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Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Watch Review

  • Dec 27, 2023
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Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Watch Review

Not unlike today’s most celebrated automotive and motorcycle manufacturers, the identity of contemporary horological outfits and much of their products’ appeal is often deeply-rooted in an illustrious history and lineage of innovation and tradition. Dating back to 1884, Breitling is one such brand that perfectly encapsulates this notion, with an iconic catalog of luxury watches that can often be traced back to watershed timepieces from decades past — such as the reference we’ll be focusing on today; the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43. 

At A Glance

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Specs

Case Size: 43mm
Lug to Lug: 49mm
Case Thickness: 13.6mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement Type: Mechanical
Power Reserve: 70 Hours
Movement: Breitling 01
Lume: Super-LumiNova
Crystal: Cambered Sapphire
Strap: Alligator leather

Turning Back The Clock

The History & Origins Of The Breitling Navitimer

You can’t tell the story of the Navitimer without telling the larger story of the Breitling brand as a whole. The tale starts in 1884 when German immigrant Léon Breitling first opened his eponymous horological outfit, operating out of Saint-Imier, Switzerland — a hotbed for watchmakers within the so-called “Jura Triangle”. Rather than merely offering repair services, Breitling designed and developed its own stopwatches and time-keeping devices largely aimed at military and industrial applications — as well as early motorsport competition. These devices included envelop-pushing offerings such as an automatic watch with a whopping eight-day power reserve in 1893 which was followed by a groundbreaking chronograph in 1896 that offered with an unparalleled accuracy of just ⅖-second. After spending years working alongside his father, Léon’s son Gaston Breitling would take the reigns and begin running the company in 1914. 

Under Gaston’s leadership, Breitling would usher in a growing number of wildly-innovative horological offerings including the first-ever wristwatch to feature an independent “mono-pusher” for controlling start, stop, and reset functions that was separate from the crown. In July of 1927, Gaston would unexpectedly pass away, leading his son Willy Breitling to take over. Despite being just 19 years old when he took control of his family’s company, Breitling would flourish under Willy’s leadership, and over the next decade or so, we would start seeing the modern Breitling brand start to take shape. 

By 1938, the company had grown and expanded significantly and began funneling more resources into advanced research and development. With the seemingly-eminent Second World War not far off on the horizon, Breitling would launch its Huit Aviation Department (with “Huit” simply being French for the number “Eight”). Breitling’s HAD focused on engineering super accurate and super robust timing instruments that can stand up to the stresses, abuses, and generally extreme conditions of a military aircraft’s cockpit. Within a year, Breitling had put these aviation items into production and various countries’ Air-Forces would begin using these devices in their respective military planes. 

Not long after in 1941, Brietling would deliver yet another first in the horological world with the debut of the Chronomat — a portmanteau of sorts combining the words “Chronographe” and “Mathématique.” The first-ever watch to see a rotating bezel equipped with a logarithmic scale, the Chronomat featured a bicompax design and allowed its wearer to make on-the-fly calculations and conversions between standard miles, kilometers, and nautical miles, thereby enabling them to calculate vital factors such as distance traveled, fuel consumption, and climb and descent rates. 

After the conclusion of WW2, the aviation industry was increasingly taking off, and with its growing popularity came the need for reliable timing instruments for pilots. This ultimately gave way to the very first Breitling Navitimer in 1952. A result of merging the words “Navigation” and “Timer,” the Navitimer featured a multifunctional slide-rule scale set on a bidirectionally rotating bezel with a knurled edge that allowed it to easily be manipulated even when wearing pilot’s gloves. As influential as it was innovative, this pilot’s chronograph also boasted a triple-register arrangement, which has become commonplace today. 

Though reserved exclusively for airmen and aviation-industry personnel for the first few years in production, Breitling would later deliver a 43mm version of the watch that was made available to the general public. Born out of a collaboration with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, this 1954 reference was a massive success for Breitling and would mark just the first in a long line of ever-evolving and ever-more-advanced Navitimer watches, culminating in the release of the latest iteration of this iconic pilot’s chronograph, the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 — which catches us up to today. 

Unpacking An Icon

First Impressions Of The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43

Right out of the box, there are a few areas that instantly jump out at you when first taking in the Navitimer B01 Chrono 43. For starters, at 43mm across and a lug-to-lug of 49mm, the watch feels and wears fairly large — no matter the size of your wrist (our tester’s wrist is just under 8″). Next is the intricacy of the dial and bezel layouts. Even if you know next-to-nothing about timepieces, it’s abundantly clear that the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is a highly-utilitarian offering that’s been engineered to be used as a tool just as much as a time-keeping device. This quintessential pilot’s chronograph also benefits from Breitling’s usual top-notch build quality, construction, and overall fit and finish, with the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 unmistakably being a true luxury watch that’s seen every minute surface and detail meticulously considered. Lastly, despite more than 70 years having passed since the introduction of the original Navitimer, the B01 Chrono 43 looks remarkably similar to its 1950s era predecessor — a fact that not only affords the watch a unique and distinctive aesthetic, but also one that directly ties it to one of the most innovative and ground-breaking pilot’s watches of all time. 

