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In Contemporary Times, Breitling’s Watchmaking Brags Its Commitment to Heritage

By Lynette Kee

Courtesy of Breitling

In the 1970s, the watchmaking industry winced at the entrance of the Japanese battery-powered quartz watch. It was a period that signalled a new era and many had believed that it would be the end for mechanical movements. Yet it was in 1984 when Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling stood its ground to launched the mechanical Chronomat watch as a bold celebration of the brand’s centenary and its technical legacy.

Courtesy of Breitling

In the fashion of a political statement, Breitling declared the Chronomat to be the sports watch of its era, and an expression of confidence to “make chronographs cool again,” as stated in its release — and it did. “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,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “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.”

The 1984 Chronomat became a hit for its unique design elements, like the obvious Rouleaux bracelet (named after its roller-like links), the “rider tabs” on the bezel and its onion-shaped crown. Breitling has remained consistent with the latter two identity vectors throughout the watch’s various incarnations released over the years. And while the original Chronomat has definitely aged well into the modern era with a retro-cool appeal, it’s unsurprising that amid so much upheaval going on in the world today, the luxury watchmaker has turned back to the watch — a mechanical marvel that was made with purpose — to release a new generation Chronomat line.

Courtesy of Breitling

And the result is a modern interpretation of its revered line, a sort of aspirational tribute. Breitling fine-tuned all of its unique design elements, and more notably, reintroduced the Rouleaux bracelet for a more vintage slant. The “rider tabs” on the bezel now flush more seamlessly onto the bezel. These raised markers also perform as a functional grip to allow the bezel to be turned with ease — each tab at the three and nine o’clock can also be unscrewed and switched for the bezel to be used as a countdown or count-up timer.

Breitling has released 10 references under the “modern” Chronomat line in various dial colourways. There are also bi-colour options available to truly set the modern collection apart from its predecessor. At the heart of each watch, the chronograph is powered by the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, which was aptly launched in the Chronomat 01 — a powerful tribute to the house’s important moment in its history.

While Breitling’s heritage is rooted in aviation and water-based sports, this latest collection presents itself as an all-encompassing sports watch with an overall dressier design, poised to march ahead.