Created in collaboration with MR PORTER, one of their major partners that sells all things luxury, the 2018 Breitling Navitimer Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 is limited to just 1000 pieces, packs a great in-house chronograph caliber, and, as real estate agents like to say, is priced to sell in a market over-saturated with equally elegant pilot’s watches produced by well-established brands like Omega and IWC.
Breitling’s vintage-styled Aviator 8 collection is not new. It was first introduced back in March 2018 during the Baselworld 2018 trade show. Released as a chronograph and a three-hander (a standard approach for any major brand,) it was received enthusiastically not only by experts, but also by collectors, and, well, normal persons simply interested in a nice vintage-styled timekeeper that is animated by a nice modern in-house movement and is offered at an *ahem* affordable price. Or, putting it blandly, the chronograph was a great alternative to the good old Speedmaster, while the three-hander was simply a great field watch for those who consider a Hamilton Khaki collection too plebeian for their refined taste.
At some point in time, Mr. Porter, a major retailer of luxury items, decided that it would be a great idea to have a limited edition run of the chronograph that would be exclusive to their clientele.
Featuring an expertly blended mix of colors (very light beige for the dial, very dark purple for the sub-dials, and the traditional light-green for the luminous elements covered by the Superlumivoa compound,) the new gadget channels that natural “old-school-cool” aura that only watches created during 1940s-1950s possess. The finely printed minute track, the Arabic numerals, even the rectangular date window look contrast enough to read in any lighting scenario, while, surprisingly, not elbowing their way through each other to get your attention. Everything looks so balanced, serene, and visually perfect that it almost hurts.
What can I say? I am impressed by this beautiful gadget.
Case, Bezel & Strap
Breitling is often associated with their daringly -almost to the point of poor taste – oversized chronograph and military-styled watches that look sort of ridiculous housing standard ETA calibers within huge cases that sometimes measure close to fifty millimeters in diameter (yes, I’m talking about their Breitling for Bentley series that seems to be primarily aimed at insecure persons.) Luckily for us, they also have a couple of collections that are based on their historic models. Featuring more sensible dimensions, sporting high-grade “manufacture” calibers, and being a lot more impressive in the readability department, they are serious competitors to living legends as the aforementioned Omega Speedmaster and all sorts of classic pilot’s watches offered by IWC.
This particular model belongs to the latter breed. Coming in a slightly oversized body some 43 mm in diameter and just a hair shy of 14 millimeters thick, it still is a bit too large, especially if you compare it to the sub-40mm size of the original ref. 768 model that this gadget pays homage to, but is still relatively compact after all those “sporty chronographs for modern active men” that are getting rather old (the chronographs, not men…oh, whatever) after all these years.
As far as exterior finish is concerned, there’s nothing groundbreaking here: mirror-polished surfaces are used strategically to give the watch a more “carefully sculpted” appearance while making the machine-brushed ones look especially elegant and refined if you don’t mind the cliché.
Perhaps, the only thing I don’t care much for is the setting/winding crown and the chronograph push-pieces. It is difficult to put it into words, but they look sort of alien (not subpar or cheap, just alien) to the overall level of refinement that this watch shows in almost every other little detail. When it comes to the crown, it has something to do with relative proportions of the crown and the case: while the former seems to be of the same size as the part on the 1941 model, the latter is about ten percent larger than the body of the WWII-era watch. Here, ergonomics issues, too, come into play: gentlemen with shorter, stubbier fingers may find the crown a bit too short for their liking. Those are just minor flaws, although some may find them really annoying. Also, this is why I decided to give it four points out of five in the “usability” part of the rating.
This limited edition model comes on a premium leather strap with elegant contrast stitching and has that familiar look of a product that was made by skilled hands of an experienced craftsman, not by a soulless machine. Still, I’d probably swap the stock strap for something more ‘authentic’, be it distressed leather or even a high-quality synthetic NATO textile strap to give this aviator an even more rugged appearance.
