Breitling put out its first ever Summit webcast two days ago, introducing three new collections for their Spring 2020 collection that you can watch here. 

 

It was certainly a novel experience watching it, since they were introducing watches that would normally be introduced at Baselworld around this time, if it were any other year aside from this one. With the Coronavirus epidemic still raging currently, and with most communication about new watches having moved mostly online already, it was no great loss in terms of the information that was conveyed. Although from a journalistic standpoint, it would have been nice to have some hands on time with the watches and to be able to photograph the real thing in the flesh. 

Look for more brands to follow Breitling’s lead in the near future with such webcasts, as we continue down this unknown path of our current state of affairs. Hopefully things can get to normal soon, otherwise it’s gonna be new watches known via the Internet only like this. But back to the webcast – CEO Georges Kern knows how to put on a good show, with an engaging video that takes viewers deftly across the three collections that are being launched for this quarter, the Superocean Heritage ’57 Capsule Collection, the Navitimer Automatic 35 and the new Chronomat, and reminding viewers of the historical legitimacy of the brand in watchmaking, that no one can really argue with. 

The first watch, the Superocean Heritage ‘57, as its name suggests, and as the recent practice of Breitling implies, takes design inspiration from the original SuperOcean watch from 1957. As a “Capsule Collection”, it aims to take stand-out watches from the brand’s archives, to give a retro-modern twist. It also means that the watches are limited in production but not numbered, which probably means they’ll only be on sale for a short time. The new watches are meant to recall the cool, laid-back surfing lifestyle of the 1950s and 1960s which I am a little confused about to be honest. The connection is a little tenuous, and doesn’t seem to come from a specific technical or cultural aspect of the watches. 

Still they have retained the concave bezel, and the outsized indices at 12, 3, 6 and 9 of the original, and also in the process updated the new watch with a ceramic bezel. Perhaps the one watch that most exemplifies the spirit of California surfer culture that the collection is going for is the related 250 piece Superocean Heritage ‘57 Limited Edition. 

This comes with a dial that has its 12, 3, 6 and 9 indices in different colours to give a rainbow effect. It’s striking definitely, and a slightly different take from the jewelled rainbow bezel watches we’ve seen from many different brands over the past few years. It also emphasises the unique hour indices very well, especially at night when the lume appears in different colours.  

To this, buyers will have a choice of different coloured NATO straps that can be purchased separately that is made of Outerknown ECONYL® yarn, a nylon material that is made from old fishing nets. So there’s the environmental angle covered. 

Six color combinations are available: blue with dark blue stripes and lining, light blue with dark blue stripes and lining, yellow with orange stripes and lining, gray with black stripes and lining, red with black stripes and lining, and green with black stripes and liningThe second watch is the Navitimer Automatic 35, which if I have to summarise it succinctly, is the watch targeted at ladies in the collection. At 35mm wide, it is of a comfortable size for the fairer sex with smaller wrists, and the beaded bezel is modelled after the one that comes from the Navitimer Ref. 806. Breitling took the chance with this new watch to also announce their new ambassador – Yao Chen – a Chinese actress and philanthropist who has been billed as “China’s answer to Angelina Jolie.” I’m not in a position to comment if this is true, but it very well be seeing the calibre of ambassadors that they have from Hollywood. Lastly, the other icon for the brand, aside from the Navitimer, the Chronomat, also sees some radical changes. The Chronomat has been the brand’s flagship collection, and has accounted for the sales success that Breitling has enjoyed over the past few decades since it was first introduced in 1983. This was a collection that was meant for pilots, since it was designed for the Italian jet team, the “frecce tricolori”.

Over time however, it’s found favour with other users, specifically racing drivers and regatta racers who favoured the tachometer scale and the reversible rider tabs. Really however, it could be worn by anyone needing a watch that was tough, had high water resistance and a useful complication in a chronograph. 

Yet the Chronomat never made a case for itself for the horologically inclined, a crowd that preferred the storied legend of the Navitimer instead. There were two main issues with the Chronomat, especially those from the last decade that dissuaded – the large sizes and the use of too much high polish in the case and bracelet finishing. 

When the Chronomat was given the new manufacture B-01 movement in 2009, it was offered at a size of 47mm. Breitling made a smaller version at 44mm and even 41mm later on, which helped matters. This is why I am glad to see the new Chronomat, coming in at a reasonable size of 42mm, which should be welcomed across the board by a wide swatch of potential buyers. Not only that, it dispenses with the super high polished look that we have come to associate with the Chronomat and opts instead for an appropriate mix of brushed and polished surfaces in its case finishing which gives it an air of elegance and refinement, yet doesn’t compromise on its tool watch origins. It is certainly not as severe as the fully brushed Chronomat we saw in 2019, which felt a little like a palette cleanser after all the high polish. 

The first Chronomat 44 launched under the Georges Kern era, was mostly brushed.

The only areas of high polish are the bezel, with the brushed rider tabs for contrast and the edges of the mostly brushed cases. Thank goodness for Georges Kern, for getting rid of the blinding in the light high polished cases and bracelets that just made the watches too brash and ostentatious! With the case size of the new Chronomat at 42mm, and with it using the much lauded B01 in-house movement, there is much to like here, and this launch is made even better by being offered on the iconic Rouleaux bracelet, which offers a nice link to the brand’s heritage. It comes brushed with polished interlinks and a twin trigger butterfly clasp. Furthermore, with the links of the Chronomat to aviation, motorsport and regatta racing, the rider tabs can be modified, with the 15 and 45 ones in their normal positions for the countup function and swapped for the countdown function. This swap can be reversed any time since all it takes is to undo the screw that holds down the rider tabs. Lastly, with a water resistance of 200 metres this is a watch that you can wear for any purpose and for any reason. 

I think that finally, this Chronomat now has a chance to be the brand’s Rolex Daytona. By that I mean the sort of mass market luxury sports watch option that can be the go to flagship of the range. The launch collection comes with a variety of executions, the standard monochromatic panda ones, a special British racing green dial, some two tone variants, and even a full 18k rose gold option. Also, in tribute to the original “frecce tricolori”, there is a new 250 piece limited edition “Frecco Tricolori Limited Edition”, that celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the famed Italian jet team. 

Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition with a blue dial and tone-on-tone chronograph counters

The previous generation Chronomat GMT 44 is a watch that should be up next in the new 42mm Chronomat case.

There is definitely something here for everyone, and the next question is when they will launch the GMT version of this Chronomat with the B-04 movement (previous version, the Chronomat GMT 44 shown above). It will probably only be a matter of time. 

Find out more at breitling.com