Breitling Resurrects Hero Aircraft to Deliver New Watches

The pilot's chronograph gets a pilot's entrance.

The Douglas DC-3 completed its maiden flight in 1935, revolutionizing the very nature of air travel. Light, smart and reliable as a sunrise, the all-metal bird’s long range and 200-plus-mph cruise speed pioneered new commercial routes, new possibilities, both in this country and around the world. The model cemented its legacy as the “Normandy Landing Plane” in June, 1944; Eisenhower counted it among his four pillars of victory in the African and European theaters. 

More than 16,000 examples of the DC-3 were built. Incredibly, less than 150 exist in flightworthy condition today.


The plane pictured here, HB-IRJ, is one of them. Originally delivered to American Airlines in March, 1940, it served under lease in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1944. Returning to civilian duty, HB-IRJ continued commercial operation for nearly five decades, operated by Eastern Express and the great Provincetown-Boston Airlines, among others. It was retired when Bar Harbour Air shuttered in 1991. 

Now, after a painstaking restoration, HB-IRJ is again taking to the skies. 

Wearing Breitling livery, the twin-engine propellor legend will kick off an ambitious, round-the-world tour this March. The trip begins in Geneva, and includes U.S. stopovers in Anchorage, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Oshkosh, New York and Boston before crossing the Atlantic, and returning to Switzerland.


It’s an epic journey, and there’ll be cargo aboard, too: Breitling is sending 500 Navitimer chronographs along for the ride. The special-edition “DC-3 World Tour” watches will be distributed to buyers at the Sion Airshow, where HB-IRJ is scheduled to land in September, completing its trip. For aviation nuts, this is dream-come-true stuff. 

Don’t have eight grand to drop on a new Navitimer? No worries. You can still follow the progress of Breitling’s DC-3 adventure online here.