Showdown: We let two icons of aviation compete - Rolex GMT-Master vs Breitling Navitimer! Which collection will earn the title of the most coveted pilot's watch?
Originally designed for professional use in aviation, pilot watches exert a special charm both in and out of the cockpit. The timepieces, that were specifically used during World War II, are considered a luxury on the wrist with innovative tool watch functions. Even in adverse conditions, pilot watches from Breitling, Rolex, IWC and other renowned brands are known for their incredible reliability - some of them have saved the lives of pilots and crew members.
The beginning of an era: the Cartier Santos is the mother of all pilot watches and also the first watch worn on the wrist of a pilot rather than in the pocket. More than a hundred years ago, Louis Cartier developed the Santos for his friend, the pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont, who has become a legend in the luxury watch industry. The history of this watch is as special as its characteristic design, with its angular case and eye-catching screws on the bracelet and bezel. In 1906 Alberto Santos-Dumont succeeded in the world's first public powered flight, making the watch a success from the start.
A Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II can be recognised from a distance: the distinctive design of the rotating 24-hour bezel is two-tone in most versions of the watch and bears nicknames such as "Coke" or "Pepsi", depending on the colour. While the bezel can be used to display the time zone, a second hour hand surrounds the dial and displays a second time zone on the bezel scale. Ultimately, it is possible to read up to three time zones in parallel and even determine which direction is north. Today, Rolex exclusively produces the GMT-Master II in 904L stainless steel, older versions have bezels in yellow gold or in black with white gold. The model is provided with sapphire crystal and a screwed crown.
The Breitling Navitimer has long since become a classic thanks to its slide rule bezel. The name of this watch comes from the combination of navigation and timer, i.e. navigation computer and chronograph. The integrated slide rule makes it easy to determine fuel consumption, flight rates, average speeds and other navigation values. The case of this watch is made of stainless steel and the bracelet is of steel or leather. Compared to the Rolex GMT-Master, many Breitling Navitimer models come equipped with an exhibition caseback and sapphire crystal.
Rolex calibre 3186 vs Breitling calibre 01: The Rolex GMT-Master II uses the manufactory calibre 3186. The movement has a 48-hour power reserve, 31 rubies and is considered to be extremely precise and reliable: The maximum gear deviation specified by Rolex is a mere ± 2 seconds in 24 hours. The calibre 3186 used in the Rolex GMT-Master II is based on the famous Rolex automatic calibre 3135, which has been supplemented by a GMT module to display a second time zone. The original calibre with GMT function was the 3085 introduced in 1985, which was used in the first GMT Master II "Fat Lady".
Since 2009, all Breitling Navitimer models have also been exclusively fitted with manufactory calibres, as Breitling established itself as a manufacturer in 2009 with the development of its first in-house movement - the B01. The first Breitling calibre 01 was used in the Navitimer and gave the chronograph the designation "Navitimer 01". The manufactory calibre meets the highest demands and is certified by the COSC as a chronometer. The movement has a power reserve of 70 hours and 47 jewels. Since the introduction of the B01 calibre, Breitling has modified its manufacture calibre several times: The B02 is the hand-wound version, which can be found in the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute 02, the B04 offers a GMT function and was installed in the Navitimer GMT, the B05 also offers a world time indication. At Baselworld 2017, the brand also presented the automatic calibre B03 as a rattrapante chronograph.
Which pilot's watch takes first place? Ultimately, the decision remains a personal choice of preference, but we have a favourite. Both models not only look back on a history rich in tradition, they are also extremely similar in the case of the materials and the glazing - apart from collector's models and special editions. The Rolex GMT-Master scores with its significantly higher water resistance compared to the Breitling Navitimer. Breitling decided to make a significant leap forward in terms of quality by improving its calibre in 2009. Both the 3186 movement used in the GMT-Master II and the movements used in the Navitimer models are COSC chronometer certified and impress with their accuracy and reliability. In terms of power reserve, the Breitling calibre B01 with 70 hours is slightly superior to the Rolex calibre 3186 with approx. 50 hours, whereas Rolex can look back on a longer ancestry in the manufacture of in-house movements. In the end, more points are given to the GMT-Master: The case with a size of 40 mm is clearly more suitable for more wrists than that of the Navitimer - 46 mm which is without question too large of a statement for some watch lovers.
Despite the higher prices, there is a distinct advantage with the Rolex GMT-Master, which is why we have chosen this watch as the winner: the value retention of the Rolex models is still unbeatable, in addition the new GMT-Master II, presented at Baselworld 2018 will contain the new, further developed calibre 3285 - a technical masterpiece. Whether Che Guevara, Pablo Picasso, or the famous Bond Girl Pussy Galore: The Rolex GMT-Master has already conquered the hearts of many famous personalities - as well as ours.
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