Breitling Navitimer 35 hands-on Review

by Lewis Butterfield
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Since its introduction to market in 1952, the Breitling Navitimer has been a hallmark of not only Breitling as a brand, but the luxury watch industry at large. When one thinks of pilots watches, the Breitling Navitimer is principal amongst those thoughts. Traditionally the Navitimer is a large, bold timepiece, designed for not only legibility but practicality. 

It is the principal purpose of the Navitimer that it be practical in almost any aviation endeavour. To achieve its purpose, Breitling equipped the Navitimer with its signature slide rule bezel. The slide rule bezel is the watches bi-directional rotating bezel, traditionally adorned with a number of mathematical conversion scales which, when used in conjunction with the watches other signature function, a chronograph, is able to decipher a variety of equations useful to Pilots prior to electronic monitoring devices becoming commonplace in cockpits. 

So when Breitling launched the paired down Navitimer 35 as part of their ground-breaking digital launch earlier in 2020, it would be fair to say that the new chronograph-less timepiece left me with some reservations.

Firstly, the elephant in the room, this is the first ever 35mm mechanical Navitimer that the brand has launched. It shows the brands commitment to trimming the diameter of its timepieces, and its push into smaller wristed markets. This may seem like a good thing in a vacuum, however, instead of leaning into the size down, Breitling market the Navitimer 35 as solely a female offering. 

It is widely accepted across the watch industry that 34 to 38mm timepieces can be considered unisex in the very least. By completely disregarding male consumers in the release and marketing of the new Navitimer 35, Breitling is putting themselves at risk of lacklustre sales for what quite honestly, is a great looking watch.

The new release is available in a variety of dial colour variants, for review I was able to spend some time with the blue dialled piece on its steel bracelet. The first thing to note is that this watch shines, the blue dial is spectacular. I found myself constantly bemused by its ability to deflect light, and shift hues dramatically. 

The dial is radially brushed giving it a sunburst effect that emanates from its centre pinion. The use of simple high polish stick indices applied to the dial, adds to the watches already eye-catching nature. The stick hands are also polished, and have a decent but not impressive amount of luminova applied to them. The use of lume on only the hands, and not anywhere else on the piece, further highlights that this is not a traditional Navitimer. 

There is a simplified version of the slide rule bezel employed in the new Navitimer 35, it features a Mph and Kmph scale outboard of the indices, and has a number of red accented marks to denote significant timing periods. This red is echoed in the arrow head tip of the seconds hand, which is intended for use in utilizing those scales. In reality however, the slide rule bezel on the navitimer 35 is all but for decorative purposes. Without the use of a chronograph to accurately calculate the passage of time between two fixed points, a scale to decipher speed becomes ineffectual. The centre seconds hand is constantly running, and as such the conversion scale is constantly out of sync with its starting position. It is here that I wish Breitling had become more creative, the slide rule feature and beaded bezel are fantastic, if they are functional, a GMT scale fixed around the outer dial would be an interesting reimagining for a non-chronograph Navitimer, and infinitely more useful.

All of that being said, the sliding action of the bezel is delightful, the beaded bezel is easy to grip and very well finished. Sliding around the bezel is an almost cathartic experience, if not for that OCD-esque need to always have the markers line up after I’m done fiddling with it. 

Printing on the dial is crisp and precise, and the use of red on the tip of the seconds hand is executed nicely, adding a great little pop of crimson to the dial.

Beating just beneath the dial is the Breitling calibre 17 automatic movement. Essentially a chronometer grade ETA 2824-2, the Navitimer 35 does feature a dateless variation of the movement, and has been certified by the COSC as is advertised on the dial of the piece. The B17 movement is a workhorse automatic, its beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour, and has a rated power reserve of 38 hours. This movement will undoubtably serve you well for many years, and can easily be serviced by any reputable watchmaker should the need arise. The use of a base ETA calibre like the 2824-2, serves the purpose of keeping down the overall production cost of the watch, and in turn that saving is passed down to the consumer. 

Another nice feature of the new Navitimer 35 is the seven segment bracelet. High polished throughout, the bracelet gives the dial a run for its money when it comes to light catching. Small twists and flicks of the wrist result in shards of glistening light shooting towards your eyes. The use of so many segments in the bracelet, lends it to being very comfortable and easily contorting to the profile of the wearer’s wrist. There are no sharp edges or harsh angles in sight with the links, each piece overlaps the next beautifully and curves nicely towards its end. 

The new Breitling Navitimer 35 leaves me in two minds. On one hand we have a watch that is such a drastic departure from the iconic wristwatches from which it takes its name. The piece is slighter than its traditional counterparts, it lacks the distinctive chronograph, and it pays only lip service to the slide rule bezel. If this watch said Premier on the dial rather than Navitimer, it wouldn’t feel amiss. 

However, what Breitling did produce was a beautiful wristwatch. A watch that bears a stunning dial and an elegant case size. Breitling have brought some of the charm of a Navitimer to people who otherwise may have found the line too large, too bold for their styling preferences. 

The Navitimer 35 in its current iteration may not be the Navitimer for everyone, but it is undoubtably the Navitimer for some, and variety in diameter is always welcome to model lines like the Breitling Navitimer.

Breitling Navitimer 35 Specification:

Model Reference: A17395161C1A1
Case Diameter: 35mm
Dial: Blue
Case: Steel, Bidirectional, slide rule Bezel
Movement: Breitling Manufacture Calibre 17
Power Reserve: Up to 38 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds
Water Resistance: 3 ATM/ 30 meters

Australian pricing : $6,320.00 Aud

Local Authorised Dealers :

  • Brisbane – The Hour Glass and Hardy Brothers
  • Melbourne – Monards ( Collins Street and Crown Casino) ,Gregory Jewellers , The Hour Glass and Watches of Switzerland
  • Sydney – Breitling Boutique, Gregory Jewellers, Swiss Concept, The Hour Glass and Watches of Switzerland
  • Perth – Watches of Switzerland
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