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March 22, 1952.
Ensign Schechter flew over Wongsang-ni in his A-1 Skyraider. It was his 27th mission as part of the Fighter Squadron 194, known as the Yellow Devils. His objective: the transportation structures that the enemy relied on for troop maneuvers.
Suddenly, a blinding light obscured his view—an enemy shell had exploded in the cockpit of his plane, ripping off the canopy.
Inadvertently, he pulled his aircraft into a cloud bank that shielded him from help—if any was coming at all.
With blood pouring over his eyes and his ears ringing with the roar of the plane’s Wright R-3350 engine, he continued to cry for help.
A voice crackled over the microphone—a familiar voice, one he’d heard every day, in the officer’s mess or in their shared berth on the Valley Forge.
The voice belonged to Lt. Howard Thayer, Schechter’s roommate. With authority in his voice, he commanded Schechter to, “Put your nose down.” He drew his plane alongside the crippled Skyraider, shouting orders to Schechter, guiding him out of North Korean airspace to an airfield about 30 miles away.
Schechter wrote, “I continued to follow Thayer’s directions, but he could see that my head kept flopping down from time to time and he doubted that I could make it to K-18, so he decided to get me down right away.”
A decision had to be made, and fast. Though Thayer urged his friend and comrade in arms to bail out of his aircraft, Schechter refused, knowing that the odds of his survival were slim to none. So Thayer searched for a solution, and found one in a disused airstrip just past the front lines.
Blinded by blood, Schechter couldn’t locate the controls for the airplane’s landing gear, so with Thayer’s cool instructions (“Flaps down, pull back a little, you’re okay, you’re okay”) ringing in his ear, brought the fighter to a sliding landing on its belly.
That same year, a watch would debut that would find its way on the wrist of pilots like Schechter and Thayer: the Breitling Navitimer.
It received its name, famously, due to its incorporation of a working slide rule bezel (taken from the earlier Chronomat) for use by pilots. There’s no question that pilots like Schechter would have found great use in pieces like this one. The Navitimer spawned an entirely new category of timepieces—wrist instruments—and its importance cannot be understated.
Undoubtedly, it found great acclaim among the members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assocation, or AOPA. Indeed, the earliest Navitimers were sold with the AOPA logo on the dial. For their part, the association claimed that the Navitimer was “completely designed and engineered to AOPA specifications.”
Early iterations of the Navitimer had black-on-black dials with white or gold printing, being replaced with the now-classic silver-on-black appearance (featured here) in 1959.
Looking at the patina on this particular Navitimer, it’s not hard to imagine it in action. Perhaps it was worn by a pilot like Schechter. Imagine what adventures it has seen, thousands of feet above land.
Stainless steel case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Breitling Navitimer Reference 806. Venus 178 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent condition with sharp lugs and light signs of use and wear in keeping with age. Dial is in very good condition with fine overall patina, particularly to the luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands. Crystal shows light crazing. Breitling signed crown.
Includes one 20mm black leather rally-style strap.
Includes box and instruction booklet