It is not that long ago that the best selling luxury gent’s watch in the world was the Rolex Datejust 36mm. It wasn’t long before this that the best selling gent’s watch in the UK was the manual wind Smiths Deluxe, at just 33mm. Only just last decade the fashion in the luxury watch industry was biggest is best. To the point where most luxury brands were producing some outrageous behemoths, and even Rolex and Patek Phillipe, the absolute stalwart of elegance, had to concede and produce bigger versions of their classic timepieces.
15 years ago 33.2mm rattrapante was Patek Philippe’s flag ship model at the Baselworld show.
At Baselworld 2019 Patek Phillipe’s show stopper was the 42.2mm Alarm Travel Time. That 9mm may not sound much but it is an increase of nearly 25%.
Patek Philippe creating a 42.2mm timepiece is the sign of the times
So, it is no surprise that Breitling have decided to create a 35mm timepiece just for the fairer sex. This is, however, a gamble because the Navitimer range has been consistently a gentleman’s timepiece since it was released in 1952.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved to see Navitimers on lady’s wrists. Especially, if that lady is brand ambassador Charlize Theron.
This is due to the inherent elegance of the design. And, simply, why shouldn’t they. 35mm diameter watches still look OK on a Gents wrists. As a fan and collector of watches it is inevitable that I will have a few vintage pieces. These have diameters as little as 33mm. One is, indeed, a 1953 Smiths Deluxe as accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary on the first ever conquering of Everest in the same year. It looks small. But, it doesn’t look ridiculous. I love wearing it for its vintage simplicity and its historical pertinence.
33mm Smiths Deluxe on the author’s manly wrist.
Therefore, any lady’s only wrist watch with a diameter of 35mm released today has to be beautiful, sartorially flexible from AGMs to BBQs, sophisticated and eye catching. For all of this and more, I present to you the new Navitimer 35.
Take a look at the video below
Specifications and Variations
Three different version of the 35mm case have been created. Full steel, steel and 18ct red gold and full 18ct red gold. Four dials will be available in the steel: silver (with gold hands), blue and copper (both with rhodium plated hands) and Mother of Pearl (MOP) with diamond dot hour markers. The bi-metal and full gold versions will be available with MOP and diamond dot dials only. All will be available on a matching Navitimer bracelet or crocodile straps, with either a push button folding clasp or a tang type buckle. Prices will range from £3350 for the steel model on tang type buckle to £23950 for the full gold case and bracelet with MOP/diamond dot dial. This information is correct at the time of release in April 2020. I guarantee that these will popular and hypothesise that Breitling will introduce further options in the future.
The elegantly sculptured lugs of the Navitimer case transpose effortlessly onto the lady’s 35mm version. The historically pertinent beads of rice bezel is a clever choice over the coin edge of the standard Navitimer bezel, because this removes the utilitarian nature of the Pilot’s Navitimer and adds needed elegance to the Navitimer 35. The bezel is akin to a piece of jewellery instead of the usual piece of machinery.
All movement and dimension specifications are identical throughout the range:
The movement is Breitling’s self winding Calibre 17, which is based on a tried-and-tested ETA movement and completely stripped down and reworked to Chronometer accuracy. This robust and reliable movement runs at 28800 vph, has 25 jewels and 38 hours power reserve.
The 35mm diameter by 9.92mm thick surgical grade stainless steel case is water resistant to 30m. The glass is highly scratch resistant sapphire and has anti-reflective coating on both sides. The crown is non-screwed down, which allows for easier operation when winding and setting the time. The solid case back is screwed down.
Unlike the Navitimer 38, which was aimed at both genders, there is no date display. I’m sure Breitling performed some kind of due diligence in consumer research on this, but I am bemused because the date window on the similar Navitimer 38 and 41 is discretely placed at the 6 O’clock position, therefore, maintaining a perfect symmetry.
The existing Navitimer 41 with date display at 6 O’clock.
Breitling recently removed the Colt Lady from their catalogue, leaving just the Galactic 29 as a timepiece designed specifically for females. The Colt Lady was always a best seller for ourselves at Andrew Michaels Jewellers. So, any replacement had to be a grand stand performer in regards to style, sophistication and performance. Enter, with confidence and grace, the Navitimer 35. It is not necessarily the antithesis to the Galactic 29 but it does offer a larger more purposeful design.
Galactic 29 SleekD – reference C72348531B1C1 – £8760
The aesthetics of a luxury watch need to be emotive. This is most important for a lady’s timepiece. I realise I am about to generalise here, so I apologise in advance: The female of the species are mainly concerned with how a watch looks. Male buyers will usually have done their homework before buying an expensive timepiece. They will have bought into the history of the brand, and even a particular timepiece, before buying into the watch itself. Aesthetics are important to us blokes, but we will primarily rely on the “feel” of a watch, which is an amalgamation of so many more details, to covet our time teller of choice. Lady’s will rely on their style and sophistication to know that a particular watch will give them optimum pleasure. Thankfully, then, Breitling have taken the iconic and utilitarian Navitimer, that has garnered so many male fans over the years, and subtly tweaked it to create something beautiful.
The decision to redesign one of the most iconic gent’s watches into a lady’s timepiece was always going to be a polarising one amongst fans. For some it may dilute the individualistic character of the Navitimer. Whereas, others may see the opportunity to treat their wives to one of their favourite models and, finally, get them to understand what all the fuss is about. And finally, of course, you may be a lady of considerable sophistication who aspires to a wrist watch that is beautiful enough to dress up with, is just utilitarian enough to dress down with and comes from a manufacturer and lineage of timepieces that are both exemplars of fantastic build quality and reliability.
The only real problem with the Navitimer 35 is that there will be a few Gent’s out there who may become jealous of their partner’s gorgeous new timepiece.
It’s difficult for me to be objective about a lady’s timepiece. I know it is the most pretty version of an absolute icon, but the watch hasn’t been designed for me. Therefore, I will leave the last words to my long suffering wife, who is the least horologically minded person you could meet. When, upon seeing a Navitimer 35 for the first time she remarked “Oooh, I like that”. For someone who stubbornly refuses to get the whole luxury watch collecting situation (I know, absolute madness, right?) that is high praise indeed. So, gents, if you want to delight the lady in your life approval has come from the most unlikely of critiques.
All words by Richard Atkins. All images by the author, Breitling and Patek Philippe. This article may not be reproduced in part or in whole without the author’s permission.