A Breitling Icon since 1956
In 1952, Willy Breitling was asked to make a new official watch for aviators by the US Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA). In response, Breitling introduced the Navitimer. Having already adapted the original logarithmic slide rule for aviation, Breitling put it onto a circular bezel and integrated it into the now-iconic watch. Initially, the watch was only available to AOPA members, but in 1956 Breitling released it to the general public.
Early examples of the watch are rare, with some years in the 50’s and 60’s seeing only 100-200 units released for public sale. For its time, the Breitling Navitimer was a large watch, with a case diameter of 41 millimeters. This was large enough to ensure that all the necessary information would be visible to pilots with just a quick glance, and a true example of form following function.
To help with visibility, many iterations of the Navitimer dial are known as a “panda dial” or a black dial adorned with white numerals. Panda dials are still very much in style today and are one of the most sought-after dial styles in the industry.
The Breitling Navitimer Today
Today the Breitling Navitimer, Breitling’s flagship model, continues to be iconic. So much so that it is at the top of the list when it comes to collectible watches bearing the Breitling name. The slide rule bezel today closely matches the original Navitimer bezel. Make no mistake; this slide rule bezel is still a favorite among pilots and aviation adjacent watch users and collectors.
The Breitling Navitimer continues to be an actual pilot’s watch. Additionally, the unique look of the Breitling bezel is eye-catching, and to many, very stylish.
While the material used to make the bands of the classic Navitimer have varied over the years, today, the stainless steel bracelet is a favorite. This mirrors other brand trends where stainless-steel watches and bracelets continue to rule the roost as the chase items for collectors. Where features like a panda dial, a white dial, hour markers, and date function have appeared on many watches through the ages, the Breitling Navitimer was groundbreaking in introducing many of these features and popularizing others.
What does an Iconic Breitling Navitimer cost these days?
If you desire to purchase a new Breitling Navitimer at retail, it’s likely to cost you between $5,000 and 10,000 dollars, depending on the features and materials you are interested in selecting. While the first Navitimer edition didn’t have was reasonably simple by today’s standards, Breitling now offers these timepieces with a variety of complications (functions or any feature beyond just telling time). Depending on what you choose, your price will vary.
Modern Movement and Features
The early Breitling Navitimer came with a Venus 178 movement. Later, in 1954, Breitling evolved these watches to run on a Valjoux 72 movement. In the late 1960’s Breitling settled on a Valjoux 7740 movement for the Navitimer and made several changes in the years that followed.
Today, Navitimer watches are made with a proprietary Breitling self-winding movement that allows for all the complications and features modern customers demand without any drawbacks of the older styles of movement.
Breitling Navitimer watches are nearly all stainless-steel cased, though some popular variants are adorned with features like rose gold or mother of pearl to add to the aesthetic of the classic timepiece. Many feature a chronograph, and Breitling offers several styles of chronographs in the Navitimer collection, including the famous B01 chronograph.
The b01 chronograph is arguably Breitling’s most popular chronograph and offers a clean look and precision. If you are going to have a tool on your wrist, and a watch is in many ways, just that, it may as well be an instrument of precision, style, and beauty.
Breitling’s Navitimer line offers over 200 variations of one of the most popular models ever to hit the industry.
Those variations include a black leather strap, alligator leather straps, chronographs, variants with two and three subdials, white subdials, green subdials, date display, and many more. All variations come with sapphire crystal for durability and scratch resistance. All variations are water-resistant from 1-3 bars, with the manufacturer understanding the great importance of water resistance in a modern timepiece. The company website serves as a fantastic Navitimer reference.
Breitling Navitimer, the Industry, and the Big Picture for Collector Caliber Watches
Are there other pilot watches in the industry? Sure, there are many other pilot watches in the marketplace. Some of them are digital and offer well-lit displays at the push button. Others are an homage to the classic early-style aviator’s watches that are well-loved by prominent waisted men and probably are not held dear by most women due to their general size and aesthetic.
I own one such watch, a Hamilton aviator, though I’m neither a pilot nor an aviation adjacent industry. Honestly, you don’t need to be a pilot to appreciate the subtle contrast and beauty found in a pilot’s watch. It’s simply a beautiful watch with a classic look. I’m sure there are pilots worldwide sporting watches that were not made with their profession in mind as the modern pilot has everything they need inside the cockpit. Planes today are a far leap ahead of where they were in the early days of aviation.
