For many watch lovers, a Breitling is the epitome of a pilots’ watch. So it made sense that we include one in the pilots’ watch review in our March-April 2012 issue. For the story, we selected nine watches to accompany a trio of pilots – aerobatics champion Klaus Lenhart and his protégés Axel Schütte and Andreas Langer − while they performed an aerobatic program, specially designed for our review, in the skies above the Swabian Mountains in south Germany. Click below to read how our chosen Breitling model — the Chronomat GMT — performed under pressure.
The Chronomat GMT has a chronograph with tachymeter scale, a date display, and — always a useful function for pilots — a second time zone with 24-hour display. This last-mentioned indicator, which relies on an additional central hour hand, is a feature of the new Breitling Caliber 04, based on Caliber 01, which was developed in-house. The newer caliber boasts exactly the same traits as its predecessor: a column-wheel chronograph with vertical coupling, a 70-hour power reserve, and a COSC chronometer certificate. The Chronomat GMT performed impeccably: after it had been fully wound, it ran with an average daily gain of just 1.1 seconds, and it maintained this excellent precision when we tested it right after landing and again 24 hours later. The watch ran slightly faster when the chronograph was switched on. This is as good as it gets.
When Langer strapped the Breitling watch to his wrist, he found the bracelet to be much too long, although it could be fairly easily shortened via the screwed lugs. The size and weight didn’t bother our pilot at first, but afterwards he remarked that this big timepiece tended to get snagged.
Langer shared Lenhart’s opinion about the rotating bezel: both pilots agreed that this is a useful accessory. Langer demonstrated its usefulness by turning it into position for a specific interval, although he found the tachymeter scale along the edge of the dial too small for his taste. Furthermore, he said, “there’s always something sparkling, glittering or glaring in the sunlight,” making it more difficult to read the time. Nonetheless, the time display is more prominent than the chronograph function and is always the first thing you see, especially when the dial is viewed in the dark. A dot on the bezel glows quite clearly and helps you see at a glance where 12 o’clock is. You have to unscrew the buttons before starting the chronograph. The large, easy-to-grasp crown is also screwed down. When it is unscrewed and pulled out to its middle position, it can be used to adjust the hour hand either forward or backward, including switching the date display. This is very useful when traveling through different time zones. The 24-hour hand makes it easy to keep track of the hour in your home time zone.
BREITLING CHRONOMAT GMT
Manufacturer: Breitling SA
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph, date, GMT, tachymeter, rotating bezel
Movement: Breitling 04, automatic; diameter = 30 mm; height = 7.2 mm; 47 jewels; 28,800 vph; 70+-hour power reserve; Glucydur balance; Nivarox hairspring; Kif shock absorber; index fine regulation; decorated with Geneva waves and satin finishing; polished screws, COSC-certified
Case: Stainless steel with nonreflective sapphire crystal; water resistant to 500 meters
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless steel with folding clasp
Dimensions: Diameter = 47.8 mm, height = 18.4 mm, weight = 263 grams
+ In-house caliber
+ Multiple functions
+ Precise rate
+ Good nighttime legibility
+ Good craftsmanship and design
+ Well-known brand
– Reflections on the dial during the day
– Case tends to get snagged
– High price
To see how the other eight pilots’ watches fared in our flight test, download our Pilots’ Watch E-Special now from the WatchTime online shop for just $2.99.