Well it’s the merry month of May already so time to get in the spring swing with something special — an uncommon 1970s Breitling reference 7806 Navitimer from my personal collection. What makes this vintage Navitimer special, you ask, other than being a fine example of Breitling’s legendary aviator’s computing watch? Well, the 7806 has an unusual movement under the hood: a seldom seen Valjoux 7740 rather than the traditional Venus 178 of nearly all other earlier Navi models.
The manual wind 7740 is an odd duck in that it is essentially a Heuer/Breitling/Hamilton Chronomatic cal 11/12 but without the autowind mechanism (not sure how these wound up being branded “Valjoux 7740” but I guess that is a story for another day). Also unusual is the placement of the constant seconds sub-register hand at “6” while the hour counter is at “9” and the minute counter at “3,” as well as a small red date placed between “4” and “5,” another first for a Navitimer. My surmise is that the 7740 was tapped to be one of the replacements for the venerable Venus 178 in Breitling’s manual 3-register chronographs for some or other reason, along with the non-date Valjoux 7736, as you see these calibers start to appear with corresponding revised model references in the early 70s.
All that technical talk aside, this mid-1970s Navi features gorgeously patinated Tritium luminous figures on its “Big Eye” Twin Jet logo dial, colorful red slide rule accents and an oversized 41mm all-steel case in excellent condition. That gives this beautiful vintage watch great presence and panache, as well as a being a model you’re not likely to see on someone else’s wrist. It’s just the kind of interesting, low production piece that gets the attention of fellow watch collectors in general and vintage Breitling collectors in specific. Just back from a full overhaul, this is a functional tool watch for timing fast feats on land or air and from a vintage marque I actually think is underrated considering the prices being fetched by more obscure brands. So take a good look and see of you don’t want to add this classic reverse panda chrono to your collection. With this beautiful and uncommon Breitling Navitimer on your wrist, the sky’s the limit!
Got another rare watch on offer this month, this time a classic vintage Breitling sports chronograph with a twist. This one is an unusual Co-Pilot model all kitted out for yacht regatta timing. With fantastic added colors to the unique 15-minute register and a color-coded silver elapsed time bezel this reference 7650 has got “late 1960s funky” written all over it. Add to that the very large and chunky 43mm wide case, the distinctive mint green luminous on the dial and the Dayglow-orange hour, minute and counter hands and you’ve got pop art on the wrist.
Breitling was a pioneer in oversized special purpose tool watches back in the day, a trend they also helped revive in the modern era, and this Co-Pilot “Yachting” chrono is one of their most distinctive and hard-to-find designs — chances are, you won’t see another on anyone else’s wrist.
OK, so I found something else to offer this month after all. And boy, is it a beauty — a classic 1967 Breitling Navitimer with gold plated case/steel back and beautiful original “Twin Jet” dial. Very hard to find this iconic pilot’s chronograph in such nice all-original condition, as these dials are prone to moisture damage from dodgy water resistance.
“Jumbo” is a relative term in the vintage watch world. For example, you can have “Jumbo” IWC dress watches at 36mm and “Jumbo” Omega Constellations and JLC Memovoxes at 37mm. But in the (big) case of the first generation Chronomatic tool watches that Breitling produced in the late 1960s and early 70s, that adjective is well-earned, no air quotes required.
Take one of the more attractive Breitling Chronomatic designs, the reference 1809 Cosmonaute. At 47mm x 47mm the 1809 and its standard Navitimer brother, the 1806, were the original inspirations for Breitling’s modern-era oversize watches. A true 24-hour watch, the 1809’s hands circle the dial once every 24-hours as opposed to the common once-every-12-hours standard. So when the watch is showing what we normally think of as 6 o’clock it is really indicating Noon. Designed with military time in mind, it takes some getting used to and this way of telling time is certainly not for everyone, as one has to relearn how to read a watch essentially. This limited appeal accounts for the somewhat small production of Cosmonautes over the years, as you can generally find about 10 Navitimers for every one vintage Cosmo. And when you come to own one, trust me, early on you will have to give several extra glances at your wrist trying to figure out the correct time. Continue reading →