Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Breitling Aviation Scholarship Celebrates Navitimer’s 70th Anniversary

The legendary Breitling Navitimer turns 70 in 2022, and at least one of the celebratory touches is a practical one that honours the watch.

Dec 21, 2021 | By Ashok Soman
Breitling Navitimer with AOPA logo
Image: Breitling

The Breitling Navitimer is one of the world’s most iconic wristwatches and it has had close to 70 years to build that reputation. It is one of a few wristwatches born in the 1950s that are benchmarks today, and most of these are tool watches created for professionals.

It was Willy Breitling who, in 1952, thought up an instrument that would allow pilots to do all the calculations they needed to make, basically with one hand. The result was the slide rule that defines the Navitimer right to this day. For the anniversary next year, there are big plans for sure, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Breitling have just announced a new scholarship for young pilots to mark the occasion. 

Breitling & AOPA have remained close allies throughout the decades (from left to right: Breitling USA President Thierry Prissert, AOPA Chief Marketing Officer Jiri Marousek and Breitling CEO Georges Kern). Image: Breitling

“Back then neither Breitling nor the AOPA could have imagined the significance of this partnership and its mark on the world,” said Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “But it has resulted in a watch that is so much bigger than a watch. It’s an icon.” Now, this is neat but we can feel the protests as we type out this piece… Actually, the story of the slide rule goes back to the 1940-42 Chronomat, which was also created under the stewardship of none other than Willy Breitling.

Watch historians out there are probably shaking their heads reading this, and will be eager to point out that the slide rule existed as early as the 17th century and was doing the job of a calculator right from the start. In a story that is partly about history, it would not do to get that wrong. We have no quarrel with that fact at all, but it was Breitling that brought the slide rule to the wristwatch.

Historical Navitimer Ref. 806 from 1959
Historical Navitimer Ref. 806 from 1959. Image: Breitling

We admit that the workings of the slide rule are a bit beyond us, and repeated explanations over the years have never stuck with this writer in particular — the solution would be to buy a Navitimer but my wrist will never be equal to any version of this watch. So, we will not explain the slide rule here, but the story unfolds more or less as noted above. Breitling was just getting started though.

Returning to the anniversary in 2022 and the scholarship, it will cover the costs for a young person in the US to complete a full pilot’s training course. The deadline to apply is February 11, 2022, and that seems to be the submission deadline, not the date the application is received.  

“We have quite a shared history with Breitling, going back to our original partnership on the original Navitimer in the 1950s,” said Mark Baker, president of AOPA. “I’m thrilled to keep this important and strong relationship going, setting the stage for more exciting projects together. We greatly appreciate Breitling’s commitment to AOPA and general aviation.” The Breitling press release that delivered the above quotes and information about the anniversary confirms that the Breitling Aviation Scholarship is but the first of several planned collaborations. We look forward to learning more.

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