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Navitimer 806, I love that watch 
 

Breitling Navitimer - by Kurt Broendum

Navitimer 806, I love that watch

 

The name is a combination of the words Navigation & Timer, since the watch was originally developed as a navigation watch for pilots, who could use the sliderule to calculate remaining distances, fuel consumption etc.

The Navitimer seriously put Breitling on the world map. It’s until today the most famous watch they ever produced and it’s unlikely that it will ever be surpassed.

Generally it can be said that the Navitimer with 3 Subdials was made in four editions/generations cased in a small watchcase.

1st. generation

It all started when Breitling & AOPA decided to develop a revolutionary watch with a built-in chronograph and navigation computer (sliderule).  Breitling Switzerland has indicated production began in 1952, but it’s my strong belief that the first Navitimers became available to the public in 1954.

AOPA (Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association) immediately decided to make it their official watch, and in that way the first Navitimer was born with AOPA’s beautiful official wing logo displayed on its dial.

Wakmann was the American distributor of Breitling watches in the 50’s, so they were selling the AOPA’s in USA, but at the same time Breitling produced a very limited amount of Navitimers sporting the “B” logo on the dial from 1954 to 56, to be sold in Europe by themselves.

The movement they used in 1954, and the first half of 1955, was the famous Valjoux 72. In the beginning, it didn’t have a reference number printed on the back.  It wasn't until 1955 that the reference number officially became 806. Nobody knows for certain how many Navitimers were produced with the Valjoux 72 movement , but it’s beyond any doubt that it was a very limited number, thus the Valjoux 72 Navitimer has become a kind of cult watch for Navitimer collectors all over the world.

Extremely rare 1954 AOPA Navitimer with Valjoux 72 movement, matt silver plated hands, and no reference number. It’s the earliest Navitimer I have ever seen.

Extremely rare 1954 AOPA Navitimer with Valjoux 72 movement, very corroded matte silver plated hands and original strap from 1954.

Extremely rare 1955 AOPA Navitimer with Valjoux 72 movement in very beautiful patinated condition.

I would like to thank Mr. Duke Swan for having sold me the above watch. He inherited it from his uncle, LT. William Rakowicz, who bought it new in 1955 and passed away in 1966, and he has treasured it dearly ever since.

In late1955 the Valjoux 72 movement was replaced with Venus 178. However - going into the Venus 178 era, a very little amount of Valjoux 72 AOPA’s was produced with the 806 reference number on the case back, and some Venus 178’s was produced with matt silver plated hands.

The dial and subdials was still black, and it still had the “beads of rice” bezel. It was produced with this configuration until 1963

Movements

 

Valjoux 72 movement

When the Breitling Watch Corporation of America was established in New York in July 1947, "BOW" became the US import code stamped on movements sold in the United States. For this reason, the first models of Navitimer bear the "BOW" mark on the movement.

Sometime during 1957, Breitling Watch Corp. ceased operation and the importation and distribution of Breitling watches was passed to the Wakmann Watch Corporation, which used "WOG" as its US import code.

Thereafter, and until the company closed in 1979, Breitlings brought to the US were imported, distributed, and serviced by the Wakmann company, for which movements in watches they imported were marked "WOG."

Venus 178 movement

Very rare 1955 AOPA Navitimer only sporting the AOPA wing on the dial

The early AOPA Navitimers had the smallest beads on the bezel (125 beads), and then up through the 50’s they grew bigger & bigger, so basically one can say – the more beads on the bezel the earlier.

Extremely rare 1955 Breitling AOPA Navitimer, with matte silver plated hands

Extremely rare 1956 Breitling Navitimer with matt silver plated hands

I have seen less then a handful of black AOPA Navitimers sporting both Breitlings name, and an AOPA signed AOPA wing on the dial.

1956 AOPA Navitimer

Please click here page 1, page 2 to see a very interesting AOPA ad from the 50's.

Very beautiful 1957 AOPA Navitimer, this was the last year they were produced with the small beads on the bezel.

Black Lizard strap from a 1950’s AOPA Navitimer

1961 AOPA Navitimer

From the late 50’s, before going into the 2nd generation of Navitimers, Breitling started to produce AOPA Navitimers with their own name printed on the dial, but the AOPA wing logo was unsigned.

It is my strong believe that they were produced to be sold by Breitling themselves.

NOS 1962 Breitling AOPA Navitimer

This watch was purchased in 1963 by a German Lufthansa pilot. When I bought it, it was still on the original & hardly used Breitling signed strap, and  furthermore it came with box & signed papers.

2nd. generation

In 1963 - after the watch had become a huge success – the design was modified as follows: The three subdials changed from black to white, and the hands were remodeled, the logo on the dial was still AOPA’s.

This model was produced in 1964 as well, but with another bezel design and with 2 different dial layouts, one with an AOPA signed wing, and one with Breitlings name on the dial & an unsigned AOPA wing.

Extremely rare 1963 AOPA Navitimer with Beads of Rice Bezel, white subdials & 18 K applied AOPA logo

In late 1964 we saw Breitlings own logo on the dial for the first time; it became two aircrafts flying in close formation, and the bezel was remodeled. This logo was the last one and remained on the dial throughout the 60’s and into the 70’s.

They did though continue to supply AOPA with AOPA Navitimers until 1968, but from 1965 the AOPA wing was painted on the dial.

