Road-testing the gents and ladies’ models of the Breitling Chronomat – Crown Editors Alvin Wong and Melissa Kong put the new generation models to the test to see if the venerated Chronomat lives up to its reputation.
Relaunched in 2020, the new-generation Breitling Chronomat draws inspiration from a 1984 model that was introduced back then to mark the brand’s 100th anniversary. Dominating the wrist with aviation-inspired allure and performance-driven spirit, the original Chronomat was first delivered to members of the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian air force’s aerobatic team. Following its sale to the public, the Chronomat was quicky hailed as Breitling’s hit-making mechanical chronograph that wasn’t just incredibly popular, but a rallying symbol against the proliferation of quartz watches at that time.
The revamped Chronomat line continues to exude the same unmistakable presence, flaunting signature design elements like rotating bezels with interchangeable rider tabs (at three and nine o’clock), and integrated Rouleaux bracelets with butterfly clasps. At the same time, the watches also boast new features. In a nod to the Chronomat’s mechanical legacy, key amongst the new collection’s upgrades are new engines, featuring the in-house Calibre 01 automatic chronograph movement in the Chronomat B01 42 for men, and the Calibre 10 automatic movement in the Chronomat Automatic 36 for women.
Breitling CEO, Georges Kern, calls the new-generation Chronomat his “desert island watch”. “It is an all-purpose timepiece,” he adds. “The Chronomat has elements like the riders that you can change, it is waterproof and is also so versatile. You can wear it with jeans or with a formal outfit.”
But we just have to find out for ourselves, don’t we? In this review, Alvin and Melissa put a gents’ and ladies’ Chronomat model to the test.
Alvin’s Chronomat B01 42
Not going to lie: I am more of a three-hand dress watch kind of guy. Still, I kept an open mind. My first encounter with the watch was at Breitling’s loft-concept store at ION Orchard, and my immediate response was: “I can get into this!” I was allocated the model with panda-style dial and I believe the watch’s understated steel-on-silver combination scored an instant win. Handling it for the first time, the watch’s polished and matte finishes jumped out, along with its chronograph-imbued heft and weight. Right off the bat, the Chronomat B01 42 felt sportive and luxe at the same time. Checked the price and was told that it costs S$10,850.
With black totalisers accenting the watch’s largely steel and silver tones, this model is as understated as the new Chronomat collection gets. Still, this is a machismo-loaded chronograph. The watch’s bezel with claw-style rider tabs, onion-shaped crown and traditional rouleaux (French for ‘roller’) bracelet are its most distinctive features, and make the iconic Chronomat aesthetic what it is. Accentuated by the panda-style dial that’s all the rage of late, there is certainly that strong ‘modern-retro’ style in this watch that Breitling has been flagging with its recent releases. Last but not least, the watch’s combination of matte and polished finishing – especially on the Rouleaux bracelet – really pops and endows the model with a dynamic yet luxurious feel.
Very impressed by the legibility on this watch. The brilliantly polished hands and facetted hour markers provide depth and shadow, ensuring that they stand out against the sunray finish silver dial for fuss-free time-telling from any angle. The panda dial not only lends a touch of throwback chic, but contrasts beautifully with the hands on the totalisers. I hardly activated the chronograph, but I imagine that the red arrow-tipped central chronograph hand will surely come in handy for easy read-offs. Finally, the lume on this watch is outstanding. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it glow for the first time as I drove into a basement carpark – and it wasn’t even that dark.
You can definitely feel the weight on the Chronomat B01 42. The watch’s chronograph engine and robust steel construction add up. The case measures 42mm and, personally, that’s as far as I can stretch it for any watch, given my wrist size. Though the watch is rather large, it doesn’t come with the annoying overhang that commonly plagues plus-sized chronographs, thanks to its short and tapered lugs. Besides looking charming, the rouleaux bracelet feels really supple, too. When resizing the bracelet length, the boutique staff shared that each link comprises two cylindrical tubes. So, just note that it would be impossible to add or remove just one of those tubes when adjusting the bracelet length.
