Breitling

Even though it was 25 years or so ago, I remember it with utmost clarity.  I had been working on my airplane Pilot License, through which I’m sure I found myself on Sporty’s catalog mailing list.  In those days we received about a million catalogs in the mail every month, they were the granddaddy of the internet for consumer awareness and product promotion.  I read all the ones I liked, cover to cover.  You know, the ones with cool stuff in it.  Turning the pages until finally, boom, there it was, the badasseddid watch on which my eyes had ever focused: Breitling’s Navitimer Quartz 3100.  It was among the first instruments to use a digital display with an analog type face, sort of have your cake and eat it, too.  That I liked.

The small golden (not green as were most displays in those days) digital display could show a 12 or 24 hour clock for a 2nd time zone, the date and day, an alarm clock, and a 1/100 counter.  The face was traditional, with a big hand and a small hand, without which it’s hard to use a wrist watch as a solar compass, and second hand.  Very traditional and would look just fine if not elegant with whatever style of clothing from casual to dress or formal.  In those days the digital was somewhat of a novelty, a sporty thing, but there were the inevitable guys who thought they could wear one with a suit and a tie.  Not!  The uni-directional bezel showed 360 degrees with the 4 primary cardinal directions marked.  This “Instrument for Professionals” was just way too cool.

The price was a little salty, but I liked it.  I went into high gear research mode, and, wondered how I would tell my lovely wife the price when she saw it on my wrist?

To research in those days was a little more difficult.  The folks started playing with the internet in the 60’s, but it took 30 years to develop and get to the point of AOL and Prodigy, for example.  Oh sure, my partners and I had modems and could communicate one on one, and there were quite a few universities “getting on line” with their libraries (good ole PSU for one), but even Al Gore would not recognize what the net has become.

I had already decided to buy the Breitling anyway, and, I found out the only thing I really needed to know: Breitling had been in business since 1884, the year that, coincidentally, USA adopted International Standard Time.

I had some severe standards for this investment.  I wanted to use the instrument for flying, yes, and it needed to be durable, but I also had to go to County offices begging for approvals, and, I needed to attend meetings in the board rooms in downtown Washington, D. C.  Near as I could tell, the Navitimer did exactly that.  Besides, no one (or almost no one that you will see later on really turned out to be a good thing) knew what it was.  Although Breitling had been on the wrists of soldiers and pilots for a hundred years, through both World Wars, in space both on the wrist of Lt. Commander Scott Capenter and later on seen on the international space station, and had traveled around the globe on a hot air ballon, the brand did not have what could be described as a lot of consumer awareness in the USA.

Ruggedly good looking, “cleaned up” nicely, and what turned out to be uncannily accurate over the decades, anything else was a bonus.  The time piece came with an exquisitely lovely leather band, however, and I can’t remember exactly how long after initial purchase, my lovely wife bought me for Christmas a Breitling Professional (1) stainless steel bracelet, that I wear to this day.  This Professional Breitling bracelet was well thought through given its fine adjustment features but moreover, it had an added “diver’s extension” that comes in handy over a, dah, dive suit, but also over rain gear while riding the Harley.  Nice touch.

Another nice touch, speaking of diving and the rain, which are practically synonymous in Costa Rica (saturation is saturation, no?) , the Breitling Navitimer 3100 is rated at 200M, which was pretty good back in those days.  With those time pieces rated at 50M or 100M, one can hardly wash the dishes, let alone take a shower (maybe a little hyperbolic but ask the standards folks to confirm).  Mine gets a shower everyday just to knock off the dust and the salt laden moisture. Washed and dried.

Jump forward a decade or so… I had a while back made a deal with my lovely wife and traded the pilot license for a Harley… keeps me more grounded… more down to earth… so, in a sense I’m still using the Breitling for flying.  My passport had some pages added to it and it is stuffed full of stamps from Panama, Nicaragua, our two closest neighbors, and Honduras, Puerto Rico, Bonaire and Curacao, also.  On those last three islands, by the way, while SCUBA diving the Breitling functioned admirably, as advertised.

As you might by now imagine, I can and later on will go on and on about this “Instrument for Professionals” but for now I’ll just let you know: you didn’t really think I was going to get away with having a Breitling for use for the families adventurous activities and my lovely wife not?  Hah!  Those of my fellow gender mates who have been ensconced in the age old institution of male reorientation (married a long time) know better than that.  Once while waiting for a connection at Puerto Rico over to Culebra to do a little cave diving, my lovely wife spotted at a Duty Free jewelry shop what turned out to be the perfect instrument for her and she also wears it to this very day, decades later. Quality will tell.

 

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