eorges Kern, Breitling’s CEO as well as a shareholder, is out to rattle the Big Three of Swiss watchmaking, and indeed any of the major independent companies whose success relies especially on sporty-chic models. Breitling has the portfolio, Kern the stature (read our interview here).
Will the Chronomat be “his” Royal Oak?
The Rouleaux bracelet is the fundamental distinguishing feature of the Chronomat in its 2020 iteration. First seen in 1984 on the occasion of the brand’s centenary, this model, which contributed to the comeback of mechanical Swiss watches, takes its inspiration from the Frecce Tricolori watch, developed and launched the previous year in collaboration with the eponymous Italian acrobatic troupe.
“The Rouleaux bracelet is the fundamental distinguishing feature of the Chronomat in its 2020 iteration.”
This reinterpretation is the embodiment of the “new luxury” concept advocated by Georges Kern – a more casual watchmaking style for a world increasingly reticent about the often overly arrogant codes of luxury (a trend that will doubtless be reinforced in the aftermath of the pandemic). As you might have guessed, “Chronomat” is a combination of “chronograph” and “automatic”. A rotating bezel with rider tabs and the Rouleaux bracelet enclose the in-house Breitling 01 calibre, with a power reserve of 70 hours.
The new collection comes in a multitude of dial variations and colours. You can choose between a silver, copper, blue, “panda” or “reverse panda” dial, and the list goes on. The Chronomat Bentley sports a green dial and contrasting chronograph counters, while the Chronomat Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition has a blue dial with tone-on-tone subdials.
Will the Chronomat be “Georges Kern’s Royal Oak”?
Alongside this model, Breitling is drawing on its vast heritage to revive additional retro models with a touch of contemporary extravagance, in the shape of the Superocean and Navitimer lines.
A Navitimer – the epitome of the virile watch – for women? That is a daring move if ever there was one, and thank goodness the “new” Breitling has done it, by reducing the diameter from 46 mm to 35. Its three-hand dial is a nod to the Ref. 66, launched in the 1950s. The circular slide rule is, of course, still there, encircling the diamond markers on all four iterations of the model. The Breitling calibre 17 that drives the Navitimer 35 has a power reserve of around 38 hours. With this model, Georges Kern is advertising his ambition of winning over “even women who had never imagined one day wearing a Breitling”. Or perhaps precisely those women, given the brand’s objective of mining new market share (in Asia, notably) thanks to its new strategy.
With the Navitimer Automatic 35, Georges Kern is advertising his ambition of winning over “even women who had never imagined one day wearing a Breitling”.
This new collection attempts to reconcile nostalgia and optimism with a psychedelic element taken straight from the 1960s. With its “new luxury” stance, the brand is steering away from the sports traditionally associated with watchmaking, such as golf or tennis, and investing massively in the world of surfing. This limited edition certainly takes the exercise to the extreme, linking the already familiar codes of the Superocean (including the voluminous bidirectional bezel) with a graduation of rainbow colours from yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple and red right through to orange on the markers and hands. Lucy in the sky...
“The brand is steering away from the sports traditionally associated with watchmaking, such as golf or tennis, and investing massively in the world of surfing.”