I recall seeing my first Breitling Navitimer. I was instantly blown away by its grandeur and a little intimidated by the details on the bezel. I didn’t know the purpose of the bezel slide rule, but it didn’t matter. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
But, starting at around $7K, Navitimers are not really an option for many buyers. The solution? Many opt to first purchase a Breitling Navitimer homage watch.
Also, the size and weight of a pilot’s watch can be hard to get a feel for. So, it can be much more forgiving to buy a cheaper Navitimer alternative if you later decide they are not for you.
Like all great watches, the Navitimer arouses emotion in its wearers. This emotion can come straight from the design to less obvious factors such as the historical significance of the watch.
Celebrities have long appreciated the Navitimer - from Formula 1 legend Jim Clark to car enthusiast (and comedian) Jerry Seinfeld. Although it’s safe to say Jerry’s intimate affair with Breitling goes beyond the Navitimer.
The first Navitimer was produced in 1952 with the explicit intention of helping pilots navigate and time their movements. Hence the name ‘navi’ and ‘timer’.
The ability for pilots to quickly and accurately use a watch for their calculations was a very big deal.
The chronograph allowed pilots to navigate based on the principles of dead reckoning, which required pilots to keep a record of elapsed time.
Computers were not an option, so having a slide rule embedded into the bezel of their watch allowed for essential calculations such as airspeed, rate of ascent/descent, fuel consumption and more.
Consider how demanding it was to be a pilot. Mentally performing these calculations on the fly in addition to manually operating an aircraft. It gives me a mild panic attack just thinking about it. The Navitimer helped turn a cockpit from a pressure cooker to an oasis of calm. Okay, not quite, but it certainly made the pilot’s job easier.
Sadly, the original Breitling company did not survive the quartz onslaught of the 1970’s with the company being sold in 1979 (and again in 2017).
The Navitimer was relaunched during the 1980’s, which coincided with renewed consumer interest in mechanical watches. This clearly lives on to this day with the popularity of the modern Navitimer showing no signs of slowing.
Given the popularity of the Navitimer, it’s not surprising that many watchmakers have offered their own alternatives to the icon.
We’ve included our top Navitimer homages based on the following:
My preference is for a Navitimer homage to include a slide rule bezel. The inclusion of a ‘whiz wheel’ or E6B flight computer is so synonymous with the Navitimer that when the new CEO released the Navitimer 8 B01 in 2018 without it, many collectors and enthusiasts were outraged or at least confused.
The other major feature that should be included in a Navitimer homage is a chronograph. Ideally, the buttons will be big enough to allow for easy pressing if the pilot is wearing gloves.
How close you want your homage to pay tribute to the original comes down to personal preference. Our preference is for homage watches to take design cues from the original, but fall short of blatantly copying.
So, our ideal design is one where you can see the Navitimer influence, but that doesn’t mean it’s a direct replica in every way.
We’ve tried to incorporate picks from all ends of the price spectrum to ensure there’s something for everyone. The more affordable, the better.
There is an unavoidable trade off between quality and price. But, this shouldn’t mean you’re bombarded with a bunch of cheap replicas that will not last.
Enough on the process, here's our favorite Breitling Navitimer homages:
Casio has been taking design cues from iconic watch manufacturers for a long time and refining them into their own quality offerings. They’ve several worthy pilots watches in their collection, but our favorite Navitimer homage is the Casio Edifice EF527-1AV.
There are many design and functional nods to the Navitimer. The slide rule pilot's computer, chronograph with large buttons, dark black face, busy main dial, 3 sub dials and polished metal hour markers combine to give it a strong Navitimer presence.
It’s not a blatant replica though. The slide rule on the Edifice EF527D-1AV operates differently. It’s a fixed bezel with the internal ring controlled by the dial at 8 o’clock. This inner rotating slide ruler allows the same flight calculations to be made.
Also includes 3 sub-dials, but positioned at 6, 9 & 12 rather than the traditional 3, 6, 9 of Navitimers. In chronograph mode, the sub-dials of the Edifice feature minutes at 12, hours at 9 and 1/20 seconds at 6.
So, the maximum time duration that can be recorded is 11 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. This should be more than sufficient for most day-to-day applications.
We also like the inclusion of a date window at 3 o’clock. It’s also slightly different from the Navitimer’s window position at 4:30.
The Edifice’s screw down crown is a welcome addition as it creates a tighter seal and prevents water damage. The Navitimer achieves the same locking result, but they use a non-screw locked, two gasket mechanism for the crown.
Casio has used a fairly standard, yet accurate, quartz movement with a battery that generally lasts 2+ years.
At 45.5 mm wide, it’s not super-large like some pilots watches. You get the feeling the watch actually needs to be this size to include all of the markings and features. Any smaller and readability may become an issue.
The main potential downside of this watch is for right-handed owners. We love the inclusion of the slide rule, but the screw to control it at 8 o’clock can be awkward. If you’re wearing it on the left hand, you need to move the right hand over the watch to operate the screw.
Overall, there is so much to like in this watch for the price. Casio has managed to squeeze a lot of functionality into the Edifice EF527D-1AV.
But, what really impresses us about this watch is the attention to detail up close. It looks and feels like a more expensive timepiece. Something that is quite rare at this price point.
The Invicta 6621 II gets our nod for the best affordable Breitling Navitimer homage. This is specifically for those looking in the sub $100 range.
Now, it’s hard to pack all of the features of a Navitimer into a watch that costs less than a bill. So there does need to be some concessions. The biggest is the lack of a flight computer or slide rule.
However, the bezel does rotate and there is a tachymeter scale on the inner bezel. So no, you won’t be able to use it for flying calculations like a Navitimer. But, were you actually going to?
