The question about dating early Navitimer models pops up quite frequently, so I took a recent request as an opportunity to sum up some - hopefully relevant and helpful - information about the basic characteristics of the first Navitimer production years between 1954 (the 1952 launch date is a Breitling myth in my opinion, shared by most other collectors - happy to be proven wrong; same applies to the incorrectly stamped 1953s) and 1963, when the serrated bezel and the Panda dials were introduced.
early pieces have "small beads" rice bead bezels; yes, u should count them
- 125 beads would indicate "the ubergrail", the first unmarked 1954/1955 V72
- 124 beads would indicate "potential grail", 1954/early1955, V72 or Venus 178
- 120 beads indicate 1956 ref. 806s, Venus 178
- 98 beads for 1957 pieces
- 93 beads for later 806s, rice beads were replaced by the serrated version in 1963.
there have been reports about a 94 bead version, not verified.
should be all black, most are marked w/ the AOPA wings at 12 and "NAVITIMER" at 6, though there were very rare pieces w/ only the AOPA wings.
Capitals "Breitling" or script "B" branding (or a combination of the two, sometimes w/ "Geneve" under the Breitling logo) would be a huge surprise, as this was only added for a small number of Navitimer 806s to be sold outside the US.
The AOPA logo is a bit different on the earliest Navitimers w/ V72, the wings are a bit "steeper", Dracha called them "shrugging wings", but not easy to see.
well, it MIGHT be the ubergrail/grail with a Valjoux V72, but most probably it will be a Venus 178; bridge must be marked BOW (Breitling USA) for watches manufactured until late 1957, only later pieces were marked WOG (Wakmann imports).
Should you be unable to open the caseback, you might measure the distances between crown and pushers; V72s are asymmetrical, on Venus 178 distances are the same.
d) serial number:
located inside the caseback, should be between 833xxx and approximately 975xxx
The most excellent overview about the early Navitimers can be found on Kurt Broendums site, http://kurt-b.com/.
I would also like to mention that board member "Dracha" did most of the bead-counting studies, he is sorely missed; his article was published here The Breitling Watch Source Forums • View topic - How to date the early Breitling Navitimers by bezel beads.
Some pics, watch pics all prepared/edited and published by "Dracha".
Ubergrail, V72 Navitimer from 1954, not marked 806 on caseback, 125 beads, a Kurt Broendum example:
Grail, V72 Navitimer from 1955, marked 806, 124 beads:
a 1956 Navitimer 806, Venus 178, 120 beads:
1957 Navitimer 806, Venus 178, 98 beads:
a 1960 Navitimer 806 as an example of later pieces (1958 onwards), 93 beads and a very, very rare multi-logo dial:
and, while I'm at it, below an example how the User Manual on true, early (1956 & 1957) Navitimers should look, might be useful for some of the members here . Some watches were shipped with the same text, but in typewritten form and Wakmann-stamped only.
From 1958 onwards the small manuals w/ the yellow covers were supplied, in use until the early 1970s.
Copyrights on this post: be so kind and link back to this thread if you are quoting content or pics from here, thanks in advance.
The "yellow manual", 1958 and later: