Hands-On Review – Breitling’s Chronomat Reissue

The Skinny

  • Diameter 42 mm
  • Thickness 15.1 mm
  • Movement B01 (in house column wheel vertical clutch automatic chronograph)
  • Water resistance 200 m
  • Price $8,100 in stainless steel

How It Feels on the Wrist

Listen, I’m a pretty low key guy. My daily beater is a 33 mm vintage inspired Hamilton on an aftermarket beads of rice bracelet. (If you want to know why, it’s a long story.) I’m enough of a watch nerd that I started collecting early 20th century American railroad pocket watches. I’m not the target audience for this watch but after having this bad boy on the wrist, maybe I want to be. 

The truth is, this watch is shiny as fuck. It makes me want to work out, get swole, and go to the beach. It makes me want to get tanned so the copper colored dial pops against the tone of my wrist. It wants me to stick my wrist up vertically and say “sup ladies?” (My wife didn’t find it funny when I did that in the living room today but my kindergartener did.) 

Am I pining for an enthusiast version with a faded matte dial, no date, and manual winding in 37.5 mm? Hell no. You know what? Sometimes a guy just wants a big, shiny object that looks awesome, even if he has a skinny 6.5 inch wrist like me.

This watch makes me want to buy a Lamborghini and drive along Ocean Drive on South Beach at 10 miles per hour with my shirt half unbuttoned with a gold chain glinting in the sun. It makes me want to go to the trendiest steakhouse with the hottest women at the bar and pull out a fat wad of $100 bills to tip the staff. It makes me want to smoke a Cuban cigar on a yacht. Why? Breitling Chronomat, that’s why.

Are you this guy? Or like me, do you sometimes secretly want to be this guy? Look at the comps. Daytona? Barely shiny, super conservative. Speedmaster? Looks like a black and white TV from the 1960’s. Get a Chronomat. Thank me later.

The View From 10,000 Feet

Now that you know everything you need to know, it’s time for some more serious stuff. This watch didn’t come out of nowhere. Breitling is known for chronographs and aviation. They invented the modern chronograph format by adding a second pusher in 1934. Their Navitimer is THE iconic pilot’s watch. They also have a penchant for names that are a mash up of two words, like Navigate and Timer. But before the Navitimer, there was the Chronograph for Mathematicians, the Chronomat. It was the first watch with Breitling’s patented slide rule bezel. It also sported an inner decimal scale so you could time things in hundreths of a minute instead of seconds. After Breitling left the Breitling family, passing from Willy Breitling to Ernest Schneider, the Chronomat was relaunched with an entirely new design. 

The 1984 Chronomat was the basis for the current model. It was transformed from a mathematician watch into an updated aviation watch. Perhaps the Navitimer design was too iconic to change so this line stepped in to become Breitling’s modern pilot’s watch. New design cues such as a rotating bezel with outer screws for easier grip, onion crown, and oversized pushers were created with input from the Italian version of the Blue Angels, the Frecce Tricolori. It is fitting that at a transitional point in their history under new ownership and with CEO Georges Kern, Breitling has again launched the Chronomat into a new era.

Zooming In

The overall feeling of the watch’s case is of solidity and quality. The brushed finished contrasts nicely with the polished bevels. There is a half crown guard which adds some additional visual interest and draws the eye to the crown and pushers through asymmetry. The pushers have a pleasant and unusual oval shape, perhaps a nod to earlier oval pushers prior to water resistant chronograph pushers. The characteristic large bullet shaped crown is a holdover from the 1984 design and nods to the older onion shaped pilot watch crowns of WWII. Ostensibly the crown is meant to be more easily wound. However, the crown is difficult to screw in and wind, especially with the half crown guards. I cannot imagine screwing down that crown wearing heavy aviator gloves which was the original purpose of the onion crown. It’s an automatic movement though so if you keep it on a winder or wear it daily it won’t be an issue.

The bezel has the characteristic “rider tabs” which are trapezoidal markers at 15, 30, and 45 minutes. There is a lume dot at zero. The outer edge of the bezel has screws that in the original design were used for easy gripping but now are so small that they are mostly decorative. The bezel is unidirectional.

The sapphire crystal has a subtle dome, perhaps a nod to old acrylic watch crystals. There are two scales, an outer white tachymeter scale and an inner decimal scale on a black background. The scales are small and somewhat difficult to read but it’s nice to know that they are there.

The dial has an attractive light copper colored sunburst finish. The minute markers have ¼ second hash marks to match the accuracy of timing of the 28,800 vph movement. The markers themselves have a slim T shape with luminous material which helps distinguish the markers from the hands at night. The hour and minute hands are gladius shaped with lume at the fuller and a cross section like a pyramid with the top cut off. There are matching smaller chronograph subdial hands with lume. The seconds hand has a luminous arrow tip at one end and a Breitling cursive B at the other. The dial is proudly printed with Breitling 1884 and lets you know that like all Breitlings, it is a COSC certified chronometer. Chronometer is also printed on the edge of the back of the caseback and the rotor. The subdials of the B01 movement are at 3, 6, 9 and are black with polished edges and slope inwards to a circular finish. There is a color matched date window at 6. The lume is bright and highly legible at night.

There is a sapphire caseback showing off the B01 movement. This is a big upgrade compared to the Valjoux 7750 based movement found in the 1984 Chronomat. The B01 is a chronograph movement developed in-house at considerable expense and shows the brand’s commitment to luxury and excellence. It boasts automatic winding, hacking, quick set date, COSC certification, and beats at 28,800 vph. It has a column wheel rather than a cam, meaning that a small, castellated wheel and lever system is used rather than a more simple cam system. The column wheel has many points of contact requiring hand finishing and precise adjustment and thus is more expensive to produce. The reward is a much smoother actuation of the chronograph mechanism translating into a more satisfying “click” of the pushers. It is also a vertical clutch, meaning that the timekeeping gear train is coupled to the chronograph function by friction through two stacked discs rather than having a gear come in horizontally to mesh the components together. The lack of having to have teeth from two gears mesh together gives it a theoretical advantage in accuracy by perhaps a fraction of a second but also makes it thicker. In these ways it is comparable to the Rolex 4130 movement inside the Daytona. It is notable that the B01 is supplied to Tudor where it is used in their chronographs with slight modification.

The unusual rouleaux style bracelet is held over from the original design. The rounded links are generally comfortable. Every other link has two high polished areas giving it some textural contrast. There is a butterfly clasp so the bracelet is continuous but there is no microadjust option.

This watch looks great, feels great, and has a cool history and design. It comes from a renowned Swiss luxury brand and it shows in the attention to detail and finishing at every level. If you are that guy, or want to be that guy with the big shiny watch with a pop of color, this is the one for you.

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