The first Breitling Chronomat made its debut in 1948, and instantly made history as the first wristwatch to incorporate the aviator’s slide-rule bezel that is now the hallmark of another Breitling model, the Navitimer. When the Chronomat was resurrected after a lengthy hiatus in 1984, Breitling’s 100th anniversary year, it had been substantially redesigned and became a collection mainstay in its own right. It is this 1980s version — a mechanical pilots’ chronograph boldly launched into the teeth of the Quartz Crisis headwinds — that inspires the latest and perhaps most anticipated relaunch of the new Breitling era, which began in earnest in 2017. Here’s the lowdown on the new Chronomat collection.
Developed for Italy’s famed Frecce Tricolori aerial squadron, the 1984 Chronomat was clearly influenced by aviation style, as have been so many other Breitling timepieces, but it also appealed to auto racing fans with its tachymeter-scale flange and to yachting enthusiasts with its emblematic “rider tabs” at the quarter-hours on the rotating bezel that could be gripped easily to set countdown times with the stopwatch. Both elements are present in the new Chronomats, which also ramp up the retro charm with their distinctive “Rouleau” style integrated steel bracelets with butterfly clasps. Bonus: the rider tabs at 12 o’clock and 3 o’clock are interchangeable, meaning they can be used either for tallying up or counting down the first 15-minute interval.
The watches all feature 42-mm cases, in either stainless steel or 18k rose gold, and a tricompax dial arrangement with subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock — a configuration that, as per current Breitling styling, speaks to their use of an in-house chronograph-equipped movement, Breitling’s automatic B01. Appropriately enough, that movement, whose attributes include a column-wheel chronograph architecture, a COSC chronometer certification, and a 70-hour power reserve, made its debut more than a decade ago in a Chronomat model.
The Chronomat B01 42 is available in a range of colorful variations. One model in stainless steel offers a silver, copper, or blue dial with contrasting black subdials. Another special edition, produced as part of Breitling’s longstanding collaboration with Bentley, has a dial in British racing green with black subdials and a sapphire exhibition caseback engraved with a Bentley logo. Honoring the original timepiece that inspired the 1984 Chronomat revival is the Chronomat Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition (pictured at top), with a blue dial and tone-on-tone subdials. A Frecce Tricolori logo replaces the Breitling logo on the dial, and the inscription “ONE OF 250” adorns the caseback.
On the more luxurious end, the Chronomat B01 42 is available in a steel case with rose-gold crown, pushers, and rider tabs and a silver dial with silver tone-on-tone subdials. On another model, the entire bezel is made of rose gold, along with the pushers and crown and components of the steel-and-gold Rouleaux bracelet. This version offers dials in either blue with tone-on-tone subdials or anthracite with black subdials. At the highest echelon of sporty luxury is the one model mounted on a black leather strap rather than a bracelet, in a case of full 18k rose gold and anthracite-and-black dial.
Prices for the new Chronomat collection range as follows: $8,100 for the steel editions with silver, copper, black or blue dials; $8,250 for the Bentley and Frecce Tricolori editions; $9,350 for the steel model with gold rider tabs; $12,100 for the steel-and-gold models on bracelets; and $20,200 for the gold-cased models on rubber or leather.