Fratello Christmas Special: Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 & Breitling Navitimer 806 A Long-Term Review of Two of 2019's Best by Michael StocktonDecember 25, 2019 MIN READFratello Christmas Special: Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 & Breitling Navitimer 806
It’s time for our annual Fratello Christmas Special, where we take a long look at a special watch. This year, we choose two with the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary in gold and the Breitling Navitimer ref.806 1959 Re-Edition.
We’re well aware that both the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 and the Breitling Navitimer have been reviewed ad nauseam during 2019, so why have we returned to such a well-trodden subject? That’s an easy one to answer because we happen to have both side by side and your author has worn both extensively for well over a month. Consider it a chance to hear the specs once more, if only briefly, but to hear more about what it’s like to live with either of these immensely successful pieces day in and day out (heck, my parent’s dog even gave the Speedy a nip!). We know that they’re both long sold out, but perhaps you’re thinking of finding one on the secondary market. We hope this article will give you a deeper impression and help you make a more informed decision on what are two of the most highly regarded releases of 2019.
The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 – 1,014 Pieces
The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 was released on March 12, 2019 and we covered it live. Unless this is your first time reading us, we were so smitten with this watch that a few of us from the team ordered one. At a list price of 32,300 Euros (!!), this was no small task, but whispers within the hallowed halls of Omega suggest that more than double the 1,014 pieces made of these artfully crafted Moonshine gold chronographs could have been sold with ease. Nonetheless, Omega turned off the spigots at 1,014, which happens to be the same number of gold BA145.022’s that were made 50 years before. Speaking of that older edition, the new one looks very similar, but it has been updated with a brand-new movement and new materials.
Don’t worry, the manual wind movement remains and it still has its roots in the original Lemania 861, but this one – the 3861 – now has a Co-Axial escapement, METAS chronometer certification, and finally hacks. Regarding packaging, Omega recreated its famous crater box, but used 3D printing in order to do so. Yes, everything is as it was 50 years ago when man first walked on the moon, but it’s been brought forward to 2019 specs. We’ll show more of the details shortly.
Breitling Navitimer ref.806 1959 Re-Edition – 1,959 Pieces
Shortly after the release of the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11, we were shown the new and limited Breitling Navitimer ref.806 1959 Re-Edition at Baselworld 2019. Actually, our man with an eye for things, Bert, shuttled up and back to Zürich in order to go hands-on with the new Navi before the release. Yes, we were that excited to see it. You see, Breitling had been staging a well-orchestrated come back under the helm of Georges Kern for nearly a few years now. We love the new Premier and the rest of the lineup have all changed for the better, but us vintage curmudgeons were longing for a real nod to the brand’s voluminous back catalog. With the 806 Re-edition, we got it and it arrived in spades. Breitling gave us an amazingly faithful reissue of a 60 year old “all black” Navitimer and with the man widely considered as THE foremost vintage Breitling expert onboard to help navigate its inception, Fred Mandelbaum, the project debuted as an instant success. At 7,700 Euros, this is also not an inexpensive watch, but all 1,959 pieces sold within days and proved that despite some dark years for the brand starting in the 90’s up until a few years back, fans were hungry for some good old slide rule. Breitling went so far as to develop a new chronometer- certified manual-wind caliber (the B09) based off of its automatic caliber 01. They even added touches such as hand-applied lume to the dial and Fred dusted off all kinds of calipers to measure font thicknesses, hand widths, and beaded bezel diameters to ensure that the 0.1% of us would be pleased. Like the Omega before, the Breitling is a tour de force and we think it’s a serious sign of what’s to come. But we’re here to talk about what these watches are like to wear today.
The Omega Can Take a Beating…or Biting
Yes, that’s right, my parent’s dog locked down on my arm while we were playing and one of her canines caught on the edge of the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 bracelet. The Speedy shook it off and asked for more. But more than that, it should tell you that I’ve been so at ease in wearing this watch that I didn’t even think to remove it when engaging in some horse – err, dog – play. It should come as no surprise, but since I took delivery of this new Omega more than a couple months back, it’s rarely left my wrist. It is unequivocally the best watch I’ve ever owned and it gives me an immense amount of pride and joy whenever I fasten it to my wrist. But as a dyed-in-the-wool vintage guy, wouldn’t I rather have an original gold BA145.022 Speedmaster? My answer is an atypical “no”.
