With the Super Chronomat, Breitling revives a model from the 1980s – including a roller bracelet with an integrated GMT module. We give it a hands-on test in this feature from the WatchTime archives.
When it comes to mechanical watches that were introduced in the ’80s, not that many models are still remembered today. But Breitling’s Chronomat is one of the most memorable. With screwed-on cursors atop its bezel, a semicircular crown and a distinctive roller bracelet with optional integrated GMT module, it harmonized with the spirit of the times while simultaneously standing out from the crowd.
The Chronomat lived on at Breitling as a line of watches, but they were visually adapted to keep pace with the changing zeitgeist. The manufacture revived many features of the original design with the premiere of the revised Chronomat in 2020. Breitling followed suit in 2021 with the premiere of the 44-mm Super Chronomat, our test watch, which also resurrects the little GMT quartz watch in the bracelet. Rather than merely resuscitating a historical chronograph, Breitling has adapted and updated it for the present, thus cultivating a style that the brand’s boss Georges Kern likes to call “modern retro.” This is particularly noticeable in the more striking styling of the case, the modern black ceramic bezel and the timeless design of the dial.
The steel case completely abandons the roundness of the original ‘80s design. It has a satin finish with glossy polished edges and an attached crown protector, which, like the case, also shows profiled lines and alternating matte and shiny surfaces. The fluted crown and the push-pieces recall the original, and the winding crown is slightly domed. Two new details: the chronograph’s buttons are screwed down and are partly made of black ceramic. This same scratch-resistant high-tech material is used for the calibrated scale of the rotating bezel and for the inlays in the bezel’s cursors. Otherwise, the rotating bezel and the distinctive bracelet are the two features that most clearly refer to the original model. The historical reference is further affirmed by 12 characteristic non-recessed screws along the bezel’s rim and four attached cursors atop the bezel to mark 0, 15, 30 and 45 minutes.
As on the original models, the two markers for 15 and 45 can be interchanged to create a countdown scale. Incidentally, the edges of the cursors are less sharp than they were in the past. The bezel can be rotated in one direction only, so this pilots’ watch is also suitable for divers — and all the more so because its robust case resists pressure to a depth of 200 meters. The zero index on the bezel glows in the dark, as do the numerals 15, 30 and 45: these practical features enhance nighttime legibility.
The dial’s design preserves the ‘80s-style baton-shaped hour indexes and the sharp tips on the hands, while the flange remains faithful to the original with its tachymeter scale and hundredths calibration. The hands and indexes now have larger polished surfaces for a more elegant look. The subdials are highlighted in silver and partially decora-ted with concentric grooves. The elapsed-seconds hand looks quite sporty thanks to its red color. Unfortunately, the small silver hands don’t contrast very boldly against the silver background of the subdials, which makes these little indicators somewhat difficult to read, although luminous material on the hands improves their legibility in the dark. Breitling symmetrically and unobtrusively integrated the date display into the elapsed-hours counter at the 6. The GMT module is not particularly large, but it’s big enough to be read quite well by day and by night. The module’s trapezoidal supportive plate and the 5-minute calibrations on the scale along the wide bezel are also reminiscent of the original model.
The rouleaux bracelet is the biggest homage to the historical model. The bracelet is aptly named because rouleaux is the French word for “rollers.” Close scrutiny discovers that each link in the bracelet consists of two slightly oval elements. Two rings on every second roller connect adjacent links and resemble their forebears on the original bracelet. As in the past, the polished surfaces of the rings contrast with the satin-finishing on the main part of the link. Beveled and polished edges on the bracelet match the case. The bracelet’s design prevents it from pinching the little hairs on the top of the wrist and assures a comfortable fit on the arm. A secure hold and ease of operation are provided by the nearly invisible butterfly clasp, which doesn’t press uncomfortably against the underside of the wrist. The closure is even easier to operate because it makes no difference which side you press down first when you close the clasp. Here, too, the workmanship is tidy and the gaps between adjacent components are narrow.
After you slip this watch off your wrist, you can peer through the sapphire crystal in the back of its case and admire its manufacture caliber. The handsome architecture of Breitling Calibre 01 reveals many of the chronograph’s mechanisms. Breitling isn’t stingy with the decorations here: the appealing finishing touches include sunburst patterns, Geneva waves, polished heads on the screws, and edges that are both beveled and polished. The base plate, on the other hand, is not polished, and the levers and springs are massive but stamped rather than milled. These details lead us to suspect that Breitling’s designers also had the costs of producing the movement in mind. But the manufacture did not skimp on the chronograph’s control mechanism, which relies on a clearly visible column wheel. This traditional and elaborate system also reduces the amount of pressure needed to trigger the chronograph’s buttons.
