Breitling Navitimer Slide Rule: Liberal Arts Majors Need Not Apply


If you don’t love math, don’t press play on this Crown & Caliber video. You’ll just hurt yourself. I realize it’s tempting. If you were born post-personal computer, you’re bound to be curious. WTF is a slide rule? Suffice it to say a slide rule is . . .

A device people used before they had access to computer power — sometime between the moment our hominid ancestors started walking upright and the first electronic calculator.

As you can see, slide rules were fiendish devices. (Visit at your peril.) Those who mastered The Way of the Rule waved them at math muggles to induce dyscalculia, to force the innumerate into a liberal arts degree, to limit the supply of engineers and, thus, assure higher wages for engineers.

That all fell apart with the advent of the calculator, not long after the original Navitimer appeared (1959 re-edition above).

Skip ahead and the entire population of chronically math averse Americans have smart phones and watches. They can simply demand that Siri provide an instant answer to the most complicated math equation. Like the one in the video: “Hey Siri, how much of a tip should I leave on this $400 meal?”

One thing’s for sure, it ain’t 20%.  Not most of the time. Most of the time it’s 15% – which you can just about calculate in your head. (Especially when the bill’s a nice round number.) Or, again, you can ask Siri.

One thing you’re never going to do: use the slide rule ring on a Breitling Navitimer to do the math.

I reckon you could round down to zero the percentage of Navitimer owners who would even think to use the watch’s slide rule function. The number of owners who’d know how, even after watching this video? Less than ten percent of the previous total. A number even closer to zero.

So why is the slide rule ring there? As Tevye told us in Fiddler on the Roof, tradition! To which I’ll add, decoration!

Combined with two other numbered rungs and three sets of tiny indices, the Navitimer’s slide rule ring gives onlookers the general impression that its wearer knows numbers. Lives in a world of numbers. Which are way more serious, way more important than words. Which makes the wearer smart AF, right?

Just don’t ask them to use the slide rule.


Leave a Reply