One of the great names in aviation timepieces is, of course, Breitling, now celebrating its 130th anniversary. As is the Baselworld custom, Jean-Paul Girardin, the brand’s Vice-President, introduced me to the latest additions to two of their iconic collections: the Chronomat and the Navitimer.
In the early 1980s, Ernest Schneider – to whom Willy Breitling had just sold his firm – learned that the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian airforce aerobatics team, wanted to create an official watch. Accordingly, he decided to create a brand-new chronograph specifically designed for pilots’ needs. Developed in close cooperation with the squadron, the Chronomat was designed in particular for its readability and precision functions and the resulting Frecce Tricolori chronograph was launched in 1983.
In 1984, the firm celebrated its 100th anniversary by launching its Chronomat collection and over the past three decades, this exceptional chronograph has enjoyed an aesthetic evolution whilst maintaining its iconic characteristics. In 2009, the Chronomat was the first model in the range to host the new Manufacture Breitling calibres and has become an horological classic.
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of its flagship Chronomat model, Breitling is now launching a special series of this legendary pilot’s chronograph, the Chronomat Airborne.
Designed in the spirit of the original Frecce Tricolori chronograph, this model has a satin-brushed rotating bezel equipped with four raised rider tabs serving to count off flight times, while facilitating rotation even with gloved hands. The stainless steel case with its polished finish is available in two sizes, 41 and 44 mm, with either an onyx black dial with silver-toned counters or Sierra silver dial with black counters. The caseback is engraved with the inscription Edition Spéciale 30e Anniversaire and has the outline of an Aermacchi, one of the ten planes flown by the Italian flight squadron.
The watch is equipped with a Manufacture Breitling Calibre 01 self-winding movement, chronometer-certified by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute) with a 70-hour power reserve, 1/4th of a second chronograph and 30-minute and 12-hour totalizers. The date aperture is set between 4 and 5 o’clock, there is a unidirectional ratcheted rotating bezel, screw-locked crown and pushbuttons, a cambered sapphire crystal glare-proofed on both sides and has an ultra-sturdy strap in black military-type fabric, secured by a folding clasp. The 41 mm model is water-resistant to 300 metres and the 44 mm model is water-resistant to 500 metres.
There are two new variations on the legendary Navitimer, the ‘wrist instrument’ purpose-built for pilots and other aviation professionals in 1952.
The new 46 mm Navitimer comes in either stainless steel or a Limited Edition of 200 pieces in 18 carat red gold equipped with an automatic, high-frequency (28,800 vibrations per hour), Manufacture Breitling Calibre 01 COSC movement with a 70-hour power reserve. The dial is black or Aurora blue , there are 1/4th of a second chronograph, 30-minute and 12-hour totalizers, a date aperture between 4 and 5 o’clock, a rotating bezel with circular slide rule, a cambered sapphire crystal, glare-proofed on both sides. There is a transparent sapphire crystal caseback and this Navitimer comes with either a leather or crocodile strap or a stainless steel bracelet. The watch is water-resistant to 30 metres.
- Navitimer GMT by Breitling
The Navitimer GMT is an imposing 48 mm and comes with a Manufacture Breitling Calibre B04 self-winding, high-frequency (28,800 vibrations per hour) movement certified by the COSC, visible through the transparent caseback and equipped with a dual timezone system. User-friendly, the GMT system is ingenious: by simply pulling out the crown and turning it forwards or backwards in one-hour increments enables the instant setting of the travel time zone date and hour – while maintaining a home-time display in 24-hour mode and without losing any precision in terms of the minutes.
The large-format dial offers a very readable instrument panel either on a classic dial in black with silver counters or an all silver version.
There is a 70-hour power reserve, a 24-hour 2nd time zone display, 1/4th of a second chronograph, 30-minute and 12-hour totalizers, a date aperture between 4 and 6 o’clock, a cambered sapphire crystal, glare-proofed on both sides, a rotating bezel with circular slide rule and the watch is water-resistant to 30 metres.
The Navitimer GMT is completed by a steel bracelet or a leather or crocodile strap. A Limited Edition of 200 pieces in 18 carat red gold with a black dial is also available.
For Bentley aficionados, the Breitling for Bentley collection now has a its own Light Body GMT. In titanium, it has a Breitling Calibre B04 self-winding movement and the same chronographic features of the previous watches. However, added to this is a rotating inner bezel with the names of 24 cities thus enabling the user to have readings of all the time zones via the 24-hour hand. The watch is water-resistant to 100 metres and has that familiar broad bezel with a knurled motif inspired by Bentley radiator grilles.
The fish were happily swimming around in the gigantic fish tank that sits above the Breitling booth when I left and the sun was shining outside, making it a very pleasant year for their aficionados.