Cover Breitling has introduced new colours to enliven the Navitimer collection

At 70, Breitling's iconic pilot's watch is cooler than ever

Developed in 1952 as a functional tool complete with a slide rule function to make rapid calculations during flight, the Navitimer is one of those must-have wristwatches in a connoisseur's watch winder. Hailed as Breitling's most iconic watch, its design has remained largely the same throughout its 70-year existence, the slide rule always present despite advancement in computer technology. 

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The watch has gone from the wrists of pilots and even astronauts to the regular men on the street who are drawn to its robust design, authenticity and provenance. As CEO Georges Kern puts it: “The Navitimer is one of the most recognisable watches ever made. What began as a tool for pilots has gone on to mean something profound to every single person who has had this timepiece along on their personal journey.”

As it celebrates its 70th anniversary, Breitling has reinvigorated the collection with modern colours in three sizes (46mm, 43mm and 41mm) and two case materials (steel and 18k red gold). The slide rule is flattened under a domed crystal for a more compact look. Polished and brushed elements lend the chronograph an urban chic flavour, while the caseback reveals a slimmer oscillating weight. Powered by the COSC-certified Caliber 01, it boasts 70 hours of power reserve. 

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Although it remains as functional as the day it was born, Kern notes that the Navitimer has been updated with a more contemporary appeal. 

"What's interesting about the new Navitimer is that it's basically the Navitimer of the '60s and '70s, and actually looks much more modern than the previous iteration which is roughly 20 years old," says Kern. "It's more chic, less sporty. It also comes in three great sizes because it's unisex and also more suitable for the Asian wrists."

What truly stands out, however, is the range of colours that seems designed for a younger audience. Mint green, icy blue and copper sit comfortably alongside the classic hues of black and silver. "We want to target the women too," Kern quips. 

Read the rest of this exclusive interview with Kern below:

Why is the Navitimer such an enduring pilot's watch, even today when we no longer need a watch to help with flight navigation?

Simply because it's aesthetically beautiful and instantly recognisable. It's among the world's most iconic watches. Plus, the slide rule is something fun to have even if we don't actually use it. But it works if you want to use it. I spent 30 minutes trying to understand (slide rule) the other day but it actually works. 

Since coming on board as CEO in 2017, you have taken Breitling to new heights. One could even argue that you have awakened it from its long slumber. What do you want people to think when one says the name 'Breitling'?

I hope they would say that it's the coolest and nicest brand out there. Thank goodness we have a back catalogue of 50 to 70 years of great designs that we can use. When you have a good design, it's forever. And we have enough material for the next 100 years. 

It's funny how my son who's studying to be an architect chose a Superocean Heritage 57, not the more modern Avenger. So it showed that some of the design elements of our watches were already brilliant. When you do it right, it's cool.

Breitling's new boutique concept is also quite cool, and you have even incorporated a restaurant in your Seoul address. Does that mean Breitling is going more lifestyle?

Lifestyle somehow sometimes has a negative connotation—it sounds commercial. I'd rather talk about expanding our experience. Going from boutique to restaurant is a natural expansion because it's the same style.

But I agree that our boutiques are now super cool. Even the women were asking us if they could move in!

Your energy and optimism are positively infectious, even after such a hard couple of years.

I'm a naturally positive person. I'm also totally convinced intellectually about what we are doing. Three or four years ago, we didn't have proof of concept, but today we do. We're one of the most successful watch brands. Our transformation has proven to be the right one.

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