Hands-On: Angus Davies gets hands-on with the new Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante, a technical tour de force featuring a split-seconds chronograph movement.
The in-depth review of the Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante includes live pictures, specification details and pricing.
A few years ago, when Breitling released its Caliber 01, I was immediately impressed. In particular, I was smitten by the fully integrated Manufacture chronograph. The combination of column wheel and vertical coupling confers a smile-inducing tactility seldom found with the majority of chronographs.
Now, the Swiss watch brand has unveiled its Calibre B03, an evolution of the Calibre 01 but equipped with a split-seconds function. The split-seconds, or rattrapante (catch up), is a technically challenging complication which often commands a six-figure price, especially in the case of some ultra high-end brands.
The rattrapante features a central chronograph seconds hand superimposed upon a split-seconds hand. While the chronograph hand is operational, the split-seconds hand can be called into play, halting it and allowing an intermediate time to be measured. Pressing the push piece within the crown, causes the split-seconds hand to catch up with the central chronograph seconds hand and continue its journey.
Breitling has cleverly developed two innovations which allow the rattrapante movement to be serially produced. The first relates to an isolating system that ensures that the split-seconds hand has no impact on the accuracy of the watch, nor unduly drains the power reserve. A further invention concerns the mechanism for stopping the split-seconds hand. In this instance, Breitling’s engineers were inspired by bicycle brakes equipped with rubber brake blocks and used an O-ring and clamp to halt the appropriate wheel.
Beyond its technical prowess, an area I will return to later, the rattrapante complication is paired with one of Breitling’s best designs, the iconic Navitimer, a model which harks back to 1952.
The tri-compax dial features white subdials against a ‘Panamerican bronze’ dial. The contrast of the main dial canvas with the chaste subdials is delightful. The hour and minute hands are baton style and lined with luminescent fill.
A 30-minute chronograph register is positioned adjacent the crown, a 12-hour chronograph register is located above 6 o’clock and a small seconds display resides at 9 o’clock.
The red central chronograph seconds hand features a B-counterweight, while the fawn split-seconds hand is equipped with an anchor-shaped counterweight. The two hands virtually appear as one until the split-seconds hand is actuated. Indeed, the gap between the two hands is negligible, underscoring the technical accomplishment achieved.
The usual push-pieces at 2 and 4 o’clock operate the start, stop and the reset function. The split seconds hand is controlled by the pusher discreetly housed within the crown at 3 o’clock. While some watches equipped with a rattrapante feature a push-piece at 10 o’clock, the Breitling solution of housing the push-piece in the crown is far tidier.
Located at 4:30 is a date aperture.
Encircling the dial, on a rotatable flange, is a slide-rule mechanism, a feature found on the original Navitimer of 1952 and likely to appeal to purists. I confess that as a former owner of a Navitimer, I did occasionally use the slide rule device and adored the aesthetic appearance it conferred.
I found the 45mm steel case to be very comfortable owing to the short lugs. The scale of my arm proved suitable at accommodating this sizeable watch, however, I do wonder how some smaller wearers would cope with such a sizeable timepiece. Ideally, a smaller case option would sate the requirements of more diminutive would-be wearers.
Breitling offer the Navitimer Rattrapante in a choice of stainless steel or 18-carat red gold (limited to 250 pieces). The non-limited steel version features a solid case-back adorned with a temperature conversion table. However, the gold version features an exhibition case-back which is my preferred option. It is a shame the steel version doesn’t share the same exhibition case-back as the gold version as there is much inner beauty to be found with the beautifully appointed Caliber B03.
My loan watch was equipped with a brown crocodile leather strap with crisp white stitching. The watch is available with a steel Navitimer bracelet as well as an array of other strap options, but the comely brown crocodile leather is sublime and would be my preferred choice.
The balance of the Caliber B03 oscillates with a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and contains 46 jewels. The power reserve is an impressive 70 hours, ensuring the amplitude is consistent for most of the time, aiding accuracy.
One reason that Breitling has been able to deliver an affordable rattrapante is that it has simplified the construction of the movement.The split-seconds mechanism comprises of just 28 parts. This approach not only aids production but saves time when servicing or repairing the movement.
The Manufacture Breitling Caliber B03 is chronometer-certified by the COSC, delivering independent assurance regarding the precision of the movement.
The Navitimer is a legendary watch with legions of fans around the globe, however, in my opinion, this latest iteration of the pilot’s instrument is the finest to date. The colourway of the loan watch with its sumptuous Panamerican bronze dial was highly attractive and the contrasting subdials delivered a pleasing contrast. The dial was also an exemplar of lucidity with no misdemeanours to inhibit ease of read off.
The new Breitling Navitimer is a rattrapante, doppelchrono or split-seconds chronograph, a complication which proves incredibly challenging to bring to fruition and usually commands commensurate pricing. Nevertheless, Breitling has made this complication accessible with thoughtful engineering to mitigate the complexity of production and reduce manufacturing costs accordingly. Furthermore, the simplicity extends to servicing and repairs which should prove less labour intensive and, as a result, cheaper.
While I found the case granted a comfortable union with my wrist, it would be good to see Breitling offer a smaller case option for prospective purchasers with smaller wrists.
The Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante is blessed with an array of attributes and the watch proves a worthy addition to an impressive family of fine timepieces.
• Case: Steel; diameter 45mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres).
• Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; split-seconds chronograph;
• Movement: Calibre B03; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 46 jewels; power reserve 70 hours.
• Strap: Brown crocodile leather strap supplied on a steel pin buckle.
• Price: £9,695 (RRP as at 21.8.2017)
I would like to thank Jura Watches for kindly providing access to this remarkable timepiece.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.