line, was the aviation board instrument clocks of the 1930s and ’40s, which were called “Breitling 8” for their eight-day movements. Contrary to common belief, the Navitimer name was used on more watches than just the well known slide rule chronograph and the new family of …read more      

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