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Feature: The best 25 Breitling watches

Believe it or not, compiling a “Best of Breitling” list doesn’t involve trawling through countless variations of the Navitimer. While the brand is synonymous with aviation-themed chronographs, its watches have gone to space, saved lives at sea and even adorned the wrist of James Bond. When selecting our top 25 Breitlings, we weren’t short of contenders…

The Chrono-Matic with a Monaco movement, reference 2111

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

This cushion-cased Breitling from the late 1960s couldn’t be more of its era if it was wearing a mini-skirt and listening to The Beatles. Most notably, though, it features a significant piece of watch history. Its legendary Caliber 11 movement, which also powered Heuer’s Monaco model on its debut, was one of the very first automatic chronograph movements, the result of a collaboration between Breitling, Heuer-Leonidas, Hamilton/Büren and Dubois-Dépraz.

Avenger Hurricane, reference XB0180

With dynamic looks and a super-tough case made from Breitlight, the brand’s high-tech polymer alloy that’s lighter and tougher than titanium, this chronograph really is worthy of a fighter-pilot. Adding to the combat-ready looks is the highly legible dial in vivid yellow with red details and stencil-style Arabic numerals. Built for extreme conditions—from aerial manoeuvres to Antarctica—its anthracite-coloured strap combines rubber and a high-resistance military textile fibre.

Jazz legend Miles Davis’ personal Navitimer

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Here’s a watch to, er, “trumpet” about—even if no one knows where it is. The Navitimer (likely to be a reference 806) that was regularly photographed on the wrist of legendary jazz maestro Miles Davis is missing and will probably never be found. However, if someone ever discovers it at the bottom of a charity shop bargain bin it would be like a lottery win as it would sell for an astronomical sum at auction. This would undoubtedly be the Newman Daytona of Navitimers.

The little-known Spatiographe, reference A36030

Most people are unaware of the late-90s Breitling Spatiographe, perhaps because it had a relatively short lifespan of six years (even guinea pigs live longer). Smaller than the Navitimer and a little quirky, this is a chronograph, but instead of a subdial at 3 o’clock it has a window featuring a 10-minute countdown timer. Equally unorthodox is the subdial at 6 o’clock—a 3-hour counter divided into 10-minute slots.

Duograph split seconds, reference 766

Image courtesy of Phillips

Image courtesy of Phillips

Back in the 1940s, if you were looking for a top-tier chronograph, you couldn’t overlook Breitling. It was producing truly exceptional watches like this model with tachymeter scale and a split-seconds function operated through a pusher integrated into the crown. This particular model was auctioned by Phillips Hong Kong in 2020, selling for almost $32k—proof that vintage Breitling is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

The life-saving Emergency watch, reference E76325

A survival expert like Bear Grylls would possibly dismiss Breitling’s Emergency watch as a gimmick, but this quartz-powered chunk of titanium actually saves lives. Launched in 1995 as a back-up transmitter for downed pilots or lost adventurers, it’s fitted with the capability to broadcast an emergency SOS signal on behalf of its wearer. Just make sure you don’t accidentally set it off as you could end up paying a hefty fine.

Breitling’s very own “Jean-Claude Killy”, reference 765 CP

Image courtesy of Phillips

Image courtesy of Phillips

One of the most sought-after and collectible vintage Rolexes ever made is the reference 6036, a pre-Daytona chronograph known as the “Jean-Claude Killy”. The thing is, the champion skier that this watch was named after was actually wearing this Breitling pilot’s watch when he won his three gold medals at the 1968 Winter Olympics. The association with Rolex came later when the brand signed him up. Clearly, though, Killy had excellent taste in watches.

Red Arrows Anniversary Chronomat, reference K13356

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

As one of the world’s finest aerobatic teams, the Red Arrows thoroughly deserve to have a watch named in their honour and this Chronomat from 2005 is a fitting tribute. Released to celebrate the Red Arrows’ 40th anniversary, this chronograph comes in 18k gold with the team’s emblem on the dial bearing the motto “Eclat” (which roughly translates as a brilliant display or effect). Only 40 pieces were made.

