Horological history is replete with audacious gambles that ultimately paid off. And one particularly compelling act of zeitgeist-spurning derring-do happened in 1984 when Breitling – inspired by a watch made in tandem with the elite Italian Jet Team Frecce Tricolori the previous year – celebrated its centenary by launching a bold, sporty timepiecewith prominent bezel riders and an automatic chronograph calibre, in flagrant disregard to the (as it turned out, moribund) trend for extra-thin quartz watches.
Now, almost four decades on, a new collection has been unveiled – and all models in the line-up are imperious, all-purpose pieces, just as suited to the beach, the casino or the red carpet as they are to the cockpit.
Breitling connoisseurs will already have noted, from the pictures here, Chronomat trademarks such as the Rouleaux bracelet with a butterfly clasp as well as the signature rotating bezel, not to mention features that have traditionally made the Chronomat appealing to Formula 1 teams and regatta participants (its tachymeter and reversible rider tabs at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, respectively).
Buyers have an agonising choice to make. One version of the new collection has a stainless-steel case and a dial in either silver, copper or blue with black contrasting chronograph counters; you can also opt for a stainless-steel case with an 18-karat red gold crown and pushers and a bezel with 18 karat red gold rider tabs, numerals and indexes, all set amidst a silver dial with tone-on-tone subdials.
The Chronomat Bentley – a toast to Breitling’s ongoing partnership with the luxury car marque – also has a stainless-steel case, but with a green dial and contrasting black chronograph counters and a “Bentley” engraving around the transparent sapphire caseback.
The Chronomat Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition, meanwhile – a celebration of the aforementioned 1983 forerunner piece – has a blue dial and tone-on-tone subdials plus the Frecce Tricolori logo in place of the Breitling one. This being a limited-edition model, its caseback is engraved with the words “One of 250”.
Then there’s arguably the most visually arresting of all: an iteration in a striking 18 karat red gold case with a black rubber strap and an anthracite dial with black contrasting chronograph counters. All versions have 42-millimetre cases, within which the beating heart is the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, an in-house movement whose power reserve is about 70 hours.
“The 1984 Chronomat occupies a very important place in our modern history,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “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.”
See Breitling’s video introduction of the new collection below.