All that said, my Hamilton isn’t on the same level as Navitimer, and that was reflected in the $500 price tag. It’s free of complications like a chronograph and tells me the time of day. That said, Hamilton is not a collectible watch brand in terms of watches that consistently go up in value. The Breitling Navitimer represents for the company is a flagship watch and one of the only models it offers that is sought after in the collectible sense.
Breitling’s Navitimer watches can be collectible, but where do they rank against other collectible watches? Honestly, very low on the list. A Breitling Navitimer would be considered a first step into the world of collectible watches. Above them are brands like Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Phillipe, and Vacheron Constantin. All of whom have collectible watches that range from the tens of thousands to millions of dollars in value.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the collectible watch industry, it’s enough to know that the Breitling Navitimer represents a solid first step into that world if the owner desires it to be that for them. For many, it’s enough that the Navitimer is a beautiful, stylish, and precise instrument to adorn their wrist.
Why Buy a Collectible Watch?
What’s in it for you to buy a collectible watch? First off, and maybe most importantly, they hold value.
Like my Hamilton, Citizen, Omega, or Invicta, other watches don’t hold value well. On the contrary, they depreciate very quickly. Don’t believe me? A simple eBay Search for used watches tells the tale very well. And, compared to collectible watches like the Navitimer, Rolex, or other brands mentioned, fashion watches aren’t worthy of discussion when it comes to something you may want as an investment.
It’s worth noting that while the condition is essential, genuine collectible watches will still go up in value even if they show some wear. This allows the watch owner to wear it, use it for its intended purpose, and still come out ahead financially in the long run.
Okay, my Navitimer holds value; how do I get that value when I want a new watch?
That’s the easy part. You can put your watch on the market when you are finished with it. These days, there are many paths to doing that; you can list in on one of the many online services that allow users to buy and sell goods or take them to a broker.
Before you get too worried, I don’t mean anything special with the word broker. Some watch stores deal in buying and selling used watches.
The more straightforward answer is to use a pawnbroker.
Many people aren’t aware that most pawnbrokers are willing to buy items outright instead of making collateral loans on those items. The vast majority of pawnbrokers offer this service, and they are pretty easy to vet out for honesty and reliability.
The reality is if you walk into their shop and you see that they deal in collectible watches, you should be good. Just know up front that they are in business to make a profit and not get the total market value when you walk out the door. Depending on the stores and whether or not you’ve established a relationship with that store, rates will vary.
Getting 90% of the value out of your collectible is not unheard of, but it’s much more common than you will see between 70-80%. If the broker offers you less than 60%, you are better off taking a collateral loan on the item instead of selling it to a private party if you are comfortable meeting strangers. Remember to deal with a large sum of cash, so be safe.
Rule number 1 for negotiating with pawnbrokers is that you need to understand that it is a negotiation. Push back a bit on their numbers, and don’t be afraid to leave with your Navitimer, especially if time is on your side with your finances. You have some power as a seller; the business desires your watch to sell it for a profit make a deal that’s fair for everyone. You get to sell your watch safely and efficiently; they get to make a reasonable profit by assuming the risk of finding a buyer for it. Also, be aware that a good deal of trading occurs between collectors, and it is not impossible to parlay your watch into a different watch that you’ll enjoy as well.
Idaho Pawn and Gold has expert pawnbrokers who will work with you to get the amount of money you need for your collectible watch. Sam Reading, the owner of two stores in Idaho, is dedicated to ensuring that his customers know they will get the most money for any luxury item brought into his stores. The process will be confidential and straightforward. He is vested in making sure his shelves are filled with quality name-brand items like pilot’s watches, gold, and a combination of other luxury items. In doing so, he must be upfront and willing to work with his customers. Hence, it is a win-win for everyone.
As you venture into the world of beautiful objects and collectible watches, go armed with the basic knowledge of brand hierarchy, but stay true to what you love with style and features, keeping in the back of your mind that you are after an asset that you might one day pass onto your child as an heirloom, or turn into cash if you need it on a rainy day. Go by and see Sam or the knowledgeable team at Idaho Pawn and Gold. You will not be disappointed!