One key trend that watch brands have embraced in the last year, from the smallest productions to commercial brands, is the integrated bracelet, sports chic watch. We’ve examined the rise of the sports luxe watch in detail, to a plethora of stories on individual models released over the last year. Now as Breitling continues to redevelop itself under the direction of CEO Georges Kern and his design team, it’s reconfiguring its collections to better fit the needs of modern consumers, with the biggest changes coming to the Chronomat this year.
As a quick refresher, the Chronomat collection was introduced in 1984, in the recovery years of the Quartz crisis. While many brands at the time had either put aside mechanical watchmaking and turned to quartz watches, Breitling bet on a solidly built, hefty mechanical Swiss watch. With its large bezel and crown guards, the Chronomat is a watch that’s memorable.
Under Breitling’s past management, the Chronomat gained in size and heft as oversized watches gained popularity. In 2020, it’s gotten a refresh along with a more balanced sizing at 42mm, coming down from 44 (existing) and 46mm (discontinued) sizes. Accompanying it is a refreshed classic bracelet design from Breitling, the Rouleaux bracelet which was a mainstay of Breitling Chronomat models throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
The new Rouleaux bracelet is a rounded-end bracelet that alternates in a full length link and five-part link, in a bar form that fits well on the wrist and conveniently adjustable on alternate lengths. It also has the Rouleaux’s signature butterfly clasp, a memorable recall to classic Breitling. What’s different is the use of alternating polished and matte finishes on the bracelet on the new Chronomat B01 42MM, that is powered by the brand’s signature B01 caliber.
The B01 caliber is one of the industry’s well-regarded and stalwart chronographs since it was first introduced by the brand over a decade ago. It’s since gone on to drive all of Breitling’s in-house movements, as well as a joint partnership with Tudor.
While the Chronomat B01 42MM isn’t an integrated bracelet watch in the strictest sense, it’s definitely sports chic, and given that it’s gone on the Atkins diet and lost a couple mils off the waistline, wears well on the wrist now.
Breitling CEO Georges Kern says: “The 1984 Chronomat occupies a very important place in our modern history. It was the watch that boldly proclaimed Breitling was staying absolutely true to its roots. When much of the industry focused their efforts and energies on quartz watches, the Chronomat reminded the world that Breitling had essentially invented the modern mechanical chronograph. The message resonated and the brand prospered. The Chronomat Collection is a fitting tribute to the amazing watch that, more than any other, put us back in touch with our heritage.”
Breitling has taken pains to retain much of the original details of the Chronomat from 1984, whilst updating the entire range for the modern day. The signature rotating bezel bears the rider tabs that make turning it very convenient. However, instead of having a full minute track engraved on the bezel, only the top half of the bezel is marked out, so it doubles as a countdown or lead-up function, which is actually quite a useful tool.
Several editions and references have been introduced for the new Chronomat 42, most notably a revival of the Frecce Tricolori (the aerobatic flying team of the Italian Air Force) model. Of course, there are notable differences between the original and its re-edition, most significantly the tachymeter (BASE-500 as opposed to BASE-1000), and the position of the counters (7750 caliber versus the B01), which also bear circular graining and a sunray brushed dial today. The crown guards of the new Chronomat are also broader and angled, with smooth chronograph pushers versus knurled ones in the past. The Frecce Tricolori edition is limited to 250 worldwide.
Another interesting variant is the Bentley edition which has a British green dial with black counters and a black tachymeter ring, which also has a “BENTLEY” engraving around the transparent sapphire caseback.
What we expect to be a hit among collectors and Breitling fans is the panda-dial-styled version of the watch with a silver dial and black tachymeter ring and counters. Another surefire success is the blue dial with contrasting black counters. Two two-tone models in red gold and steel with blue or anthracite grey dials with black counters are also highly alluring in design and color for the modern-day sports chic watch lover.
Finally, for the Chronomat lovin’ crowd, one model in red gold with anthracite dial and black counters, on a black diving strap with red gold folding clasp, will be available. Like all of Breitling’s watches, these are all COSC-certified and guaranteed to keep water out for up to 200 meters, more than ample for any diving enthusiast.
Self-winding Breitling caliber B01; hours, minutes and small seconds; chronograph; date; 70-hour power reserve
42mm case; available in steel, steel and 18K red gold or 18K red gold; 15.10mm thick; special edition in Bentley green with caseback engraving; limited edition Frecce Tricolori to 250 pieces; water resistant to 200m
Rouleaux bracelet with butterfly clasp or diving rubber strap (only 18K red gold edition)