Cockpit-Ready Casing

The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43’s Case

As its name implies, the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is constructed around a 43mm case that’s been brought to life in stainless steel and complemented via alternating polished and brushed finishes. Despite its width, the case clocks in at just 13.6mm thick, plus it able to achieve a lug-to-lug measurement of just 49mm thanks to the implementation of slightly shorter lugs — a design decision that gives it a more compact feel despite its actual dimensions. Alongside the involved three-register dial that it houses, the watch’s case is instantly recognizable thanks to its prominent milled-edge bezel — a non screw-locked, bidirectional-rotating item with dual gaskets. Water resistant down to 30 meters (or 100’), the case also boasts a knurled push-pull crown at 3 o’clock that’s sandwiched between a pair of vintage-style chrono pushers. Completing the stainless steel housing is an exhibition case-back. While discussing the case, it’s also probably worth mentioning that the watch is also offered in smaller 35mm, 38mm, and 41mm sizes — as well as in an even more substantial 46mm variant. 

Wrist-Worn Utility

The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43’s Dial

The particular reference that we tested sports a classic panda scheme with a triple register dial with a silver base that’s contrasted via a trio of black sub-dials at 3, 6, 9 o’clock and a date window at the 6 o’clock position. With that said, a monumental aspect of what makes the Navitimer range so iconic is undoubtedly its bidirectional inner rotating logarithmic sliding scale which sits beneath the near edge-to-edge dual-AR-coated cambered sapphire crystalmech. The element that affords this pilot’s tool watch with all of its utility, the logarithmic sliding scale allows wearers to perform calculations for areas such as air speed, distance traveled, fuel consumption, rate of climb and descent, as well as conversion of miles to kilometers or nautical miles. The entire setup is controlled by the watch’s 2 o’clock pusher which allows users to rotate the position of the bidirectional outer bezel relative to the fixed inner dial depending on the type of calculations that need to be performed. For a more in-depth breakdown of how this item functions, be sure to check out our more detailed video review of the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43. Decorated with the Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association’s winged crest logo set just above the classic Breitling crest, the dial is rounded out by sword-style hour and minutes hands and an arrow-tipped red-finished seconds hand. 

Workhorse Of The Skies

The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43’s Movement

Keeping the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 ticking is the luxury brand’s own in-house-developed B01 caliber movement. First released in 2009, the B01 is a self-wound mechanical movement that features 47 jewels, COSC chronometer certification, and a beat rate of 4hz. The movement utilizes a column wheel-style construction that stands as a throwback to the original Navitimers watches and allows the pushers to operate with a smoothness unmatched by other methods. Also found in other contemporary Breitling timepieces such as the SuperOcean Heritage, the Premiere, and the Chronomat, the B01 manages to deliver a very respectable power reserve of approximately 70 hours. The feat of Swiss engineering that is the B01 can also be appreciated through the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43’s exhibition case-back which puts the mechanical movement on full display. With its impressive specs and functionality, this chronograph movement also plays a substantial role in the watch’s overall pricing. 

A Subtle Touch Of Class

The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43’s Strap

Furthering the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43’s top-shelf, luxury feel is the watch’s black alligator leather strap. Set on 22mm lugs, the strap comes fitted with a folding clasp buckle that’s crafted from polished stainless steel and adorned in a Breitling logo. Pairing beautifully with the dial’s monochrome colorway, the top of the black gator leather strap is also juxtaposed by off white-colored accent stitching that’s also used to mate the outer alligator leather portion of the strap to its underlying, more supple yellow leather lining. Alongside this standard strap that ships with the watch, Breitling also offers a host of additional options. 

Coming In For A Landing

Our Conclusion & Final Thoughts On The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43

There are several factors that collectively make the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 such as special — and historically significant — timepiece. Described by Breitling as its most iconic watch, the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 features a host of actual aviation history and a toolset that’s rolled over from day one. And, while modern aviation computers obviously make the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43’s logarithmic scale objectively obsolete, the thing can nonetheless still be used to perform in-cockpit calculations when at the helm of an aircraft. What’s more, while not used in planes so much these days, this pilot’s chronograph’s case is still super rugged and robust and is more than capable of easily taking on aviation duties and the extreme conditions that come with it — despite being a true luxury watch.

The absolute antithesis of a minimalist design, the Navitimer has a complex and busy-looking three-register dial layout that, when combined with its knurled-edge bezel and generously-sized case makes for an incredibly eye-catching watch. And, while it was admittedly just a small part, this watch can be traced directly back to a feat of horological technology and engineering that would ultimately contribute to good triumphing over evil in the Second World War. At the end of the day, the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 manages to accurately capture the most iconic and distinctive features of the original Navitimers while still standing as a modern luxury watch thanks to a flattened slide rule, a domed crystal, and numerous other elements that give the timepiece a more contemporary look and feel. 

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43

The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 is unequivocally one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable chronograph watches ever made. The modern successor to a ground-breaking mid-century watch engineered specifically for aviation, this Swiss-made luxury watch features a logarithmic scale that allows pilots to perform a myriad of on-the-fly calculations while in the cockpit. Though it’s gained numerous contemporary features and amenities — including Breitling’s B01 mechanical movement — the Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 remains incredibly true to its earliest predecessors from the 1950s.

Pros
  • One of the most recognizable chronographs of all time
  • Modern interpretation of super iconic pilot’s chronograph
  • Features Breitling’s usual top-shelf fit & finish
  • Super eye-catching design
  • Offers ample pilot calculation capabilities
Cons
  • Expensive price
  • Lacks versatility
  • Case looks huge on smaller wrists
  • Push-pull crown & paltry water resistance

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by menshealthfits.
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