A Bracelet Worth Raving About…
With the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11, the company managed to create a watch that’s incredibly faithful to its antecedent, but modern-day technology has made it every day wearable. I hate to start with the bracelet, but we’ve been so damn critical of Omega’s bracelets in the recent past that had they gone down the path of creating something with a huge clasp and block end links, I would have rescinded my order. Well, they didn’t, and I didn’t. Omega built an absolute gem of a bracelet with end links that do not come out past the case while allowing the first link to fold 180-degrees under the watch. The whole thing articulates beautifully and gives that vintage feel while imbuing the owner with confidence due to solid links.
The clasp remains faithful to the original with its 14mm width (that’s a dramatic taper down from 20mm at the lugs) and keeps from adding unnecessary thickness or length. And my word this 42mm watch is comfortable. It’s damn heavy, but it’s very wearable. Coming back to the clasp, it’s beautifully finished and when the two side buttons are released, this reveals the only steel-colored implement I can find on the watch: the locking pin.
Hell, even the clasp and end link spring bars are done in gold tone! Now, you can see that in less than three months, that svelte clasp has borne the brunt of daily abuse. It’s scratched and clearly not as it was, but I honestly don’t care. This new Moonshine alloy will scratch, but that’s life with 18K gold no matter what’s been thrown into the melting pot.
Sapphire = No Issue
The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary in gold uses a sapphire crystal in lieu of the trademark Hesalite acrylic that fans hold so dear. I’ll admit I was skeptical of this choice in the beginning, but I’ve literally never thought of it since taking ownership. Yes, I’ve had experience with a sapphire Speedy after receiving the Tokyo 2020 “Rising Sun”, but it works even better here. Perhaps that’s due to the relatively bright solid gold dial with onyx markers and the fact that the anti-reflective coating actually brings things down a notch. But it’s also a real help in day to day wearing where concerns about the occasional door jamb knock or scrape when hoisting luggage into an overhead could make for regular dates with Poly Watch. Ditto that with the impressive ceramic bezel inlay. I promise I won’t purposely wear this watch when doing DIY, but it’s nice to know that it should essentially look the same in 50 years from now after regular wearing.
People do give you looks when you’re wearing a wrist monster like the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11. After all, it’s a serious chunk of gold on the wrist. The Moonshine color may help it blend in with skin tones more so than normal yellow gold, but it’s still loud and proud. I’ve met people who love the watch and I’ve met others who still find it garish and a bit obnoxious. And then I’ve met those who have warmed to it over time once they appreciate its details. And just a word on walking around with what amounts to a pretty darn nice car on one’s wrist; I choose not to bring it to some locales or to keep it concealed in some situations. For example, I found myself grabbing the rails on the tube in London with my right hand. In places like Sedona, Arizona or Napa Valley, California I didn’t care at all and was probably pretty anonymous amongst the fleet of gold Daytonas, AP’s, and Hublots that were on near-constant display. And to address some silly concerns about pairing the watch with certain clothing? I wear it with everything. Heading to Starbucks in jogging pants? Check. Suit and tie? Absolutely. Jeans and (cowboy) boots? Yep. Would I wear it to the pool? Probably not, even though it has 50 meters of water resistance.
A Display Back to Put on Display
One last thing worth mentioning on the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 is the case back. I don’t dislike a display back as much as Robert-Jan, but I really could care less. Much like watch packaging, these are details left to the unseen once the initial newness fades. But on this watch, the case back treatment is masterfully done. The cal. 3861 is a beauty and the gold plating really helps it match the overall sumptuousness of the rest of the watch.
Things like the addition of the moon (made of meteorite) and the earth in perfect diametric proportion are just lovely adders that subtly inform you that this is a special piece. I check out the case back on this watch more than on any other. I like the detail and I like the reminder of what it signifies. And how about using the new movement? It winds so smoothly and for what feels like forever; the power reserve is conservatively estimated at 50 hours. The historically correct stubby pushers activate smoothly as well. The bottom line is that the new movement is a legit successor to the 1861. Let’s see where it ends up next!
The Breitling is So Good it Looks Old
If the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 stands out for being decadent, the Breitling Navitimer ref.806 1959 Re-Edition makes its mark for being incredibly faithful to the watch that inspired it. If that sounds like I’m giving it the cold shoulder, think again. I made mention that the work done on this watch to achieve such accuracy is nothing short of a miracle in today’s world where dollars and cents count more than ever. But no, it’s not a flashy sparkly piece like the Omega and that’s perfectly ok.
