Navitimer 806 Restoration: Part One

A 1967 Breitling restoration project

Banner image of Breitling Navitimer movement with dial

In October of 2016 I purchased a second vintage Breitling Navitimer which I knew would be a long term project. The watch consisted of only a Venus 178 movement, dial, slide rule, and hand set. I would need to service the movement and find a case and strap for it before the project was complete. I’ve continued working on this project off and on now for a little over a year and although it’s not yet complete, I have enough documented to put up a blog post or two detailing the journey thus far.

IMG_1917The movement came nearly fully assembled but with a few prominent issues. I had noted that although a full set of hands were included, two of the sub-register hands were not mounted. Furthermore, the hour and minute hands appeared to be damaged although probably not beyond repair. The luminous paint on the dial had come lose from some of the markers, and certain bits of the chronograph mechanism were loose in the storage container.

The final sale price took into consideration these issues but I was still anxious to get the watch in hand for a hands-on assessment.

The day finally arrived when the postal carrier delivered my package so I cleared the workbench and got down to business.

Navitimer movement as it was received from the seller

I was very pleased to see that the movement was complete although the Blocking Lever, Sliding Gear, and Hammer were not installed (these comprised the loose bits floating around in the plastic storage container). The three small hands for the sub-registers were also not mounted although the pivots for these appeared to not be damaged (the hands mount on the extended pivots of the Fourth Wheel, Minute Recording Runner, and Hour Recording Runner). Strangely, there was a makeshift hand was mounted to the extended pivot of the Fourth Wheel– this hand was crudely fashioned with a poorly applied coat of paint.

As I had expected the Hour Hand was badly mangled but not cracked and I was confident I could salvage it.

The hour, minute, and sweep second hand are removed

I wound the movement to get an initial reading on the timegrapher. The reading was strong although their was a considerable beat error. This occurs when the Impulse Pin (Roller Jewel) is not properly aligned with the Pallet Fork.

On older watch movements, correcting the beat error can be a pain as the Balance Spring (hairspring) needs to be adjusted to correct the error. This is a multistep process that involves removing the Balance Cock from the movement then cradling the Balance Wheel as the collet securing spring to the wheel is (ever so slightly) rotated. Trial and error is the name of the game- you never know if your adjustment was too little, too much, or just enough until you’ve reassembled the movement and generated a new reading on the timegrapher.

Newer movements employ a beat corrector which is attached to the Balance Cock next to the Regulator. A small nudge to the corrector is usually enough to bring the watch back into beat. I counted myself lucky this later iteration of the Venus 178 had a beat corrector.

The beat corrector was probably moved by error, all other reading are pretty good

Since I had already determined that a full service would be required regardless of the timegrapher results I set about breaking the movement down for a run through the cleaner.

Dial side is neat and tidy

I began topside with the chronograph mechanism which was in fine shape except for the broken Hammer Spring.

And the topside is in quite good condition too!

The Venus 178 is a top of the line chronograph movement but you must pay special attention to where each bit goes as you take it apart. I’ll need to confirm it, but it seems to me that there are a couple more parts on the Venus 178 than the comparable Valjoux 71 chronograph movement. The screws seem to have more numerous thread sizes as well- necessitating the return of each screw to its corresponding hole before moving on to the next bit for disassembly.

The Chronograph Bridge, Chronograph Runner, and Minute Recording Runner have been removed
Disassembly of the chronograph hour recorder on the dial side of the movement

Regardless, disassembly usually proceeds quickly unless I let a screw fly into the dark recesses on my workbench. Here the chronograph layer came away quickly revealing the base movement.

The chronograph levers and springs have been removed
Ratchet Wheel and Crown Wheel removed from the “base movement”

You may notice there’s a couple of minor differences between this Navitimer movement and the one I serviced earlier. This movement is from the late 1960’s and by this time the Venus company must have been feeling pressure to reduce production costs. There’s no perlage finish like before and the Breuget hairspring has been replaced with a simpler flat hairspring. The screws also have a different finish- rounded edges instead of the sharp 90 degree angles seen on the earlier movement.

The movement is still finished in rose gold and there are improvements to be found as well- the Balance Wheel is now screwless and the beat corrector on the Balance Cock is a godsend to the technician.

I like to replace the Mainspring during service although it is not always necessary. Here I thought I would be able to reuse the original but the tail end broke off as I removed it from the Mainspring Barrel.

The Mainspring looks pretty good although it is a bit grimy
The tail end came off so I’ll replace this spring

Close inspection revealed the Mainspring Barrel also had a damaged tooth which potentially could cause the movement to stop running.

One tooth on the Mainspring Barrel is heavily damaged

Replacement barrels can be costly but before replacing it I cleaned up the tooth damage with a fine escapement file and polishing stone. I’ll reassemble the movement using the existing Mainspring Barrel and let it run several days to test the repair.

The tooth now cleaned-up, hopefully this will keep the watch running

The movement was given a solid cleaning before beginning assembly with the replacement Mainspring in hand.

All the bits and pieces ready for assembly
Gear train- first through fourth wheels
The Barrel Bridge is installed
The Dial Train and Keyless Works coming back together

I cleaned the Balance Spring with One Dip solution and reattached the Balance Assembly to the Balance Cock. I always clean the Balance Assembly separate from the movement as I just don’t trust running it through the cleaning machine. I may be overly cautious but considering how expensive these assemblies can be, I try to keep the risk of loss to a minimum.

The Balance Wheel on the Balance Cock

Once the jewels and bushings where lubricated I tested the movement on the timegrapher to confirm it was running properly.

This reading is surprisingly similar to the pre-service test

Following the successful test I let the movement run for a few days to settle, then proceeded to assemble the chronograph works.

The chronograph works are nearly complete

I installed the replacement Hammer Spring which arrived following an order from Cousins.

New vs old Hammer Spring

At this point things were looking pretty good so I moved onto the restoring the hands and finding a replacement case for the movement. You can read about this in Part Two (coming soon).


Author: JPMoeller

Amateur watchmaker and California resident

2 thoughts on “Navitimer 806 Restoration: Part One”

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