It’s been around a decade now since Breitling has originally introduced the Caliber B01 automatic chronograph movement: their first modern in-house mechanism developed after dozens of years of relying on ETA blank movements and third-party complication modules. Officially launched back in April 2009 together with their then-new Breitling Chronomat B01 Automatic Chronograph model, the mechanism featured a superb combination of a column-wheel switch and vertical clutch: a privilege of high-grade chronographs.
Although there was certain merit in using mass-produced calibers manufactured by ETA (low maintenance costs and superb serviceability probably being the most important factors here,) there also was a noticeable disparity between the cost of a movement and the final price of the watch that it powered. Apparently, at some point, Breitling decided that the brand needed a nice in-house caliber capable of increasing the perceived value of their watches and -voila!- here comes the B01!
While there was a fair share of owners complaining about reliability issues plaguing the first batch of B01-equipped watches, it seems that the issues were ironed-out pretty fast and it is now one of the best chronograph movements that you can buy in this price range: yes, I am confident that it won’t beat the legendary Rolex caliber 4130 in terms of long-term reliability and accuracy, but it certainly beats it now in terms of perceived value for money.
Also, it looks like a good alternative to the classic ETA Valjoux 7750 as well as its numerous derivatives: not only from the usability perspective (the B01, for example, allows you to change the date display closer to 12 o’clock without causing any sort of unnecessary stress on the mechanism,) but when it comes to accuracy, too.
Visually, the mechanism doesn’t look mind-blowing: there is the usual combination of polished, machine-brushed and guilloched surfaces that Breitling (and dozens of other international brands) use to decorate their movements, but nothing more. I don’t see this as a problem, though: the caliber plays nicely with the subdued exterior of the watch.
Dial & Legibility
It is the dial that really draws attention if you’re one of those customers who mostly associate the Swiss brand with military-styled divers and over-complicated pilots with busy dials and the usual logarithmic bezels.
It may not look as dramatic as their other collections, but it surely looks elegant, while also doing a good job at telling time: like most of the timekeepers, again and again, recycling the same time-proven design of a classic aviator’s watch, it is extremely easy to read with just the right combination of colors, textures, and shapes. The nighttime legibility is also impressive thanks to the copious amounts of quality Superluminova covering the three main hands, as well as the large Arabic numerals on the main chapter ring.
I can’t say the same about the secondary chapter ring on the bi-directional rotating bezel and the chronograph sub-dials, but I also understand the reasoning behind the decision: after all, it’s primarily a pilot-styled dress watch, not a professional tactical instrument for the military personnel (Breitling has a number of other options designed for this type of customers.)
So, this watch deserves at least four and a half stars out of five in the Overall Legibility department.
Pricing & Availability
Produced as a model exclusive to Mr. Porter, the Navitimer Aviator 8 B01’s total production number is limited at just 1000 individually numbered pieces. The watch officially came on sale at mrporter.com on June 4, 2018 at a price of £4916.67 (approximately USD $6500) and will only be offered while supplies last. While the price tag is clearly nothing to sneeze at, I still think that the watch sports great value with due to its winning combination of great caliber, elegant exterior and relatively low number of pieces that are offered.
Photos: Breitling / MR PORTER
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4.5/5
Value for Money: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Breitling Navitimer Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 MR PORTER specification
Price: £4916.67 (Retail)
Winding: Automatic (self-winding)
Movement: Caliber B01, COSC-certified chronometer, in-house, Swiss Made
Number of Jewels: 47
Cadence of Balance: 28,800 vph
Power Reserve: Approx. 70 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph, date, second time zone (on the unidirectional rotating bezel)
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 43.00 mm
Case height: 13.97 mm
Lug width: 23 mm
Numerals: Arabic, luminous (Superluminova)
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brown Alligator leather strap with contrast stitching, steel buckle with Breitling logo
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective on both sides, domed
Back: Sapphire, screw-down