The Breitling Navitimer has been the quintessential aviation watch for over 60 years, and it’s the watch that many people imagine when they think of a “pilot's chronograph.” A captivatingly busy dial with its jumble of subdials and scales makes this watch instantly recognizable and one of the most iconic watches of all time. It's full of history with a technical look and bold, eye-catching presence all at once, and it makes you feel ready to grip the controls of fighter plane.
As you likely already know, however, a watch like the Navitimer is more than a tool: it's a Swiss watchmaking masterpiece and a luxury statement that may be out of reach for many people. While Breitling makes its own affordable alternative in the form of the three-hand, time-only Navitimer 1 watch that starts around $4,400, the Navitimer that everyone knows is a chronograph. With a sourced automatic chronograph movement, you'll pay upward of $6,000 from Breitling, but with the brand's in-house B01 movement you'll be starting at over $8,000.
But not to fret, as there are some great ways to get a similar experience for a fraction of the cost. Here are three of the best:
"For $200, this is a hell of a watch." That's probably been said about countless Seiko watches, but it's no less true of the "Flight Alarm" or "Flightmaster" SNA411. Its resemblance to the Navitimer is clear, with a chronograph layout, slide rule scales and notched bezel, but it's got a charm of its own that's made it one of Seiko's many cult classics. You can set a second time zone as well as an alarm on the subdial at 6 o'clock, and of course you can expect highly reliable and accurate time-telling and chronograph functionality from the Seiko quartz movement inside.
Movement: Seiko 7T62 quartz
Water Resistance: 200m
In its three-hand iteration, the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Converter is an excellent budget analog to Breitling's own Navitimer 1 collection. It also comes in GMT and chronograph versions (both larger at 44mm), and the chronograph has the 6-9-12 subdial layout associated with movements like the ETA 7750 that's found on some Navitimers — but it's not quite as classic or symmetrical as the Navitimer 3-6-9 configuration. You're still getting all the Swiss quality Hamilton typically offers, as well as features and aesthetics that just might scratch that Navitimer itch.
Movement: ETA C07.111 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m
Sinn legitimately bought the rights to the Navitimer dial design in the 1980s as the Quartz Crisis was in full swing and Breitling was in financial trouble. The vintage Sinn 903 watches are themselves sought after, but the brand has continued to tweak and produce its version of the Navitimer up to the present day. One notable element that'll help you spot the difference right away between a Navitimer and a 903 is that Sinn's interpretation has a crown at 10 o'clock for turning the inner rotating bezel (where as Breitling's bezel is directly manipulated), as well as a 41mm case.
Movement: La Joux-Perret 8000 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m