Like most folks, I usually enjoy a chronograph more for its aesthetics than its performance. That said, it was a pleasure to put the watch’s column wheel-aided movement to the test. The tactility of the stop/ start and rest pushers is faultless – just the right amount of resistance and punch to activate the chronograph, sending the totalisers on their way, as well as the red central chronograph hand in a smooth ticking sweep. The watch’s automatic Calibre 01 is developed and made in-house by Breitling. Like all of the brand’s movements, it is COSC-certified, which promises -4/+6 seconds daily deviation. I didn’t geek out that much to record this watch’s daily precision. But each time I checked, the time matched up, so I’m gonna take Breitling’s word for it.
For someone who doesn’t naturally gravitate to chronographs, the Chronomat B01 42 certainly grew on me – much more quickly than I expected, to be honest. The watch’s effortless but subtle expression of luxury, throwback design and mechanical gravitas certainly make a convincing proposition for fans of serious mechanical sports watches.
Melissa’s Chronomat Automatic 36
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I have a small wrist, so anything above 36mm tends to look oversized on me. While this Chronomat Automatic 36 was the perfect size, it was harder to get a perfect fit on the Rouleaux bracelet and, because they don’t do half links, I had to choose either a slightly looser fit or a very snug one. I opted for the looser fit because, well, I value my blood circulation. Besides, I thought wearing it slightly loose looked pretty cool too. As I prepared to leave the boutique, the sales assistant asked if I wanted to wear it straight away or keep it in the box. Of course, I wanted to wear it. In fact, I couldn’t wait to flaunt what’s become one of my favourite Breitling models in recent times.
For me, the highlight is really the Rouleaux bracelet. I love that Breitling decided to bring it back from the 1980s (what can I say, I’m an Eighties kid) and make it relevant today. It’s definitely retro-chic and, I daresay, timeless. At a gathering, I was surprised when a friend pointed out my watch had bling. It was only upon a double take that I realised there were tiny diamonds at the top of each index. I’m a person who doesn’t like diamonds on my everyday watch, but these ones are nondescript enough for my taste. Also, once I noticed the diamonds, I couldn’t unsee the subtle femininity they brought to the dial. Okay, so maybe a little bit of sparkle can’t hurt.
No complaints here. The dial is clean with a nice sunburst finish and the date window, while unobtrusive at six o’clock, is perfectly clear and large enough for short-sighted me not to have to squint. Super-LumiNova hands and indices also make the watch easy to read, even in low light conditions. The convex, double anti-reflective sapphire crystal is also a nice touch, eliminating glare when the sun does its thing too well.
I don’t usually wear a watch (shocking, I know) and when I do, it’s a smartwatch. But having the Chronomat Automatic 36 on my wrist was strangely comfortable. I say “strange” because I wasn’t expecting how at home it would feel on my wrist. Most of the time, I hardly even noticed it was there—a nice change from my smartwatch which would occasionally vibrate on my wrist. It was also easy to pair with any outfit and occasion, whether I was heading to a business lunch or shopping at the weekend market.
As an all-purpose sports watch, the Chronomat Automatic 36 is truly versatile. The uni-directional ratcheted rotating bezel is also a pleasure to activate, with smooth clicks at each turn. However, because the bezel has a polished finish, I left fingerprints each time I fiddled with it. It’s not a big issue, of course, but if you’re OCD, you might find yourself constantly wiping away evidence of your restless fingers.
At the end of the week, I had grown attached to the watch as I knew I would. I loved how easy it was to wear, how comfortable it felt and how chic it looked on my wrist. I even enquired how much it was (it’s $7,690, by the way). I don’t ask much from my watch, except for it to tell the date and time well and precisely. As a COSC-certified chronometer, the Chronomat Automatic 36 did just that. It’s been only half a day without it as I write this, and I miss it already.
Images courtesy of Breitling, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.
Text by Alvin Wong and Melissa Kong, in collaboration with Crown Watch Blog.