The 3 sub-dials are set in the same symmetrical way as a traditional Navitimer at 3, 6 and 9. But, at 6 o’clock there is a day of the week sub-dial instead of the hour sub-dial of a Navitimer. This may actually make it more useful to some buyers.
The date window is positioned at the 4 o’clock, but can be a little difficult to read. Not a deal-breaker, but it would be nice to see some more thought go into this complication or remove it altogether.
The deep blue cobalt face of the Invicta 6621 II is enticing. It works well with the large white Arabic numerals and hatched minute markers.
At less than $100, you’re going to find it difficult to get more features at a level of quality that makes it truly wearable. We think the Invicta 6621 II achieves this.
Does it live up to Breitling’s quality? No. But at 1/100th of the price, you’re getting some nice Navitimer-like features in a watch that won’t fall apart the moment you leave the store.
The Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind H77912535 is a quality Navitimer alternative in the sub $1,000 range.
We’ve awarded it our best premium homage because it has all of the right features: bezel flight instrument, chronograph & 3 sub dials. And, aesthetically it has a very balanced, pleasing design that demands attention. I can’t look away from it.
Let’s talk about the X-Wind function. Rather than include a slide rule flight calculator like the Navitimer, Hamilton has included a complication that allows pilots to calculate the cross-wind.
The screw down crown at the top left rotates the inner bezel, whilst the bottom left controls the measurements within the window. Here’s a more detailed explanation on calculating crosswind.
Now, are most wearers of the Hamilton X-Wind going to use it to calculate the cross-wind? Of course not. The same as most Navitimer owners have no idea how to use the slide-rule, nevermind the calculations required for flying a plane. I honestly don’t care. I love these complications because they draw upon my childhood fascination with pilots. They are aspirational more than practical.
Practicality does matter for the chronograph and sub-dials as wearers use these features. The sub-dial at 6 o’clock is for seconds and the 10 o’clock sub dial is 24 hour time for a 2nd timezone. These work in regular (ie non-chronograph) mode. The other sub dial at 2 o’clock labeled ‘chrono’ needs to be operated in chronograph mode and this counts the minutes.
The stainless steel bezel rotates, opening up more practical applications. This is what you want in a true tool watch.
All the crowns are screw-down, providing water resistance to 100m. I wouldn’t consider this a dive watch, but you certainly don’t need to worry about getting it wet.
There’s really not a lot to dislike about the Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind. If you had your heart set on a mechanical watch, then the quartz movement may not be for your liking.
Overall, we recommend this watch for those that want to respectfully pay tribute to the Navitimer, but aren’t looking for a direct replica. This is a watch that is comfortable holding its own place in aviation history.
I’m going to just come out and say it. If you’re looking for a Navitimer alternative at around half the price the original, then you should get a Sinn 903 St.
Referred to as the ‘Navigation Chronograph’, the Sinn 903 looks almost identical to a Navitimer for very good reason. Helmut Sinn purchased the rights to produce a model very similar to the Navitimer in the late 1970s and has been doing so since.
So you could say the Sinn 903 St is the OG homage to the Navitimer. The main similarities are pretty obvious. There’s the slide rule bezel with a logarithmic scale, chronograph functions, vintage pushers, 3 sub-dials, high contrast dial (dark middle and white outside) and angled lugs.
But, there are subtle differences that allow the Sinn 903 St to form its own personality. The slide rule is internal, controlled by the additional screw-down crown at 10 o’clock.
The other big differentiator is size. At 41 mm it’s considerably smaller than the more common Navitimer sizes of 43 and 46mm. This can be very welcome, especially for those that have medium-sized wrists and are afraid they can’t pull off a hefty 43mm+ watch.
At around $3.5K the Sinn 903 St does not fit into the affordable category. It’s still an expensive watch. But, at around half the price of a Navitimer, it’s definitely worth considering if you’re after a watch with very similar design and quality of a Navitimer, but with a story of its own.
The most affordable Breitling Navitimer homage that made our list is a Gute Classic Automatic, with a Jaguar branding.
Let’s be honest, this is one of the many different Chinese brands that has come into the lower end of the market. You are not going to get close to Breitling quality here, but at this price you really shouldn’t expect it.
What you can expect is to pay a very small amount to test whether a large, heavy aviation inspired watch is really for you. Worst case scenario, you’ve outlaid less than $50 and you’ve learned that maybe they are not for you. The best case is you really enjoy wearing the Gute Classic and either continue wearing it or decide to upgrade to something you may enjoy even more.
A key feature of the Gute is the rotating slide rule bezel. This may be the cheapest watch with a slide rule bezel on the market. If you’re on the fence on whether you’ll use it or like the look of it, then this is your chance to try it out.
There are also 2 sub-dials. One at 3 for the month and the other at 9 for the day of the week. There is a skeleton window at 6 instead of a 3rd sub-dial.
This is an automatic, so you won’t need a battery. However, the lack of a quality power reserve may mean you need to wind it if you skip a day or are not that active during the day.
Overall, if you’re very budget conscious, then the Gute Classic might be your best option. But, if your budget allows, you’ll get more enjoyment out of the feature-packed, yet still very affordable Casio Edifice EF527D-1AV.
If money is no object, I'm looking directly at the Sinn 903 St. Even if I had the money for a Navitimer, I may even prefer to buy the Sinn 903 as it represents better value.
But, for most of us, the sweet spot between features, value and quality can be found in the Casio Edifice EF527D-1AV. It's well below $200, so it's not a sizeable investment. But, it still allows you to get a good feel for owning a large, quality pilots chronograph watch with a flight computer.
If you're after something slightly more unique, then the Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind delivers with style.