Text by Andrew Goh; pictures by Breitling
Innovation has always been a key concept in Breitling’s 132-year old history, and its Chronoworks department is yet another indicator of that. The department, established at the brand’s manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, is charged with regrouping the finest specialists in the industry, seeking out innovative solutions and improved performance, and testing avant-garde concepts suitable for introduction into standard production. Described as a “think tank and test bench for tomorrow’s technologies,” the Chronoworks lab has indeed fulfilled these objectives – by revisiting the iconic Breitling Calibre 01 and optimising it with five major innovations serving to reduce friction and increase the power reserve from 70 to 100 hours.
Encased in a stylish all-black design, the souped-up Breitling Calibre 01 recently made a comeback in the form of the Superocean Heritage Chronoworks, limited to just 100 pieces. Standard features include a 46mm matt black ceramic case for a powerful and contemporary look; a matching dial with pointed hour-markers recalling the 1957 Superocean created for diving enthusiasts and adventure-seekers; a chronometer-certified self-winding chronograph accurate up to 1/4th of a second; 100m of water resistance; and cambered sapphire crystal on both sides, secured by a unidirectional, ratcheted bezel and screw-locked crown, fitted with a woven rubber strap inspired by the original woven steel bracelet. Look beyond the physical features, though, the movement’s improvements become clear.
LESS IS MORE
Amongst the most notable changes is its non-metallic composition; the baseplate and gear-train bridges are made of high-tech ceramic used in high-performance engine lubricants. This allows the arbours to pivot in the baseplate and bridge holes without any wear or energy loss, as well as without lubricant, thereby eliminating 11 out of 47 jewels.
Next, Breitling takes this energy-saving design further in its silicon wheels, meant to counteract the loss of energy every time a movement is at a halt, which is 95% of the time, and requires “restarting”. The Breitling Calibre 01 has been fitted with three silicon wheels, which are twice as light as normal, making it easier to set in motion again. The geometry of these wheels, made using deep-reactive iron etching (DRIE), has also been revised to make the structure more rigid, avoiding any distortion of the spokes.
Further adding to this is its escapement, where most of a movement’s energy losses take place, reworked with a silicon wheel and lever, whose material reduces weight and inertia while removing the need for pallet jewels. The overall result is a 42% gain in efficiency for this vital organ, thereby ensuring optimal security, an essential aspect of performance.
Other energy-saving highlights include equipping a set of two wheels in the chronograph mechanism with elastic toothing moulding the shape of the opposite teeth, by means of a nickelphosphorous structure, ending any energy loss as a result of the chronograph; and adopting a variable-inertia balance adjustable via four tiny gold weights situated around the rim, along with the incorporation of a nickel felly with a spoke made of brass to reduce inertia resulting from temperature sensitivities, as well as maintain the same rating precision in all circumstances.
100 HOURS OF POWER RESERVE
These five measures have jointly made it possible to equip the movement with a slimmer – and thus longer – spring, in turn increasing the power reserve from 70 to 100 hours: a 45% gain. This progress not only provides greater convenience for the user, who can leave his watch off the wrist for four days without then needing to rewind it; it also contributes to improving precision. The higher the power reserve, the less the force of the spring dwindles during the first 24 hours, thereby guaranteeing enhanced regularity of the movement rate.
Indicative price: RM168,700