The Breitling Navitimer you see here happens to be from the collection of Fred and he was kind enough to allow me to use it for more than a month to get a real impression of how it stacks up versus watches new and old. I mentioned to you that the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 has rarely left my wrist. Well, if it has, there’s about a 99% chance that the Breitling took its place.
Finally, a Vintage Style Navitimer that Can “Weather” a Storm
I think the big question for me was whether one could wear this Breitling Navitimer as a daily watch. If you’ve read my reviews of vintage Navis and Cossies, you’ll recall that I’ve discussed how these watches are so non water resistant that they probably belong in a desert. Seriously, they’re afraid of moisture and that makes looking at the weather report a must when deciding whether or not to sport one for the day’s activities. Well, I’m pleased to say that the new model is good for 30 meters of water resistance and that gave me a ton of confidence. I happened to bring the Navi to Bergamo, Italy and Bratislava, Slovakia and it was pouring buckets on both trips. I never feared for the big 41mm Breitling and it performed without issue during those crazy Christmas Markets!
Referring to the historical accuracy of the Breitling Navitimer, it sounds silly but it creates a bit of a challenge for the brain – especially if you happen to own an actual vintage Navi from 1959 like I do. I’ve worn a lot of good reissued watches – the fairly recent Speedmaster 60th Anniversary being a good example – but I’ve never worn a watch that looks as old as this one does.
A quick glance will absolutely convince you that this is a true vintage piece and that, to me, is a real signal of its success. That hand-applied lume is really something; there’s none of the artificial sheen that’s ever present on the machine-painted stuff. Speaking of glances, I met people who like watches and those who are really into watches. All of them fell in love with this piece and were instnatly dismayed to learn that it was long gone! It’s a real charmer and the mass of details on the dial make it endearing versus ugly.
A Highly Versatile Piece that Goes with Anything
On the wrist, this newest Breitling Navitimer fits perfectly and goes well with just about anything. It’s thin enough to slide under a shirt sleeve, but bold enough to wear with jeans and something like a flannel. One thing you’ll note is that I moved away from the factory black leather strap with side stitching. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I like how the brown sets off the dial and gives it an even more rough and tumble vintage look. Horses for courses…. But to be clear, everything from reptile to a NATO would work well on this lovely pilot’s watch.
The New Caliber B09 is a Gem
As far as differences versus the old model, we’ve discussed the fact that the Breitling Navitimer 806 Re-Edition can travel through weather, but the creation of the new manual-winding B09 is really big news. As mentioned, it’s based on the in-house Caliber 01 automatic chronograph movement and that means a chronometer-certified column wheel engine. I can only imagine how tempting it would have been for Breitling to have kept things self-winding, but I’m so glad they didn’t.
As you can see, it’s nowhere near as “skeletonized” as the 3861 found on the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11, but the fact that Breitling created a new movement just for this watch (and hopefully others in the future) is significant. This creates a couple cosmetic differences versus the original from 1959. Notably, the crystal is more highly domed to make room for the stack of hands. Also, the pushers are at a further distance from the crown than the original. But none of those things are an issue; I even like the more highly domed crystal more than the flattish piece on the original. Winding the B09 is interesting in the sense that it’s barely perceptible, but if you put the watch to your ear, that big signed crown is doing its thing. The pushers are a tad stiff, but I’d say that’s on account of this being a brand-new piece that needs to be broken in a tad. All in all, this new Navi is one seriously fantastic product.
The watch crowd might complain that brands are relying too heavily on reissuing older models instead of coming up with new designs. I hear that, but honestly, both of these storied companies are now making a wide selection of attractive new models. And while we might be more accustomed to Omega coming up with vintage-inspired watches, this is a new game for Breitling and we welcome that! And here’s another thing: watches are watches and if they’re good, who cares if they pull heavily from good old designs? I’m simply a huge fan of these classic watches that are now hitting the market with modern technology. In the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 and the Breitling Navitimer 806 Re-Edition, we have two very different watches in terms of price and materials, but their missions are similar. They celebrate the past while bringing in the future by showing what each company can offer as far as effort and innovation. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that each can be worn every day without apology. Kudos to both Omega and Breitling for bringing us some seriously good hardware this year; my guess is that you wouldn’t be disappointed with either. And finally…Merry Christmas from Fratello Watches!
For more information on the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11, visit the official Omega site.
For more information on the Breitling Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition, visit the official Breitling site.
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About the author
Michael was born in South Florida in the USA. As a full-time role, he works in the Automotive Industry. He's lived and worked in many locations and when he's not cruising at 30,000 feet, he calls Germany home. Michael became… read more
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