Breitling has revamped its Chronomat line, tweaking it into a collection of smaller chronographs with a casual twist. This marks a departure from the Chronomat’s previous iterations, which consisted largely of technical, hyper-masculine sports watches. With this move, the brand tidies up its range of timepieces to have each collection occupy a more clearly defined niche.
The “modern” Chronomat dates back to 1984, when Breitling released a timepiece based on the Frecce Tricolori watch that was introduced just a year before. Although the “Chronomat” name was previously used on some Breitling watches in the 1940s, the 1984 model was a new and unrelated creation. A portmanteau of “chronograph” and “automatic”, it didn’t just mark a shift back towards mechanical movements for the brand, but also a new chapter for Breitling following the Quartz Crisis.
Throwback features with a contemporary twist
The 1984 Chronomat quickly became a hit for Breitling because of its unique design elements. Unsurprisingly, these features are incorporated into the 2020 models. The most notable among them is the Rouleaux (literally “roller”) bracelet. Named after its roller-like links, this bracelet doesn’t just offer a more casual, vintage slant to the watch, but also a close and comfortable fit on the wrist, thanks to its suppleness. The Rouleaux may not define the Chronomat, but its importance to the overall aesthetic of the watch cannot be overstated. Hence Breitling’s decision to reintroduce the bracelet design.
Another key feature for the revamped Chronomat line are the “rider tabs” on the bezel, which have anchored the Chronomat’s design since 1984. These raised markers don’t just improve legibility, but also the wearer’s grip on the bezel, thus allowing it to be turned with ease. In addition, the rider tabs at three and nine o’clock on the original Chronomat could be quickly swapped to switch the bezel between count-up and countdown functions. This has been brought back as well, making the 2020 models appear closer to the original.
The redefined chronomat
True to its name, the Chronomat line for 2020 consists strictly of chronographs. In this regard, the new models consistently measure 42 millimetres across and are fitted with Breitling’s Calibre B01 integrated chronograph movement. This COSC-certified in-house calibre should need no introduction. As the brand’s workhorse chronograph movement, it’s used extensively in various Breitling lines, and comes with a vertical clutch, column wheel actuation, as well as a longish 70-hour power reserve.
a matter of choice
Breitling has introduced a total of 10 references for the new Chronomat. The “stock” model has a steel case with matching steel Rouleaux bracelet, and comes in four different “panda” dial colourways – so named because the sub-dials have contrasting colours – to visually identify them as having the B01 movement. Bi-colour options are also available, whether in steel with various red gold components on the case and bracelet, or a more luxurious version with a full red gold bezel. Finally, a reference with a full red gold case and bezel is available as well.
Two other models are available for the new collection. The Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition features an all-steel construction with a tone-on-tone blue dial in a departure from the other references’ “panda” dial designs, and prominently displays the Frecce Tricolori logo with the Breitling signature under it. This tribute to the Italian aerobatic demonstration team is limited to 250 pieces worldwide. Meanwhile, the Chronomat B01 42 Bentley marks yet another timepiece that’s dedicated to the partnership between Breitling and Bentley. The watch has a black-on-green dial that’s consistent with other Bentley-themed timepieces from the Breitling, and comes with “Bentley” engraved around the transparent sapphire case back.
swift steady shifts
It seems certain that Breitling will release even more Chronomat designs in time to come. What’s interesting is how the current ones already reveal a transition to a collection that isn’t just rooted in aviation, but also land- and water-based activities. The shift towards a more casual, dressy design is also refreshing, and the new Chronomat looks poised to become a hit – just like the original.