Watches of Knightsbridge, London, 21 March 2015
Sold for £6,690
Vintage Breitling Navitimers often seem strangely undervalued, so it was refreshing to see this original and honestly patinated 1950s Reference 809 model achieve 50 per cent more than its low estimate. Breitling fans will know well the story of the Cosmonaute, which was developed at the behest of Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter who, as a US Navy test pilot, had worn a conventional Navitimer during the Korean war. It was his suggestion to add the 24-hour dial for space use, a tweak that was subsequently embraced by pilots of all altitudes.
This example featured the desirable beaded bezel and carried the mark of the AOPA – the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association – suggesting it was used as an aviator’s watch. Ironically, the Navitimer’s famous circular slide rule which pilots can use to make speed, distance and fuel consumption calculations was the very thing that led NASA to reject it for astronauts’ use; it was considered a potential weak spot.