The watchmaking industry – which relies on centuries-old mechanical movements and expertise passed down through the generations – has, perhaps understandably, been sceptical of innovation. Many brands have a limited online presence and, until the coronavirus pandemic forced Watches & Wonders to go digital, its main method of promotion was to gather the entire international industry in Geneva once a year.
One brand that has always been ahead of the curve, however, is Breitling. It was one of the first to host large scale regional presentations – known as Breitling Summits – and, while other brands were still ruminating over how to present their 2020 novelties, Breitling was busy inviting both trade and the public to a YouTube presentation hosted by its CEO Georges Kern.
And the timepieces he offered up for the world’s perusal didn’t disappoint. New iterations of some of the house’s most famous and successful timepieces, each of the three lines Breitling has launched for 2020 – the Chronomat, the Superocean Heritage ’57 and the Navitimer Automatic 35 – are a lesson in why it pays to look back in order to move forward. Here’s everything you need to know…
Breitling has long been known as a purveyor of fine sports watches for sea, sky, land and beyond and, with the introduction of the Chronomat, it cements this reputation even further. Or should that be reintroduction – because the new Chronomat is, in fact, based on a timepiece first seen in 1984.
The original Chronomat marked itself out with a steadfast dedication to mechanical watchmaking when the industry was increasingly turning to quartz movements. Its modern successor, meanwhile, will join Breitling’s existing line up of quality mechanical timepieces as the brand’s all-purpose sports watch ready for anything and everything. “The 1984 Chronomat occupies a very important place in our modern history. It was the watch that boldly proclaimed Breitling was staying absolutely true to its roots,” says Kern. “The new Chronomat Collection is a fitting tribute to the amazing watch that, more than any other, put us back in touch with our heritage.”
Each reference in the new range is powered by an in-house Calibre 01 self-winding mechanical movement which delivers an impressive 70 hour power reserve and supports a range of chronograph functions, including 1/4th second, 30 minute and 12 hour counters. The movement, in itself, is a tribute to the 1984 original: Chronomat is a contraction of ‘chronograph’ and ‘automatic’.
And with this built-for-anything movement comes a built-for-anyone aesthetic. The Chronomat is available in no fewer than 10 different references, each based on a 42mm case that boasts water resistance up to 200 metres. Should you opt for a stainless steel version you may select from a silver, copper, blue or Bentley green dial with black subdials, or a black face with white subdials, all on a stainless steel bracelet.
Those with a taste for luxury may, instead, opt to mix metals with a steel case highlighted with an 18k red gold bezel, crown and pushers. Gold numerals, indices and rider tabs also feature on the blue-on-blue or black-on-silver dials of this design. Alternatively you could go all out with a full 18k red gold case presented on a black rubber strap with an anthracite dial and black chronograph counters. Choices choices.
Finally, Breitling has also introduced a limited version of the Chronomat in homage to the 1983 Frecce Tricolori watch – created for the famous flying squadron – which inspired the original timepiece. Offered in an edition of 250 pieces, its steel case frames a blue dial with tone-on-tone subdials and emblazoned with the Frecce Tricolori logo in place of the usual Breitling emblem.
Superocean Heritage ’57
Let’s be honest, high-end mechanical watchmaking, with all its technicalities, reverence and complicated terms, can be a little daunting to many. But you don’t have to be an expert in complicated complications to appreciate a fine watch – which is what the Superocean Heritage ’57 hopes to demonstrate.
This joyful capsule collection takes it cues from the laidback surfing lifestyle of the Fifties and Sixties, putting a light-hearted spin on the grown-up diving icon it stems from. “With the Superocean Heritage ’57 Capsule Collection, we’ve focused on the relaxed Southern California fun-in-the-sun culture that defined an era,” says Kern. “The great music, the amazing cars, and the almost spiritual connection to freedom found on endless sandy beaches and in the search for the perfect wave.”
Unnumbered but to be produced for a limited time only, the Heritage ’57 will be available in a 42mm stainless steel case with either a classic black dial on a vintage-style black leather strap or with a blue dial on a brown vintage-style leather strap. A two-tone version with an 18k red gold bi-directional rotating bezel, black ceramic ring and black dial completes the core capsule collection.
But what would the surfing lifestyle be without a little colour? In addition to the pieces above, the Heritage ’57 collection will also include a 250-piece limited edition sporting SuperLuminova-coated rainbow-hued numerals and indices on its black dial. Presented on a black leather strap, it is also compatible with six brightly striped Econyl NATO straps making it a truly customisable timepiece. Each of the new Superocean watches will house a Breitling Calibre 10 chronometer-certified self-winding movement with a 42 hour per reserve and a diving watch-worthy water resistance of 100 metres.
The watch world, for so long dominated by exorbitantly large timepieces, is finally waking up to the fact that not everyone’s wrists can take the strain – and the Navitimer 35 is a welcome addition to a new generation of smaller models.
While being ostensibly marketed to Breitling’s female audience, should you be a gentleman who prefers his watches on the slighter side, there are plenty of options in the range that easily qualify as unisex. The stainless steel version, for example, comes with a choice of blue dial with blue alligator strap or copper dial with brown alligator strap and, with their clean three-handed design inspired by the famous Ref. 66 of the 1950s, are nothing if not gender neutral. Of course, should you happen to be buying for a woman, there are some rather elegant diamond set mother-of-pearl dials that catch the eye as well.
Thankfully, downsizing doesn’t mean sacrificing on great mechanical watchmaking. Every piece in the collection ticks to the beat of an in0-house Calibre 17 self-winding movement which has been through the same rigorous COSC certification process as its larger counterparts. When it comes to watches, bigger does not now always mean better.
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