Among the shortlist of “winning” brands at Baselworld this year, Breitling is an easy choice. Since Georges Kern took the helm, he’s been steering the brand in a new direction, and digging into the brand’s rich history – a move that quite frankly should have been undertaken years and years ago. We have to file this in the “better late than never” category, and after having seen what they’ve got cooked up, at least it was worth the wait.
The year’s new releases weren’t 100% focused on vintage watch reissues, mind you, but between the new Navitimer reissue, and the Warhawk and Airline special editions (launched before Basel but seen for the first time in the metal) there was definitely a theme echoing through the Breitling booth.
There’s no contest here – this reissue was the star of the show for Breitling. Unlike other Navitimer models that draw inspiration from their past, this piece is a pound-for-pound copy of the 1959 model – from case size and finishing, to details like its custom-tinted lume and domed plexiglass crystal. Fitted inside is the manually wound B09 in-house Breitling manufacture caliber that’s based of their automatic B01. The movement is COSC certified, and delivers a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. Consider this the resto-mod of the watch world – where old school aesthetics meet modern running gear.
Among the many lesser-known facts about Breitling, is their use of bold and funky colors throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, which the brand seemed happy to push under the rug as they focused on more utilitarian and tool-focused designs. With vintage back in such high demand, Breitling brought back some of their colorful past in the form of their Airline Editions of the Navitimer 1.
Altogether a series of three 43mm Navitimer 1 chronographs, each dedicated to a different airline (Pan-Am, TWA, and SwissAir) are on offer with bright red contrasting accents set against either a cream, black, or punchy blue dial depending on the variant in question. The blue dialed Pan-Am version is hands-down the most attention grabbing of the pack, but even the cream dial isn’t particularly subtle.
Aviator 8 Curtiss Collection
With green being the new blue (and lately red becoming the new green), this collection was designed as a nod to the P-40 Warhawk fighter planes. Offered in a simple 3-hand variant along with two chronographs, the new models are all based off of the Navitimer 8 collection, though the press materials and details online are referring to these pieces as “Aviator 8” for some strange reason. Either way, between the popularity of the dial color itself and the propagation of military-themed fashion, these new models are likely to be an easy sell once they hit the retail market.
As with other recent models, you can distinguish between the two chronograph versions (in-house vs. Valjoux-based movement) by the position and colors of their sub-dials. 3-6-9 sub-dials in contrasting colors denotes the in-house B01 movement is hidden below its dial, whereas 6-9-12 sub-dial positions in dial-matched coloring means that it’s a Valjoux-based movement inside. Unlike many of their other models, I actually prefer the more affordable Valjoux-powered chronograph in this particular model range, as the stealthy monochromatic look in green feels more appropriate given the military theme.
Back to something a bit less vintage-feeling, Breitling properly revamped both the Superocean and Superocean Heritage collections for 2019. Forgoing any pandering to that vintage vibe (on the Superocean) in favor of sharp, modern, and utility-focused design, the updated line is offered in 46, 44, 42, and 36mm. I would argue that they could have done without the 44mm version, as 4 case sizes and 6 dial colors (not across all sizes, mind you) is overkill, especially considering that Georges Kern keeps talking about dialing back the number models that Breitling produces each year.
Of the pack I was immediately taken by the white dialed 42mm variant, which when fitted on a rubber strap comes in at a $3,450. The pool of dive watches is a deep one these days, and the fit, feel, and design of the new Superocean makes it a legitimate alternative to the most common answer in the category these days – the Tudor Black Bay.