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Breitling Chronomat: Reviving an Icon

Breitling Chronomat: Reviving an Icon

Breitling Chronomat 2020

Breitling has recently updated their iconic Chronomat with the perfect combination of new features and classic design. Let’s take a look at just why the new Breitling Chronomat revives an icon of watchmaking.

When, a few weeks ago, I received Breitling’s press pack for its new Chronomat I was thoroughly pleased. The Breitling Chronomat is a watch which has changed radically and fundamentally since inception and which has struggled to find a place in today’s market. However, the most recent generation appears to be the first in some time to live up to modern expectations and to shed is unfashionable ’80s feel.

The Breitling Chronomat should be an absolute icon for so many reasons. Chief amongst these reasons is the fact that it pioneered Breitling’s most recognisable watch: the Breitling Navitimer.

Becoming an Icon

Breitling Chronomat 1941 769
Photo: Phillips

Launched in 1941, the ref. 769 Chronomat capitalised upon a patent filed in 1940 (No. 217012 was the exact patent number) for a watch using a rotating slide-rule bezel to quickly and simply perform calculations in the air. The concept was simple but phenomenally useful – the obvious reason why the more developed Navitimer adopted these features in 1952. Interestingly, whilst Breitling was awarded the patent for their bezel, alternatives did exist and it was Breitling’s particular arrangement of scales which set their design apart from the rest.

1983 Breitling CHronomat Frecce Tricolori
Photo: Breitling SA

Irrespective of the original, the Breitling Chronomat which we all remember is the 1980s version. In many ways, this watch defined the rather macho pilot’s chronograph with rotating bezel which many view as quintessentially ‘Breitling’ from the 1980s to the present day. The reason for this tough, rugged build is rooted in the development of this watch with Italy’s Frecce Tricolori aerobatic squadron. As such, this wasn’t a watch to time the gradual movement of an aircraft over unfamiliar land but to time the most extreme of manoeuvres.

Without further gilding the lily, I consider it fair to say that this was the beginning of modern Breitling. After being bought in 1979, the Chronomat defined many features which would subsequently become synonymous with Breitling. Notably, the watch was the first to use the Valjoux 7750, a movement which continues to power much of this brand’s range. With the 1984 public release of the Chronomat (the Frecce Tricolori models were made in 1983) Breitling offered a truly multi-purpose chronograph. It could time anything from a motor race to flight in an aircraft or even a yacht race as the bezel could be converted to count down rather than up with a simple screwdriver.

Even with such a history, the Breitling Chronomat hasn’t enjoyed much success over the last few years. A combination of dated designs, a lack of a movement appropriate to keep up with its competitors and a much larger case which fell out of favour, these watches never caught their audience as they should have. This collection didn’t need a refresh; it needed a reboot.

Resurrecting the Chronomat

2020 Breitling Chronomat
Photo: Breitling SA

Frankly, the new management of Breitling was exactly what the Chronomat needed. With the current culture of in-house movement use and gentle retrospection, this watch has, at last, been offered in the complete package it needs.

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The new Chronomat clearly reconnects with the lineage of the watch first offered in 1984 with its distinctive flat case profile and rounded forms. However, Breitling have clearly been careful to avoid a conspicuous resemblance to its forefather courtesy of sharper lines, a simplified crown and pusher arrangement and a much cleaner bezel.

Breitling Chronomat 2020
Photo: Breitling SA

Most obvious is the change of movement away from a Valjoux 7750 base to the Breitling B01: their in-house and extremely developed column wheel chronograph — the perfect pairing for a watch needing luxury but without losing any toughness.

Breitling Chronomat 2020
Photo: Breitling SA

Noting the addition of plenty of dial colours, case materials and even a limited edition with its Breitling logo replaced, as per the original, with the logo of the Frecce Tricolori, this new collection promises to truly revive the Chronomat. In short, Breitling have given the Chronomat exactly what it deserves. I’m so glad.

What do you think of the new Breitling Chronomat? Tell us in the comment section or head over to the Breitling website to learn more.

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