NOS Navitimer 806 from 1964

In order to make the sliderule 100% visible & legible, it is highly important that the Navitimer's crystal is the correct, slightly curved type. The latter also makes the overall appearance of the watch much nicer.

Venus 178 specifications:

Lever movement, stem wind, seconds bit with second hand, column wheel chronograph with carrying arm, 1/5 second, 30-minute register and hour counter. Diameter 31mm, 18.000 BPH, 17 jewels, Incabloc shock protection.

 

AOPA Navitimer from 1965

AOPA Navitimer from 1967

Unused Navitimer from 1966

This watch was purchased in Kowloon in 1966 by the late Major George Pocius, who served as a US military pilot during the Vietnam War.

While overseas, his crew members persuaded him to buy it as an investment.

It has never been worn and it came with original box, papers & strap.

I was approached by Mrs. Pocius to determine its value, and later decided to purchase the watch.

I would like to express my thanks to the Pocius family for having sold the watch to me, I shall always treasure it.

Original papers from the above mentioned watch

In the mid 60’s Breitling began to produce Navitimers with slightly enlarged Subdials, but the reference nr. remained 806 and the movement was still Venus 178.

From 1967, however, a limited number of Navitimers with Valjoux 7736 movements were produced concomitantly. The likely reason for this is that the success of the Navitimer caused Breilting to manufacture so large batches of Navitimers that occasional Venus 178 movement shortages occurred.That model's reference no. is 806-36, it has large Subdials as well as the Breitling doublewing logo imprinted on its dial.

My first Navitimer 806 from 1968 in unique and beautifully patinated condition

"Immaculate patina is an art form only mastered
 by time itself" - A. Trojel

The 4  different bezel designs

3.rd generation

On May 24 1962, when Scott Carpenter went into space with Aurora 7, a Navitimer featuring 24 hour indication over a single turn of the dial was produced as the notion of day and night is extremely relative in space, this configuration would enable space crews not to confuse midday with midnight.

Before it was cleared for travel in Space the watch had to pass some extremely tough tests carried out by NASA. It was produced throughout the sixties with both AOPA’s Wing and Breitling’s Doublewing logo on the dial; both under the name Navitimer  & Cosmonaute. The reference nr. was 809 and the movement was a Venus 178 modified to the 24-hour-display (Breitling also produced a very limited number of Cosmonaute watches using a modified Valjoux 7736; again, it was most likely due to a lack of Venus 178 movements. The reference nr. was 809-36 and they all had Breitling's name & Doublewing logo on their dial). It was produced with two different subdial sizes.It wasn’t until 1967 that it earned itself the name Cosmonaute for good - a name that the watch has been known under ever since.

 

All black AOPA Cosmonaute from 1962, the year it was born. My Holy Grail and the rarest of all Navitimers.

This watch was given to me by Mr.Fred Dauer, the original owner, who bought it in Hong Kong in 1964, while he was serving as an Army Warrant Officer pilot in Viet Nam (1964-65), flying out of Danang.

I won the watch on eBay, but Fred Dauer decided afterwards to make a gift of this wonderful piece of history.

Read the full story here......

Dear Kurt,

The stories and aura accompanying the watch now will fade, and be replaced with new stories and incidents in time, and this watch will live on with its own story of presentation and condition, as it should be. We are just temporary custodians for awhile. Thank you for your continuing interest and passion in something I had a chance to be a part of for awhile.

Fred Dauer

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Fred. I will treasure it forever.

Extremely rare 1962 24-hour dial AOPA Navitimer with beads of rice bezel

Extremely rare 1963 24-hour dial AOPA Navitimer with beads of rice bezel

I bought this watch from the Mrs. Maureen Myatt who got her pilot license in Rhodesia 1961 and later Pretoria in June 1964, and used to fly small airplanes like Pipers & Cessna’s all over South Africa.

Mrs. Myatt bought it from AOPA, through the Grand Central Flying Club in Johannesburg in September 1964.
 

1969 Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute, with original bracelet

NOS Cosmonaute from 1966

4th. generation

(Which is the last with this dial layout and Doublewing logo)

Around1971-74, the Navitimer underwent serious changes - and to many people (just like the 806/9-36) it ceased to be the "real” Navitimer.

The legendary Venus 178 movement was replaced and a Navitimer with date aperture was introduced. The registers grew to their biggest size ever, the reference nr. was 7806/8  and the movement is a Valjoux 7740. AOPA’s logo disappeared and henceforth the watch was only marketed with Breitling's Doublewing logo & name on the dial.

In conclusion (of the above mentioned), it is beyond any doubt that the “real” Navitimer is the reference 806 - but many people think that the last model with the Valjoux movement is more beautiful, due to the size of its regs.

All wacthes pictured in the article are from my private collection. They are all in 100% original & unrestored condition.

I am always interested in buying top condition Navitimers, and try to always have some for sale as well, so if you are in the market for selling or buying one then please don’t hesitate to let me know.

I would like to express my thanks to the following 3 persons, to Anders Trojel for his help in translating the article to English, to Bo Molbak for being a skilled watchmaker and to Thomas Stuart for our excellent cooperation and his help in finding some of the watches for me.

Furthermore I would like to thank Watchlife.com for hosting my article.

Please don't hesitate to mail me at kurtbroendum@yahoo.com - should you have any comments or questions to my article.

Best regards - Kurt Broendum

 Copyright: Watchlife.com & Kurt Broendum