Exactly 80 years ago, Léon Breitling received a patent for a chronograph with a circular slide rule. It was the birth of the now age-old Chronomat that two years later, in 1942, was first presented to the public with Reference 769. The name Chronomat is derived from the words chronograph and mathematics. This is because, thanks to this new rotating bezel, certain calculations such as the ‘rule of three’ calculation, plus multiplication and division could be worked out.
In 1952, an extended version of the Chronomat was presented, which many people today most likely regard as the epitome of the slide rule watch, rather than the model from 1942. The Navitimer Ref. 806 from 1952 was somewhat more advanced, and was able to conduct even more complex calculations that were particularly essential for aviation. Whereas the Chronomat of the 1940s with its original version of the slide rule was principally created for use by scientists and technicians, it was the Navitimer that finally established itself as a pilots watch.
100 years of Breitling and a new design for Chronomat
In the 1980s, the design of the Chronomat was drastically changed. In 1983, Breitling developed a new Chronomat for the aerial squadron of the Italian air force ‘Frecce Tricolori’. It had nothing in common with the slide rulers from the past. In 1984, on the occasion of the brand’s 100th anniversary, the new model Ref. 81950 was introduced to the public and also commercially produced. Instead of the slide rule, a striking bezel with applied rider tabs rose up from the case. An onion-shaped crown and pushers, often seen on pilot’s watches, also graced this model. Instead of relating to ‘chronograph’ and ‘mathematics’, they now used the terms ‘chronograph’ and ‘automatic’ to justify the name ‘Chronomat’ – and fortunately, it still made sense.
Furthermore, the hand-wound chronograph Venus 175 was replaced by a highly precise automatic movement, the Valjoux 7750. Back in 1969 Breitling had already been using an automatic chronograph movement in a Chronomat watch (Chrono-Matic) with the famous Calibre 11, which was co-produced with some other Swiss manufacturers to become one of the very first automatic chronograph movements for wristwatches. At a time when the Swiss watch industry was still shaken from the quartz crisis of the 1970s, Breitling’s Chronomat from 1984 was one of the first chronographs with a mechanical movement to re-enter the market.
The new Chronomat
As a tribute to the 1984 anniversary models, Breitling is now launching a series of new Chronomat timepieces. Some of their features are strongly linked to the retro style from the past, but are interpreted in a modern way. The most striking feature that will please many fans of this series is likely the integrated Rouleaux bracelet, which has been re-issued for the first time since 1984. The bracelet’s stainless-steel has a brushed finish with polished interlinks, giving it a quirky, modern yet retro look.
Additionally, the new Chronomat watches have inherited the signature rotating bezel highlighted by rider tabs. They not only protect the crystal but also historically made the use of the bezel for “Frecce Tricolori” pilots easier. Furthermore, the tabs have another very useful function. The two tabs at 3 and 9 o’clock are interchangeable so that the wearer can use them as either a ‘count up’ or ‘count down’ function.
The Chronomat is the all-purpose sports watch
But for whom was the Chronomat of the 1980s actually made for? Of course, due to its history from the 1950s it was very popular amongst pilots and remains a key pilots chronograph in Breitling’s portfolio to this day. Numerous variations were available, with different sizes, colours, materials and special editions offered to attract a wide field of watch enthusiasts.
The Chronomat is a masculine and sporty model that also can be worn with a suit. As a result, it is much more versatile than the bulky Colt or Avenger models. Its versatility added to its allure in the late 1980s and early 1990s as its tachymeter attracted the interest of Formula 1 teams, while the reversible rider tabs turned out to be useful for sailing regattas.
To this day, Breitling continues to offer its clients a versatile and all-purpose Chronomat. It comes with several different metal and dial variations – however, for the time being, the model simply offers a uniform case size of 42 mm, one bracelet option and is without additional functions such as a second time zone (GMT). This leaves some room for creativity for more exciting versions in the upcoming years.
Chronomat B01 42 and Chronomat B01 42 Bentley
The new Chronomat B01 42 (Ref. AB0134101G1A1, AB0134101K1A1, AB0134101C1A1 and AB0134101B1A1) comes with a modern-looking choice of a silver, copper or blue dial with black contrasting chronograph counters. It is also available with a black dial with silver contrasting chronograph counters.
The Chronomat B01 42 Bentley (Ref. AB01343A1L1A1) has been added to the lineto celebrate the long-lasting partnership with the British luxury car brand. It has a green dial with black chronograph counters and features a ‘Bentley’ engraving around the transparent sapphire caseback, thereby adding attention the special model. The four steel versions cost 7,950 euros each and the Bentley special edition costs 8,100 euros.
In the spirit of the 1980s, back when gold and bicolor watches were truly in their heyday, the new collection also incorporates a touch of 80s vibes. The Chronomat B01 42 (Ref. IB0134101G1A1) is fitted with an 18 k red gold crown and pushers as well as 18 k red gold rider tabs, numerals and indexes. The fancy bicolor-watch has a silver dial with silver tone-on-tone subdials and is presented on a stainless-steel Rouleaux bracelet with a butterfly clasp, at a price of 9,100 euros.
The bicolor line is extended with two more Chronomat B01 42 references. Their main difference is that the Rouleaux bracelet is also presented in bicolor – stainless steel and 18 k red gold. Reference UB0134101C1U1 is adorned with an elegant blue dial with tone-on-tone chronograph counters – Reference UB0134101B1U1 comes with an anthracite dial with black contrasting chronograph counters. Price: 11,800 euros each.
Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition
As a tribute to the original model from 1983 that inspired the modern Chronomat line, Breitling also launches the Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition (250 pieces) with blue dial and tone-on-tone chronograph counters. On the dial, the Breitling lettering has been replaced by the “Frecce Tricolori” logo. Its caseback is engraved with the words “ONE OF 250”. Like the rest of the new Chronomat models, it is presented on a Rouleaux bracelet with a butterfly clasp. Price: 8,100 euros.
Each chronograph of the new Chronomat line is powered by the precise Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, that stands out for its enduring power reserve of 70 hours. Like all Breitling watches, the Chonomats are COSC-certified chronometers. On an interesting side note – when Breitling launched its in-house Manufacture Calibre 01 in 2009, it was first introduced in the Chronomat 01.