The Flying B – a rare jump-hour Breitling, reference A28362

Once in a while, watch brands stage a design rebellion and make something completely at odds with their established aesthetic. This is what Breitling did in the noughties when it released The Flying B, a time-only watch that was at the opposite end of the horological spectrum to the Navitimer. One of many collaborations with car-maker Bentley, it features a rectangular case and dashboard-influenced dial with a jump hour—a sort of Rolex Prince as imagined by Gerald Genta.

Endurance Pro, reference X82310

Breitling describes its quartz-powered Endurance Pro as an “athleisure watch”, which makes us think of designer tracksuits and suggests this isn’t a timepiece that can stand up to a pummelling from the elements—which couldn’t be further from the truth. This beast of a chronograph comes in a practically invincible Breitlight case and boasts a pulsometer scale—useful for checking your heart-rate mid-triathlon.

The Japanese-market Navitimer Limited Edition, reference A12022.1

Image: Collection of David Rosenwasser and D ROSE MOD

Image: Collection of David Rosenwasser and D ROSE MOD

Here’s a Navitimer that is sought after among collectors, despite being neither a vintage model nor made from precious metal. It was made specifically for the Japanese market in the late 1990s and only 600 examples were made—200 in white and 400 in black, but the latter is more desirable. Now edging into the territory of neo-vintage, this manual-wind model paid tribute to the original Navitimer 806, albeit with a display caseback.

Galactic Unitime, reference WB3510

Sounding like something out of Star Wars , this handsome world-time model is a significant watch in Breitling’s proud history. It features the brand’s inaugural non-chronograph in-house movement and—another brand-first—a bezel made from tungsten carbide, a material so tough that it’s used to make armour-piercing bullets. Water resistant to 100 metres and featuring a date at 3 o’clock, it’s a great traveller’s watch.

Transocean Chronograph, reference AB0510

Long before David Beckham switched allegiance to Tudor he appeared in a series of Breitling adverts, striking a solitary yet moody pose besides a luxury private jet, as though he was about to pilot the thing himself (fat chance!). This is the watch he was wearing, and it boasts one of the best-looking Breitling chronograph dials ever designed, even if the wrist-eclipsing 46mm case won’t be to everyone’s taste.

A Day-Date alternative, reference A45355

If you love the dial layout of a Rolex Day-Date but think the case could do with packing on some muscle, check out the Breitling Headwind. Like the Rolex, it features a day aperture arcing across the top of the dial and a date window at 3 o’clock, but its looks are enhanced with a uni-directional bezel featuring “rider tabs” for a better grip. At 44mm it’s also much bigger than all Day-Date models.

The vintage world-timer, reference 1260

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

The 1950s was the dawn of the jet-set era and watches featuring world-time and GMT functions were de rigeur for the first-class traveller. Not to be outdone by the likes of Patek Philippe (a world-time specialist) and Rolex, Breitling got in on the act by making models like this elegant self-winding piece in gold-plated steel. The rotating inner bezel features the names of various major cities, helping you to calculate the time whatever country you’re in.

Premier B21 Chronograph Tourbillon ‘Willy Breitling’, reference LB2120171C1P1

The Premier line was first launched in the late 1930s with a watch that was the first truly water-tight chronograph produced in volume. These days the collection features some of Breitling’s most accomplished watches, including this platinum-cased chronograph with a tourbillon exposed at 12 o’clock. This version with a midnight-blue dial is named after former owner and president, Willy Breitling, grandson of Leon who founded the brand in 1884.

