Breitling’s output of new models at Baselworld 2016 was small compared to recent years, but featured some notable innovations, including an all-new, proprietary case material in the Avenger Hurricane and, in the new, limited-edition Breitling Heritage Superocean Chronoworks, a re-engineered movement with a 100-hour power reserve.
Breitling’s Chronoworks department, headquartered at the brand’s manufacture in la Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, is the equivalent to a team of engine-tuning experts in the automotive world, tasked with developing and testing performance-upgrading technologies that can subsequently be introduced in series-produced watches. Breitling describes the well-equipped Chronoworks lab as a “think tank and a test bench for tomorrow’s technologies.” For this new watch, the experts at Chronoworks turned their attention to Breitling’s in-house, COSC-chronometer-certified base Caliber 01, ultimately incorporating five new technological advancements that enhanced the movement’s energy efficiency, reduced friction, and pumped up its already impressive 70 hours of winding autonomy to a full 100 hours.
The five advancements consisted of the following:
• Ceramic baseplate and gear-train bridges. The first optimization involved the movement chassis (baseplate and gear-train bridges). To reduce friction due to the pivoting of the arbors, Breitling constructed the movement chassis (the baseplate and gear-train bridges) from a high-tech ceramic —hexagonal boron nitride — which was already being used as a solid adjuvant in high-performance engine lubricants, but is applied here for the first time in mechanical watchmaking. Thanks to an extremely low friction coefficient, the arbors can pivot directly in the baseplate and bridge holes without any wear or energy loss – and also without any lubricant, thereby eliminating 11 of the base movement’s 47 jewels.
• Silicon wheels. Contrary to what one might think, a watch movement is actually at rest for 95 percent of the time, with each “restart” resulting in a certain loss of energy. To counteract this inertia, Breitling outfitted its caliber with three wheels (center wheel, third wheel, fourth wheel) made of silicon, a material twice as light as traditional materials used for these components, thus making them it easier to set back into motion. Breitling also revised the geometry of these wheels, made using deep-reactive iron etching (DRIE), to make their structure more rigid and thus avoid any distortion of the spokes.
• Silicon escapement. The escapement is the part of the movement where most of its energy losses take place. Here, Breitling maintained the Swiss lever escapement used in the base movement but replaced the wheel and lever with ones made of silicon. This served to reduce weight and thus inertia, and eliminated the need for pallet jewels, thereby enhancing precision in terms of shapes. To ensure more efficient transmission of the energy from the barrel, the Chronoworks team also revised the profile of the teeth and pallets, and ensured a banking-free angular limitation of the lever to further increase reliability. The overall result is a 42% gain in efficiency for one of the movement’s most vital organs.
• Variable-inertia balance. Balance-wheel oscillations are generally adjusted by modifying the active length of the balance-spring using pins, an operation that can disturb chronometry (precision timekeeping). The Chronoworks specialists opted instead for a variable-inertia balance, adjustable via four tiny gold weights situated around the rim. To free this component from temperature sensitivities and maintain the same rate precision in every circumstance, they combined a nickel felly (ring) with a cross (spoke) made of brass, using the metal’s expansion/contraction to modify the inertia. When the temperature rises, the cross expands and “pulls” the felly towards the center, thus reducing inertia. This system reinterprets the principle of bimetallic balance wheels by leveraging state-of-the-art production technologies (LIGA).
• Elastic toothing. This tiny organ, a key nerve center in a vertical coupling-clutch chronograph mechanism like the one in Caliber 01, is responsible for connecting the base movement and the wheel bearing the sweep-seconds hand (chronograph wheel and pinion). This set of one arbor and two wheels (2 mm in diameter) generally displays a small amount of play that can lead to jerking, a process generally dealt with by using a “friction spring” but still responsible for a 15 percent energy loss. Rather than compensating for this play by braking, the Chronoworks specialists equipped the two wheels with elastic toothing molded in the shape of the opposite teeth, by means of a nickel-phosphorous structure. This solution prevents energy losses and ensures identical autonomy whether or not the chronograph function is activated.
By reducing the friction and the inertia of mobile components, while ensuring optimal running of the base movement and the chronograph, these five measures jointly led to a significant increase in the energy efficiency, enabling Breitling to equip this version of Caliber 01 with a slimmer – and thus longer – spring, which increased the power reserve from 70 to 100 hours, a 45 percent gain. A longer power reserve is not only more convenient for the user, who can now leave the watch idle for four days before needing to rewind it; it also contributes to improved precision. The higher the power reserve, the less the force of the spring dwindles during the first 24 hours, thereby guaranteeing enhanced regularity of the movement rate.
The first Breitling watch to showcase these advancements, from the brand’s Superocean Héritage family, launches this year in a 100-piece limited edition. The Breitling Superocean Héritage Chronoworks is an all-black model with a new matte ceramic case, measuring 46 mm in diameter and featuring a ratcheted, rotating divers’ bezel and a curved sapphire crystal with glareproof coating on both sides. The “Volcano”black dial has pointed hour-markers echoing those on the 1957 Superocean, this watch’s vintage inspiration. Its tricompax design features 30-minute and 12-hour subdial counters for the 1/4-second chronograph function, along with a small seconds subdial and a date window at 4:30. The transparent caseback provides a view of the performance-optimized (and still COSC-certified) Chronoworks movement and its black winding rotor. The watch, which is water-resistant to 100 meters/330 feet, comes on Breitling’s “Aero Classic” woven rubber strap, whose look and texture is inspired by the original watch’s woven steel bracelet. The Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronoworks will be priced at $39,295.
Scroll down to see live photos taken of the watch and its movement at Baselworld.