The name “Chronomat” can refer to multiple watches at Breitling and holds a significant place in the brand’s history. Of course, the first watch to bear this name was a 1940 Chronograph, which was one of the first watches with a slide-rule bezel. However, for most watch enthusiasts the name Chronomat refers to an icon of the 1980s, to one of Breitling’s most powerful designs. And today, the brand is bringing it back with an eye-catching case, the signature Rouleaux bracelet and several limited editions, including the “Frecce Tricolori”. Meet the 2020 Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Collection.
Breilting’s history has a lot to do with pilot’s watches and chronographs. One of the most important watches in the entire brand’s lineage was created mid-20th century, as one of the earliest watches with a slide-rule bezel, a tool that helps pilots to perform calculations while flying. Following a 1940 patent for the design of a rotating bezel with a circular slide-rule scale (Swiss patent 217 012, a number printed on the dial of early models), the brand launched a watch named Chronomat (for “chronograph for mathematics”), first advertised in 1941 and most likely available to the public in 1942. This chronograph with slide-rule bezel will set the tone for another icon, the Navitimer.
During the 1960s and 1970s, several Breitling watches still had the name “Chronomat” printed on their dials but none would ever come close to the Navitimer in terms of popularity. After some troubles at the end of the 1970s, the brand ceased production, until the early 1980s… and the comeback of the name Chronomat.
In 1983, the brand presented the the “Frecce Tricolori” watch, a surprising mechanical chronograph with a blue dial, a rotating bezel with rider tabs and a unique bracelet with a “rouleaux” profile. This watch was developed in collaboration with the famed Italian aerial squadron of the same name. A year later, while the industry was still dominated by quartz, Breitling launched a new watch, the 1984 Chronomat – coinciding with the celebrations of Breitling’s centenary. The name Chronomat here expressed something different, a combination of the words “chronograph” and “automatic”.
While the Navitimer was clearly advertised as an instrument for pilots, the Chronomat was more versatile and was spotted on the wrist of racing drivers or used during regattas (if you reverse the rider tabs). But it was also a luxurious object, perfectly in tune with the style of the late-1980s and early-1990s.
The 2020 Breitling Chronomat B01 42
Over its almost 40-year career, the Breitling Chronomat has seen multiple iterations, with bold, oversized designs like this 2010s version, and a current collection that has somehow lost the spirit of the 1980s watches. Today, with its new collection, Breitling brings a new generation, a modernized classic, a watch that echoes the original concept with 2020s sleeker design cues. And like the original, it is a multi-purpose, multi-terrain chronograph, for use in the air, in water, or on land… and it still has that striking style that goes well in the city. 1980s-cool is still alive.
The collection comprises multiple versions, in different materials, with various colours and even two limited editions. However, all of these watches are based on a single concept, with an identical case, display, movement and bracelet.
The new 2020 Breitling Chronomat brings back the shape of the original watches, with its integrated lugs and robust shoulders. The case is 42mm in diameter and 15.10mm in height and reveals mostly brushed surfaces with polished accents – bevel on the sides, crown and pushers. It is water-resistant to 200m. The typical rounded crown is still present, however, the pushers and crown protection module have been modernized for better integration.
One of the signature elements of the original Chronomat was its bezel. In the 2020 version, it’s back but in a sleeker version, still with the rider tabs, which not only protect the crystal but make the manipulation of the bezel easier. Two of these rider tabs (15 and 45) are, as the original model, interchangeable, so the wearer can use them either for a “count up” or “count down” function – if you use it as a pilot’s or a diver’s watch, or as a regatta countdown chronograph.
All the models share the same movement and the same display. The dials are classic chronograph style, with 3-6-9 counters and a date at 6 o’clock. Like the original, the dials/hands/indexes are less flamboyant than the case, with rectangular applied indexes and rounded baton hands – both filled with Super-LumiNova. With the exception of the “Frecce Tricolori” and a two-tone version, all have contrasting sub-counters.
The dial colour depends on the material chosen. The full steel version is available in Silver, Copper, Blue, Black, Green (Bentley Edition) or Blue tone-on-tone (Frecce Tricolori).
The steel model with red gold rider tabs, pushers and crown features a tone-on-tone silver dial. The two-tone models (bezel, crown/pushers, bracelet mid-links in red gold) come with blue or anthracite dials. Finally, the solid 18K red gold model (on rubber strap) comes with an anthracite dial.
Regarding the movement, no surprises as this 2020 Breitling Chronomat is equipped with the well-known in-house chronograph Calibre B01, an integrated automatic movement with column-wheel and vertical clutch architecture, certified as a chronometer by the COSC. A solid mechanical offer that beats at 4Hz and boasts 70h of power reserve. The movement is visible through a sapphire caseback.
The comeback of the Rouleaux bracelet
One of the key elements of the old 1983 and 1984 watches was the bracelet… A bold, unique and very special bracelet so-called “rouleaux” (French for rollers). Certainly, it didn’t win everybody over back then, and it probably won’t today. However, this is a bold move from Breitling and its comeback gives the 2020 Chronomat great charm and identity.
Certainly, the bracelet has been modernized with a sleeker profile, more angular links, a profile that follows the lines of the case and brushed surfaces enlightened by polished (steel or gold, depending on the models) mid-links. The sides of the links also present nice polished bevels. It features a concealed butterfly clasp with security pushers.
The Breitling Chronomat “Frecce Tricolori” Edition
Last but not least, Breitling is re-launching the praised and historically important “Frecce Tricolori” theme with a limited edition of 250 pieces inspired by the look of the original 1983 model. If the case, bracelet and movement are identical to other editions, some details are different, the main update being a blue dial with tone-on-tone sub-counters and the Frecce Tricolori logo at 12 o’clock, positioned where the Breitling logo is normally placed.
This is are a rare and attractive edition that pays tribute to the watch that actually launched the model and the rouleaux bracelet.
Price and availability
The first pieces of the 2020 Breitling Chronomat B01 42 will be available end of April 2020, with more pieces available May 2020. The prices will range from EUR 7,900 for the steel versions and EUR 8,100 for the Bentley and Frecce Tricolori limited editions, up to EUR 19,000 for the solid gold model.
More details at www.breitling.com.