November 08, 2019 - Authored By: Dale E. Malick
So, who does not like vintage watches?
Okay, several vintage watches are very small and are not necessarily suitable for a man's wrist. And then there is the patina that progressively gets worse over time.
I actually prefer a vintage watch. Especially a vintage dress watch. My wrist is somewhat small compared to most men's wrists, so a nice vintage dress watch actually wears more appropriately on my 6.75 inch wrist. The patina that a watch accumulates over time, gives the watch a natural and organic charm that can not be duplicated.
Like a classic automobile, vintage watches set the tone and shaped the future design for their contemporary counterparts. Take for example the Heuer Carrera. It was under Jack Heuer's leadership that the Carrera was developed and eventually launched in the year 1963. It was Jack Heuer's love for motorsports that propelled the development of the Heuer Carrera. As the name implies, the Carrera name dates back to the legendary car race through Mexico called, the Carrera Panamericana.
The Heuer Carrera set the stage for other chronograph watches such as the Breitling Top Time, Universal Geneve (dubbed the Nina Rindt) and others. Not to mention, the future synergies between automotive racing and horology. Look no further than the development of the Heuer Monaco and subsequently other major watch brands' sponsorships and associations with motorsports. First and foremost, there is the iconic actor and motorsport and race car enthusiast Paul Newman wearing his Rolex Daytona and other racing professionals such as Michael Schumacher sporting his Omega Speedmaster.
Personally, the most intriguing aspect of vintage watches is that they usually tell a story. How often do you find a contemporary watch that has an engraving on the back that says; "Congratulations on 25 Years of Service at General Motors"? Essentially, you are wearing a piece of history that cannot be replicated in any form.
Now that we have established that I like vintage watches, let's take a closer look at one of my favorite all-time vintage watches; the Breitling Navitimer, Reference 806.
My first knowledge of the Breitling Navitimer was during one of my favorite James Bond movies, Thunderball. Most people associate the movie Thunderball with the Breitling Top Time. As 007 donned a modified version that was used as a geiger counter. To this day, the reverse panda dial Top Time is known as the "Thunderball".
The Navitimer was less conspicuous since it was not worn by 007. As The story goes, it was the watch owned by Major Derval and worn by his installed Spectre double, who was ultimately murdered by his very own criminal organization. It does not pay to be greedy with Spectre.
The history of the Breitling Navitimer dates back to the year 1952. The Navitimer was the evolution of the 1942 Breitling Chronomat, which featured the typical slide rule bezel. At that time, Breitling decided to improve the bezel and the Navitimer was born.
At first glance, the Navitimer's dial appears to be very busy and distracting. However, at the same time, the dial is very symmetrical. The slide rule bezel, chapter rings, indices, markers and sub dials are well proportioned to the case size which gives the dial an undeniable, monochromatic visual clarity.
The three sub dials are complemented by black numbers and hands. At the 3 o'clock position is a 30 minute counter, at the 6 o'clock position is a 12 hour counter and at the 9 o'clock position is the constant seconds.
The round chronograph pushers are enhanced by a signed Breitling crown. Together, they work perfectly with the Venus 178 manual movement, a true workhorse.
The Navitimer has a generous case size of 40mm and lug to lug at 48.25mm. A large case size, by vintage standards, but the Navitimer wears nicely on a smaller wrist. The plexiglass crystal covers its reverse panda dial and has a moderate case thickness of 12.5mm.
When purchasing a vintage watch, one needs to do their due diligence. More often than not and unfortunately, several top brand vintage watches have been either modified or for lack of better words "Franken".
With the internet, there are several resources that can be used to verify and authenticate your purchase. Personally, when I purchased my Breitling Navitimer, I utilized the Breitling Source watch forum. I was able to find out the ownership history of the watch, the watchmaker who previously serviced the watch and more importantly, verify the watch's authenticity by posting the seller's photographs. Obviously, the verification and then the authenticity was predicated on the seller's transparency and honesty. There is an old saying, "buy the seller first then the watch".
I have found overtime that utilizing the various watch forums, is not only very informative and educational, but extremely helpful when determining if the watch has been modified (or “a Frankenwatch”). To have a third party source verify and authenticate your purchase, is a benefit that is invaluable.
So, when rating my Navitimer, it would be an injustice just to rate the watch in itself, rather than, my love for James Bond and more importantly, the complete transaction process.
It was a buying experience that I will never forget and will always use when purchasing a vintage watch or any type of luxury watch on the internet sight unseen. Within my watch collection, my Navitimer is undoubtedly my favorite watch. As I have said before, there are only two things that I would rate as a 10; Bo Derek or a Victoria's Secret model. Consequently, I may have to change my mind and give my beloved Breitling Navitimer a 10, but on second thought, its a solid 9.9!
Article Written By: Dale E. Malick Founder & CEO of Watch2Wear
Watch2Wear is an online watch (and timepiece) buy now and secondary auction marketplace. Watch dealers, watch collectors and private individuals can list, sell and purchase watches and luxury timepieces. Private sellers can sell their watches for FREE without any listing and selling fees. Just like a watch forum, but better!
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