Bentley Mulliner, reference J29362

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Breitling’s collaborations with Bentley have spawned many a fine watch over the years, but the top-tier models were the ones that carried the hallowed “Mulliner” name, which is Bentley’s bespoke division (so you want a car with pink suede seats and a cigar humidor? These guys can make it happen). Naturally, Breitling’s Bentley Mulliner watches are equally high-end, like this perpetual calendar chronograph in 18k white gold. Note the very un-Breitling octagonal case.

Navitimer Perpetual Calendar, reference A19022

Image courtesy of Phillips

Image courtesy Phillips

Those who love to marvel at the mathematical capabilities of watches will be awestruck by this model, which looks much like any other Navitimer yet carries some major horological clout. Not only does it combine a chronograph and a perpetual calendar—displayed via the dual-purpose three white subdials—it’s also got a moonphase display. Add the signature slide-rule bezel and you’ve got a watch that’ll keep any numbers boffin riveted for hours.

A moonphase classic, the Chronograph Datora, reference 799

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Breitling is renowned for watches like the Navitimer and the Superocean, so much so that it’s easy to forget about some of its other collections, even if they’re just as worthy of attention. The Datora is one of them. This elegant 34mm model from the 1940s—reference 799—somehow packs in complications including a chronograph, calendar and a moonphase, despite its modest dimensions. Gold-plated versions of this watch were also produced.

Bond’s forgotten Breitling, reference A233112A1A1X1

Think the Rolex Submariner and Omega Seamaster are the only watches to have graced James Bond’s wrist? Think again. Breitling’s Top Time enjoyed its own cameo in the 1965 film Thunderball, with Sean Connery in the 007 role. In 2021, Breitling re-issued this delightful chronograph as the Top Time Deus and we think it trumps the original thanks to its blue “squircle”-shaped subdials and red lightning-bolt-shaped chronograph hand.

Breitling’s very own space watch, the Cosmonaute Navitimer, reference 809

Image courtesy of Phillips

Image courtesy of Phillips

We get it, Omega’s Speedmaster was the first watch worn on the moon, but was it the first Swiss wristwatch worn in space itself? Nope, that was a feat marked by Breitling and its Cosmonaute Navitimer. A prototype was worn by astronaut Scott Carpenter during the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission in 1962. Carpenter even helped design it, specifically requesting the 24-hour-numeral dial so he could differentiate day from night.

The modern quartz pilots watch [Aerospace], reference E79362

If you struggle to decide what to have for breakfast let alone whether to buy an analogue or digital watch, you’ll like the Aerospace. Featuring an ana-digi display, it allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds. Introduced in 1985, it was designed as a modern quartz pilot’s watch. Today, it’s one of Breitling’s lesser-known models, experiencing its heyday in the 1980s and 90s. However, it remains in Breitling’s current line-up regardless.

The referee’s watch – Breitling Referee, reference 34-31

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Whether you’re a qualified soccer referee or just someone who likes to yell at the TV when a decision has gone against your team, the Breitling Referee will appeal to you. This unusual chronograph was launched in the early 1970s for—you guessed it—football referees, enabling them to accurately time the match. The dials came in various bi-colour combinations, with the outer minute track (here in red) stopping at 45-minutes to indicate the end of one half of the 90-minute game.

The cooler sibling - New Superocean, reference N17375201L1S1

Ever experienced the new kid at school muscling in your friendship group, leaving you sidelined? We’ve all been there, and we suspect that’s how the Superocean felt once this new one arrived on the scene, equipped with a sleek design and an array of off-beat colours to choose from. Revisiting its heritage, the new Superocean retraces the design codes of Breitling’s 1960s model, the Slow Motion.

Bentley Chronomat B01 42 Bentley, reference AB0134

Breitling and Bentley is a match made in heaven, and not only because their logos—a winged “B”—are almost identical. These iconic luxury brands have collaborated on several watches over the years but this Chronomat with racing-green dial is evocative of classic cars with their plush leather seats and walnut dashboards. For rugby fans, there are also versions available in the colours of the teams participating in the Six Nations tournament.

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