The 80s weren’t the best time for watchmaking; in the aftermath of the Quartz crisis, there weren’t all that many brands creating new, purely mechanical watches and didn’t seem to be much point in doing so. Breitling though decided to go against the grain and in 1984 built the Chronomat. Just under four decades on and the new and improved Chronomat is set to be the cornerstone of Breitling’s 2020 releases.
Rather than the pure aviator style of the Navitimer or the more elegant proposition that is the Premier, the Chronomat is designed as an all-purpose sports watch. What that means in actuality is a watch that doesn’t really have a specialism – it’s not a true diver or pilots watch – but that occupies the middle ground that comes from everyday wear. In other words, the Chronomat is designed to be a jack of all trades.
That versatility is underpinned by the rugged, tool watch case but more specifically by the rider tabs on the rotating bezel. A handover from the 80s original, the tabs at 3 and 9 o’clock are interchangeable, and can be swapped over depending on if you want to use the bezel for counting up or down. It’s a novel touch, but still not the most recognisable aspect of the Chronomat; that accolade goes to the bracelet.
The Rouleaux bracelet is one of the more unusual out there, with its rounded, cylindrical links. It’s designed for comfort and, given the rounded shapes certainly looks to fit the bill. Either way, it’s eye-catching and sets the Chronomat collection apart from the greater Breitling stable.
Each of the chronographs is powered by the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, which has more significance than you might expect for the Chronomat. The movement was introduced a decade back; the watch it was house in? The Chronomat 01. This revamped collection was always going to use the in-house calibre, which includes an impressive 70-hour power reserve.
In terms of colours, Breitling has pushed the proverbial boat out. The standard models are all available in a 42mm stainless steel case, with silver, copper, blue or black dials. The subdials on the first three are in black; on the last in silver. Or you can opt for a two-tone number, with rose gold chronograph pushers, crown and rider tabs and either tone-on-tone silver or blue dials or anthracite with black subdials. If you really want to push the boat out, there’s also a full rose gold version, though that doozy comes without the signature Rouleaux bracelet.
The collection even contains the latest Breitling for Bentley timepiece, but given that the only difference there is a green dial and a touch of automotive-themed engraving on the caseback, there’s not much to say. More intriguing is the first new Chronomat limited edition, the Frecce Tricolor.
Based on the 1983 piece that inspired the first Chronomat (other than the 1940s watch, obviously), the limited edition takes inspiration from the 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico, Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale, the acrobatic team of the Italian Air Force, better known as the Frecce Tricolori. That means the squadron’s logo in place of Breitling’s own, a lovely blue dial with matching subdials and a limited edition of 250 pieces. Finally, a Breitling squad we can get on board with.
The Chronomat name has been around since the 1940s and an important part of the Breitling collection since the 80s; now it’s back and with this many pieces launched at once, looks to be a new Breitling flagship. Still, time will tell if a watch designed to do everything will appeal to everyone as well.
Price & Specs:
Model Name(s): Chronomat B01 42, Chronomat B01 42 Bentley, Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition
Ref: AB0134101G1A1/AB0134101K1A1/AB0134101C1A1 or AB0134101B1A1 (silver, copper, or blue with black contrasting chronograph counters or black with silver contrasting chronograph counters)
AB01343A1L1A1 (Chronomat B01 42 Bentley – green with black contrasting chronograph counters)
AB01344A1C1A1 (Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition – blue with tone-on-tone chronograph counters)
IB0134101G1A1 (silver with tone-on-tone chronograph counters)
UB0134101C1U1 or UB0134101B1U1 (blue with tone-on-tone chronograph counters or anthracite with black contrasting chronograph counters / two-tone Rouleaux bracelet)
RB0134101B1S1 (anthracite with black contrasting chronograph counters)
Case: 42mm diameter x 15.10mm height, stainless steel, two-tone stainless steel and 18k red gold or 18k red gold (ref. RB0134101B1S1)
Dial: Silver, copper, or blue with black contrasting chronograph counters or black with silver contrasting chronograph counters, blue with tone-on-tone chronograph counters (Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition), green with black contrasting chronograph counters (Chronomat B01 42 Bentley)
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, self-winding mechanical, bidirectional with ball bearing, COSC-certified
Power reserve: 70h
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Functions: Hour, minute, second, date window
Strap: Stainless-steel Rouleaux bracelet with butterfly clasp, two-tone Rouleaux bracelet (stainless steel and 18k red gold) with butterfly clasp (ref. UB0134101C1U1 or UB0134101B1U1) or black Diver Pro II rubber strap with an 18k red gold folding clasp (ref. RB0134101B1S1)
Price: EUR 7,900 (steel), EUR 8,100 (Bentley & Frecce Tricolori), EUR 8,950 (silver with gold rider tabs), EUR 11,600 (two-tone), EUR 19,000 (18k red gold)
More details at Breitling’s website.