Introducing The New Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Collection The new-old Breitling Chronomat gets the Kern treatment by Ben Hodges April 16, 2020 MIN READIntroducing The New Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Collection
Introducing the new Breitling Chronomat that takes design cues from the future-classic 80s watch. The new Chronomat continues a burgeoning trend of revisiting heritage models from Breitling’s esteemed back catalog.
Under the leadership of Georges Kern, we have seen the Ref 806 from 1959, and Ref 765 from 1953 get the revision treatment. Also, the recently announced Top-Time with bow-tie dial. But these come from the Willy Breitling era. For some collectors, Breitling didn’t begin until the 1980s.
First, a little bit of history. Breitling, during the 70s, was in a bit of a rut. This was true for many Swiss brands, left reeling from the onset of the quartz crisis. Rolex and Patek Philippe put their heads down and came up with the Beta 21 quartz movement to compete with the Japanese. Zenith went overboard and nearly scrapped all their movements. If it weren’t for Charles Vermot, who stowed the El Primero designs and machines away, at least one bonafide classic would have been lost. But the esoteric Swiss watchmakers, full of pride, stood by their traditions and ended up on the brink of collapse.
Willy Breitling sold the company to Ernest Schneider just before his death in 1979
This is where we find Breitling. Close to bankruptcy, Willy Breitling sold the company to Ernest Schneider just before his death in 1979. Schneider now had a decision; take the blue pill and go with the herd and focus on quartz. Take the red pill, and remind the world of Breitling’s contribution of the twin-pusher mechanical chronograph. Let’s just say, Schneider wasn’t living in a dream-world. Launched in 1984, the Chronomat looked like a prop from Rambo. The bullet crown, the gun-belt bracelet, and prominent rider tabs on the bezel. This was a rugged, macho timepiece built for the wrists of muscle-bound action stars of the decade.
A new Breitling era
Chronomat, in name, dates back to the 1940s but took on a new meaning as a portmanteau of Chronograph and Automatic. The 80s Chronomat was a huge success and came to define a new era for Breitling. The design was so popular that it became the template for the Aerospace, the Colt, the Avenger, and Galactic. Now over the years, the Chronomat faltered for me. The rider tabs and bullet crown remained, but the overall look veered into the brash and flashy. The overly polished cases with bold Roman numerals just didn’t sit right with me, and replacing the “Rouleaux” bracelet with the standard 5-link just took away a large chunk of charm.
New for 2020, Georges Kern pays tribute to his predecessor with a nod to the Schneider-era Chronomat. Reinstating the quirky bracelet with modern finishing and production techniques. Also, within this re-edition is the staple B01 in-house movement. That $50million R&D investment for the auto-chrono with 70-hours power reserve in the early 2000s has undoubtedly paid for itself and then some by now.
..the 1984 Chronomat used the out-sourced Valjoux 7750…
Going back to 1969, Breitling, in association with Buren and Hamilton, brought the first batch of automatic chronographs to the market. But the 1984 Chronomat used the out-sourced Valjoux 7750 with 6, 9, 12 sub-dial placements. With the B01 movement having a more symmetrical 3, 6, 9 layout, you cannot say that this is an authentic recreation in the same vein as the Ref 806 from last year. This a new watch for a new era — a reimagining rather than a straight-up reissue.
Not a totally faithful re-edition
That said, the overall look does pay a great homage to the 80s watch. Let’s start with that bracelet. The brushed rifle-shell-style links are bound together by polished inner links, which blend seamlessly from the case. Recent Chronomats have felt incredibly top-heavy, but now there is a subtle, tapered flow from the 42mm case sides to the butterfly clasp. You could even call it an integrated bracelet, but Breilting also offers a choice of rubber straps.
The crown guards retain their prominence with sharper angles. The bullet-shaped crown has stayed the course, but Breilting has elected to smoothen the chronograph pushers rather than the repeating bullet pushers as before. It makes sense as the grooved shape of the screw-down crown has a practical use for winding and setting but is unnecessary for the pushers.
I bet you didn’t even notice the date window at first. It’s there and nestled quietly within the sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Legibility is relatively unimpeded, though. The chronograph hour totalizer shifts in wider intervals, so you’ll still be able to tell you have tracked 6 hours, even with the date window in its place. We’ve seen the 6 o’clock date on chronographs elsewhere, such as in the TAG Heuer 02, and I much prefer this position than the 4:30 date windows of other Breitling B01-powered watches.
Chronographs equipped with the B01 tend to have alternating sub-dial colors to indicate the more premium option.
Another directive, under the leadership of Georges Kern, is that the sub-dial colors for Valjoux-derived chronograph counters are the same tone as the dial. Chronographs equipped with the B01 tend to have alternating sub-dial colors to indicate the more premium option. Only the B01 powers this new Chronomat, but there is one model that breaks this combo. And it might just be my favorite of the new collection.
Frecce Tricolori 250-limited edition
The Frecce Tricolori 250-limited edition is a tribute to the 1983 model of the same name, which itself inspired the Chronomat a year later. The tone-on-tone blue dial is named after the elite Italian aerial squadron and features the squad’s insignia at 12 o’clock. The rider tabs on the bezel denoting, 15, 30, and 45 are wider and run flush to the edges, but a choice I’m not quite sold on is the way the bezel is graduated.
On the north side, you will find hash lines for each minute but only for 5 minutes on the south side. It’s a strange decision, and I do not understand the reasoning as the heritage models do not feature this. Flipping the watch over provides a view through the sapphire case-back to the engraved winding rotor of the B01. Despite the additional components for the crystal, the water-resistance goes up to 200 meters.
There are multiple permutations of the new Breitling Chronomat; from dial colors to Bentley plaques, two-tone gold and steel models, and the aforementioned Frecce Tricolori. The latter is the pick of the bunch for me, yet I get a sense there are exiting variations still to come in this collection. Prices range from €7,900 for the standard steel models and €8,100 for the Bentley and Frecce Tricolori special editions. The two-tone models either have full gold bezels for €11,600 or €8,950 for just gold rider tabs. At the top end of the range is the full gold on rubber for €19,000. You can read more about the watch on Breitling’s website and plenty more about Breitling on the Fratello site here.
Brand Breitling ModelChronomat B01 42DialBlue, Silver, Copper, Black, Green, AnthraciteCase MaterialStainless steel, two-tone 18-carat red gold and steel, 18-carat red goldCase Dimensions42mmCrystalSapphireCase BackSapphireMovementBreitling Manufacture Caliber 01Water Resistance200 metersStrapStainless steel, two-tone 18-carat red gold and steel, and rubber strapFunctionsChronograph, hour, minute, second, date windowPriceSteel – €7,900 | LE – €8,100 | Two-tone (tabs and crown) – €8,950 | Two-tone (bezel and bracelet) – €11,600 | Full gold on rubber – €19,000 Watch of the Week
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About the author
Ben has been working in central London for 7 years. In that time, Ben has developed an interest in watches after being gifted his father’s Breitling at 25. He explores the weird and wonderful in horology at all price ranges,… read more
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