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New and hands-on review: Breitling Chronomat

by Peter Chong on April 21, 2020
Overview
Brand

Breitling Chronomat

Complication / Type of Watch

All purpose automatic sports chronograph.

Recommended Retail Price

From S$10,850 to S$27,400.
Breitling website has the most current pricing information.

Breitling Chronomat was launched in 1984, and this year, the collection is revised with a new one, with numerous models, ranging from the limited edition Chronomat Frecce Tricolori, to SS, two tone variants and one in solid gold. All are introduced with a new Rouleaux bracelet with a butterfly clasp, and equipped with the Breitling B01 Chronograph movement. Here is our hands-on review.

The Chronomat holds a significant place in Breitling’s history. Introduced in 1984, when extra-thin quartz timepieces were the order of the day, Breitling placed a bold bet on an impressive mechanical watch that proved to be a winner and became an icon of its era. The new Breitling Chronomat is targeted as an all purpose sports watch.

Breitling Chronomat

At launch, the collection comprises of four steel on steel models, with silver, copper, blue or black dials. Two limited editions: the Bentley with a green dial, and the Frecce Tricolori in a blue dial with special markings. In addition, there is a steel version with gold rider tabs, a silver dial, and steel bracelet, as well as a model with a steel and gold case, with an anthracite or blue dial, on a steel and gold bracelet. And finally a full-gold case and anthracite dial, which comes on a black rubber strap.

Breitling Chronomat Frecce Tricolori

The new Chronomat assumes the mantle of the all round sports watch from the old Chronomat, and the design cues result in a carryover of the DNA of the original. In preparing this review, we had hands on with three of the new models – the limited edition Frecce Tricolori, the gold version and the one that Georges Kern admitted in the launch video as his favourite – the salmon dial version.

All the models share the same case and movement. The differences are only in the dial and the case materials.

  • The signature rotating bezel is highlighted by rider tabs, which not only protect the crystal but make the manipulation of the bezel easier. These are tabs at 3, 6, 9, 12 which are set like keystones, and slightly raised from the rest of the bezel.
  • The rider tabs at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock are true to the original, and are interchangeable, so the wearer can use them either for a “count up” or “count down” function.

The case, dial and hands

The case retains the time tested shape of the older Chronomat, but the case size is reduced from 44mm to 42mm. Aesthetically, the edges are not as rounded as the earlier model, and the case appears like it was carved out from a solid block of steel. The feel is massive and solid, and frankly very comforting, inspiring confidence.

The bezel is rather wide and large, and fitted with the signature rider tabs at 12, 3, 6 and 9. The tabs at 3 and 9 can be unscrewed at a Breitling workshop, and swapped to allow the watch to be used as either a count up chronograph (conventional) or count down. The rest of the bezel is clean polished, and marked only at each hour with an engraved line, except for the upper half which are also engraved with minute markers.

The top of the bezel is polished to a nice shine, as are the push buttons for the chronograph. The crown retains the unusual conical shape of past Chronomats, like an onion, but without a bulge, with corrugated sides to facilitate good grip.

In practice, this works well, as the crown is easy to manipulate for time setting and winding. The rehaut is a sloping one, and marked up as a tachymeter. The main dial itself has applique markers filled with SuperLuminova. And transfer printed minute markings on the peripheral. The chronograph sub-dials are the 3/6/9 position as is required by the B01 movement. In the Frecce Tricolori, they retain the Italian tricolour emblazoned below the Breitling “B” logo, while on the salmon dial version shown below, is a contrasting deep blue sub-dial which shows beautifully against the salmon colour of the rest of the dial.

The new rouleaux bracelet is quite interesting, and gives the new Chronomat a strong visual aesthetic linking it back to its past. The links are small, cylinderical shaped, hence the name rouleaux (French meaning cylinder). On the wrist it feels very supple and comfortable as it adheres to the contours of the anatomy very well. Visually, we also think it to be quite beautiful, with the polished interlinks on alternate cylinders providing a visual link to the tabs and contrasting nicely with the brushed cylinders.

The movement: Breitling B01

The movement is now the time tested, and proven B01, which is a full manufactured movement by Breitling. As mentioned before, Breitling supplies Tudor with this movement for use in the Black Bay Chronograph.

The movement is a proper sports chronograph. A full size rotor ensures sufficient winding capability, topping up the mainspring to provide 70 hours of power reserve. A traditional column wheel is used to control the chronograph functions, and the balance runs at 28,800 bph. The movement is COSC chronometer certified.

Movement finishing is not at haute horlogerie levels, but at an appropriate price level. It is very well executed to a high engineering level, one that any sports watch would be proud to have been equipped with. The pushers operate smoothly, with a good firm positive feedback to each push to confirm starts, stops, and resets. The case is rated to perform at 200m, and meets ISO 6425 dive specifications for full compliance.

Competitive Landscape

The landscape of an all purpose sports chronograph is one which is heavily populated. And at prices ranging from S$10,850 – $27,500, the Breitling Chronomat sits very competitively in the landscape. We only select a couple of perhaps obvious ones as comparisons.

The Tudor Black Bay Chronograph is perhaps a strong contender. It shares the same Breitling manufactured movement, but aesthetically is a different kettle. So depending on one’s tastes, one might win over the other. For us, the Breitling takes the cake, as the elements are more harmonious – from the case, to the bezel to the hands and dial. All suggesting a better design integration than the Tudor. As an example the Black Bay Chronograph has huge snowflake hands, traditional though it may be, blocks the chronograph sub-dials at several positions. Enough to render the chronograph useless.

Glashütte Original offers their Sixties Chronograph, (review tomorrow!) as an alternative as well. Priced at S$12,900 in SS and with a rather unique dial, it offers a bi-compax layout, via a chronograph module over an in-house automatic movement. The major attraction to the GO is the more dressy form factor, and the beautiful dial.

And perhaps we might as well compare to the king of the all purpose sports chronograph – the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. This is the king to dethrone. Technically, it offers no more, and no less than the Chronomat. Visually, its a pick for tastes. Horses for courses. But the aura and the market impression of the Rolex towers over the Chronomat, and any other sporty chronograph. However, even in these strange days of the COVID-19, even Daytona prices are seen to have softened. But they are still somewhat like black swans, and difficult to buy at authorized retail.

Concluding remarks

Overall, we liked the new Chronomat more than we thought we would. We admit, we have never been a fan of the previous version, as it struck us as a bit pedestrian in design. But with small changes, the new Chronomat manages to rise over the flaws of the earlier one. The watch is now less massive, not only in overall diameter, but in other areas as well, for example, the rider tabs now are lower in profile. And with the rouleaux bracelet, though a throwback to the early Chronomat days, is a design that somehow pulls itself together, and works well.

Our pick is the Freece Tricolari version (S$11,050), but the salmon dial (S$10,850) is quite a good choice as well. On the wrist the steel bracelet is very comfortable, and extends the usability in all climes. A good thing, as the Chronomat is aimed as the multi-purpose sports watch.

For more information, visit the Breitling Chronomat pages.

Photo notes: Photographed with the Fujifilm GFX100 with either the GF50mm F3.5 R LM WR with 18mm extension tube.

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