Today we’ve got something a little interesting to show you –this beautifully preserved vintage Breitling chronograph was spotted at the Breitling USA Flagship Boutique, at 5 East 57th Street right here in New York (a watch we took a look at on our Facebook page earlier this month.)
It’s a gorgeous classic two-register chronograph, but if you look closely you’ll see slightly enlarged markers at 3 minute intervals on the minute recorder. What are the for?
Well, that’s a bit of a mystery. According to common Internet chronograph lore, they’re there to help time the three minute intervals that the phone company used to use for billing long distance calls –back in The Day, long distance calls were a complicated business and before direct long distance dialing (which didn’t start to roll out in the USA until the 1950s, and even then, well into the middle of the decade many customers still had to have their calls connected manually by a series of operators.)
But not everyone agrees –TAG Heuer and vintage chronograph expert Jeff Stein of www.onthedash.com mentioned to us that some pilots have pointed out that 3-6 minute intervals are often used in aviation, where that’s often the amount of time needed to navigate from one waypoint to another (when in a holding pattern on final, for instance.)
That, of course, still leaves open the question of similar chronographs with four minute ticks . . . who knows. Maybe it was just a nice way of making small intervals of time more legible. 3 minute egg, anyone?
The Breitling Flagship Boutique has a great collection of vintage Breitling chronographs going all the way back to the 1930s, and including first-generation automatic chronographs. Also, there is a girl in a red dress sitting on a bomb. Here’s one of the chronographs. The girl on the bomb, you have to go see yourself.
Update: Eminent watchmaker and writer Donald DeCarle, author of Complicated Watches And Their Repair, wrote, in 1957, “. . . three minute markers, for timing the length of telephone calls.” I think that closes the issue.