The Red Arrows are one of the best aerial display teams in the world, using their experience as Royal Air Force fighter pilots to perform daring routines and commemorate national events. They have to time their manoeuvres to the exact second to avoid catastrophe, so it makes sense for their pilots to wear a pretty special watch. For the past 30 years those timepieces have been provided by Breitling and in honour of that partnership, Breitling has launched the new Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition.
When it comes to pilots watches and cockpit clocks there are few companies that can rival Breitling, in fact the company has been supplying the RAF since 1930, much longer than its exclusive relationship with the RAF’s display team. With over 100 years of experience crafting chronometers, you’d expect the flagship model, the Chronomat, to be impressive and it certainly is.
It’s the ultimate multi-purpose sports watch, designed with aviation in mind but maintaining great utility on the ground and underwater. Here, the classic model is presented with an RAF blue dial and contrasting black chronometer subdials. In a show of humility, Breitling has ceded its traditional logo placement to the Red Arrows by positioning their Diamond Nine logo at 12 o’clock instead of the watchmaker’s own. The squadron’s insignia is also presented in full colour on the transparent caseback, which is a first.
Compared with previous collaborations between Breitling and the Red Arrows, this feels like a more serious watch. The Avenger was almost ridiculous thanks to its 45mm diameter, but the Chronomat is much more respectable at 42mm, although that’s still pretty substantial. I’m also not sure that seriousness is a good thing, the Red Arrows are fun and exciting so the earnestness of the Chronomat almost feels out of place.
On the other hand, it does pay honest tribute to the history of the squadron. The watch will be limited to 160 pieces and bear the inscription ‘one of 160’, memorialising the 160 pilots who have been part of the Red Arrows since its inaugural season of 1965. Squadron leader and Red 1, Tom Bould said that working with Breitling to develop these collaborations over the years has helped them ‘showcase the excellence of the Royal Air Force and represent the United Kingdom with world-class displays.’
On the outside, it might be as patriotic as a county fete in the rain but the inside is thankfully dominated by Swiss precision. The COSC-certified Breitling calibre 01 is a classy automatic movement with an approximate power reserve of 70-hours, much longer than the Avenger’s 42-hours. Having a quality calibre makes sense, after all it was the original Chronomat in 1984 that re-popularised mechanical movements after quartz had dominated the watchmaking scene for a long time.
Rounding out this timepiece are the unidirectional ratcheting bezel with rider tabs, stainless steel case and Rouleaux bracelet with butterfly clasp. There is also the chance to get a commemorative Ettinger Double Watch Roll as a gift alongside the Chronomat Red Arrows, which will be exclusive to this limited edition.
The 160 watches are priced at £6,900, which is a fair price even though it is relatively standard timepiece in terms of its functions and specifications. And although the styling isn’t wildly innovative due to its strong resemblance to other collaborations, it’s what you’d expect from a Red Arrows timepiece. Ultimately that’s the clincher – if you’re passionate about the Red Arrows, you’ll be passionate about this watch.
Price & Specs:
Model: Breitling Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition
Case/Dial: 42mm diameter x 15.1mm height, stainless steel, blue with black dial, sapphire convex, double anti-reflective glass
Water Resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: In-house Breitling Manufacture Calibre 01, automatic, 47 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power Reserve: 70h
Functions: Hour, minute, second, date, 1/4th second, 30-minute and 12-hour counters
Strap: Stainless-steel Rouleaux bracelet with butterfly clasp
Price/Availability: £6,900, limited to 160 pieces
More details at Breitling.