Montbrillant Legende Limited Edition – A23350
Standard Montbrillant Legende
There were differences in the dial layout which were a result of the Legende using Breitling’s calibre 23, instead of the Calibre 35 used in the Heritage. Calibre 35 included a flyback function for the chronograph and “very short time” totalisers (graduated over ten minutes and three hours). Calibre 23 forsakes the flyback function and reverts to a single “normal time” totaliser. A derivative of the same movement used in the standard Navitimer, this movement has no quick date change but does retain the hacking seconds function.
However, comparing the above images of the Montbrillant Legende Limited Edition and Navitimer Heritage now makes for an interesting horological spot-the-difference. The design cues that were transposed from Heritage to Legende LE include the tri-compax dial layout at the 3-6-9 positions, the date aperture at 4:30, the classic pushpieces and crown and the obligatory slide rule.
The most significant change from the rest of the Navitimer fraternity is the integrated bracelet which allows the case to flow effortlessly into the class leading Navitimer bracelet.
For me, this alone is worthy of the entrance fee. It totally re-invents the look of the Navitimer whilst retaining all of the classical elements that have allowed this timepiece to be continuously popular for over 60 years.
This simple (in idea but, I’m sure, not in execution) design modification gives the whole case a completely new and contemporary aesthetic. The fluid lines are strong and elegant at the same time. Breitling’s usual superb and high quality mirror finish of the case and bracelet further exacerbates this feeling of effortless crossover between utility and luxury.
The LASER engraved Limited Edition number on this rare example is yet further grounds to covet this fantastic timepiece.
The caseback is meticulously detailed and presents a conversion scale for the main aviation weights and measures.
Ergonomics are facilitated by the seemless union of the case and bracelet. For such a large watch the Montbrillant Legende wears incredibly comfortably. Despite this there is a comforting heft to the watch which commands great wrist presence. Its 47mm diameter is just over the accepted levels of breadth for my 6.5” wrists.
There are also differences between the Heritage and Legende that are not so obvious. The aforementioned diameter was increased from 43mm to, an a la mode, 47mm. Interestingly, the thickness was reduced from 15.4mm to 15mm. This may have something to do with different Calibres used. The additional girth was always going to add weight to the Legende. It weighs 224.4 grams compared to the Heritage’s 173.6 grams. The bezel is now thicker with a larger pitch for the serrated edge. Do not let the description “serrated” cause any concern. The edges have been carefully designed and perfectly finished to achieve a grip that never causes discomfort to operate.
Also, the hands have been revamped and are a close homage to one of the original Navitimer’s. They are presented in steel on this Limited Edition version and gold in the standard model. Personally, I prefer the steel variants.
The black lacquered dial is another superb amalgamation of functionality and glorious visual entrapment. I love how the sparse red detailing and seconds hand jump out of the dial.
So, the Montbrillant Legende is more of an evolution than a revolution. But why would you want to change too much of a good thing?
The Montbrillant Legende, and its elder sibling the Navitimer Heritage, will never be the best selling of the Navitimer range. However, I do believe Breitling cleverly identified a genuine market for a larger, bolder and more contemporary version of their superb and classic Navitimer, the longest running, unchanged production model ever and the quintessential pilot’s watch.
You can learn more about the history of this fabulous watch and the current Navitimer, with Breitling’s own in-house movement, by following this link:
Further reading, which may also be of interest, is the story of how the Cosmonaute, an almost identical twin of the Navitimer, was the first chronograph in space:
Having realised the potential for such a timepiece the designers had to be sympathetic to the original, so as to identify it as belonging to one of the most established watch families in history, but, at the same time, be a unique entity.
For those in the know, there is no chance of mistaking the Legende on your wrist as a Navitimer and, yet, you would be rewarded with the same practicalities and respect of the original. The initial Navitimer design was so perfect it has lasted 60 years in Breitling’s catalogue. There is little to gain from the Legende unless you aspire to something that offers the added security and legibility of the increased dimensions. Subjective reasons would include the stunning integrated bracelet with the four-pronged lug design and the additional heft.
A final mention goes to the lume. It is neither pretentious nor overdone. It is wonderful to behold and yet does no more than serve its purpose. Just like the rest of the Montbrillant Legende.
Conclusion: As with the whole Navitimer range, there are myriad elements to admire about the Montbrillant Legende. This Limited Edition version adds further interest, covetability, collectability and practicality. It is by no means perfect. Ignoring the aforementioned comments about over-zealous dimensions and heft, which are more a result of the author’s own diminutive dimensions, the Montbrillant Legende also suffers from the same Achilles Heal of the complete Navitimer range: The lack of water resistancy. 30 meters may sound good enough on paper for a watch with sporty and utilitarian aspirations but Breitling’s own manuals clearly warn against the risk of shallow bathing. Also, being constrained to only utilising the specially designed Navitimer-derived bracelet does seem a little restrictive but at least we are constrained to one of the best bracelets on the market. In addition to this the clever design of the four-pronged lugs does offer excellent ergonomics. Apart from these slight misdemeanours the Legende is a very practical and user friendly timepiece. I was initially concerned about the long term wearability of the Montbrillany Legende, due to its extended girth over the original, which I had found very comfortable in the past on both Leather and the glorious Navitimer bracelet. However, despite the considerable weight, I did not find the Legende uncomfortable or fatiguing in any way. In fact, I truly enjoyed wearing it. It is at once refined and, almost, elegant in its classically derived appearance plus also substantial and robust to offer psychological security. It works better with casual attire but doesn’t look out of place at the end of a dress shirt. This is, undoubtedly, down to Breitling’s consistent attention to detail and quality of finish.
If you desire a classical timepiece which is reminiscent of the original legend that is the Navitimer the standard model is for you. However, if you desire something a little more substantial with added legibility then this Legende is for you. The good news is Breitling has all bases covered, if you’ll please forgive the baseball parlance.
In some ways the Montbrillant Legende is the timepiece that best represents what Breitling are renowned for: The classic 60 years old circular slide rule instantly identifies this timepiece as a Breitling and is a reflection of their innovative genius. The beautifully finished oversized case with integrated bracelet and clear and legible, yet incredibly practical, dial is a reflection of Breitling’s incredible attention to detail and quality of finish plus their ability to effortlessly adapt to the times. The Montbrillant Legende maintains all of the integrity of the Navitimer.
Whether you choose the standard Legende, with its less busy dial but reduced practicality, or the Legende Limited Edition, for the opposite reasons, the decision will be purely personal. The Limited Edition status will always lend itself to added desirability. Either way you will be blessed with a fantastic timepiece that reminds us all why Breitling have been at the top of the list of Pilot’s watch designers and manufacturers for many years.
All words and images by Richard Atkins unless otherwise stated. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.