A moderate amount of force is nevertheless required to start the chronograph. This is due to the lever ratio with which the column wheel moves the zeroing lever away from the zeroing hearts when starting for the first time. Afterward, less pressure is required to stop the chronograph and return it to zero. Incidentally, the push-pieces must be manually unscrewed prior to operation.
We were pleased to see that the escape wheel is equipped with shock absorbers, which make it better able to withstand impacts. Fine adjustment of the rate is accomplished with aid of a regulator. Present but hidden: modern vertical coupling, which reliably prevents the elapsed-seconds hand from jumping or shuddering when the chronograph is started. The movement not only advances the date instantly, but also enables its user to adjust the calendar and the time display at midnight without causing any damage to the underlying mechanisms. A lengthy power reserve of 70 hours is another welcome feature. This interval is long enough to let the wearer slip off the Super Chronomat on Friday evening and slip it on again Monday morning without having to wind its mainspring or reset its displays.
Breitling also has all its movements tested for chronometer-worthy accuracy. Our timing machine accordingly measured good values: deviations among the several positions remained between +1 and +5 seconds per day; the calculated average daily deviation was a pleasingly low 3.8 seconds; and the balance’s amplitude declined only slightly when the chronograph was switched on. In fact, wearing this model with the stopwatch running slightly improves the accuracy so that the watch keeps time with a very small gain of just 3 seconds per day.
Our test watch is technically and visually convincing despite — or perhaps because of – its combination of retro and modern elements. The Super Chronomat is a bit like the Bentley of the watch world: stately, as sporty as it is elegant, meticulously crafted and, with the GMT module, endearingly quirky.
Manufacturer: Breitling Chronometrie, Allée du Laser 10, 2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Reference number: AB0136251B1A2
Functions: Hours, minutes, continually running seconds shown on a subdial, chronograph with central elapsed-seconds hand and counters for 30 elapsed minutes and 12 elapsed hours, date display, second time zone shown on small quartz watch integrated into the bracelet
Movement: Manufacture Calibre 01, automatic, chronometer, 28,800 vph, stop-seconds function, quick-set date, 47 jewels, fine adjustment via regulator and eccentric screw, Kif shock protection, Glucydur balance, 70-hour power reserve; diameter = 30 mm, height = 7.2 mm
Case: Stainless-steel case with ceramic bezel, flat sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides, screw-down crown and push-pieces, fully threaded back with window of sapphire crystal, water resistant to 200 m
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless-steel bracelet with secure butterfly clasp
Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours, with chronograph switched off/on):
Dial up +4/+4
Dial down +5/+5
Crown up +1/0
Crown down +5/+5
Crown left +5/+4
Greatest deviation 4/5
Average deviation +3.8/+3
Flat positions 285°/279°
Hanging plies 254°/246°
Dimensions: Diameter = 44 mm, height = 14.45 mm, weight = 213 g
Variations: Without GMT module (Ref. AB0136251B1A1, $9,000); with rubber strap and no GMT module (Ref. AB0136251B1S1, $8,500); with red-gold case and rubber wristband (Ref. RB0136E31Q1S1, $23,650)
Bracelet and clasp (max. 10 points): Tidy craftsmanship and excellent
design distinguish both the eye-catching Rouleaux bracelet and butterfly clasp. 9
Case (10): Alternating satin and polished surfaces, high pressure resistance, rotating bezel with scratch-resistant ceramic calibrations and screwed-on cursors. 8
Dial and hands (10): Finely detailed dial with applied indexes, recessed contrasting subdials with concentric grooves, flange with printed scales. 9
Design (15): A successful mix of modern and retro design with appealing references to the 1980s Chronomat. 13
Legibility (5): Ample luminous material, also on the bezel, improves nighttime legibility, but low contrast between hands and dial interferes with quick reading of the time and the elapsed time during the day. 3
Operation (5): The screw-down push-pieces make operation somewhat difficult, but little force is required. The screw-down crown and rotating bezel are easy to operate. The movement is equipped with a stop-seconds function to facilitate to-the-second time setting. 4
Wearing comfort (5): The steel bracelet is comfortable, but lacks a mechanism for quick adjustment. 4
Movement (20): The handsomely decorated manufacture caliber is impressive thanks to a column wheel and vertical coupling for the chronograph, an instantaneously advancing date display and a long power reserve. 18
Rate results (10): Slight gain and only small deviations among the several positions. 9
Overall value (10): A reasonable price all in all, but buyers who opt for the GMT module must pay a costly surcharge ($1,000). 8
Total: 85 POINTS
A version of this article originally appeared in the November-December 2021 issue of WatchTime.