Breitling was founded in 1884 and right from the start the company specialised in chronographs. In fact it’s fair to say that many of the modern-day chronograph characteristics we know and love can be attributed – at least in part – to developments undertaken by the company. In 1942, Breitling introduced the first watch with a circular slide rule, the Chronomat. Some years later (1954) the legendary Navitimer made its debut. The focus of today’s article however is on the Chronomat, perhaps one of, if not, the most commercially successful Breitling model of the past sixty years. Contrary to popular belief, it is the Chronomat not the Navitimer that has proven to be Breitling’s biggest seller. Today we’re taking a closer look at the latest iteration, the Chronomat Black Steel 44 SE. First though, some background.
What is the Chronomat?
It is generally accepted that the Chronomat made its public sales debut in 1942 and this is the date that has been quoted for many years by the Breitling Company. The life of the Breitling Chronomat black dial fake watches began in 1940 with the application for a Swiss government patent for an innovative circular slide rule to be used in conjunction with a wrist chronograph. The circular slide-rule design of the Chronomat has come to be known as the ‘Type 42’. Emphasis was placed on the watch’s application in engineering and mathematics, science and industry, positioning it as an analog computer for your wrist.
The 1940’s Chronomat is regarded as one of the most historically important Breitlings ever made, a true classic. There is a red 0 – 100 scale near the middle of the dial which can be used for reading 1/100ths of a minute, necessary for making accurate computations using the slide-rule. The Swiss cross and the number 217012 on the dial refer to the Swiss government patent that was granted in 1940. As with other chronographs of the period, the minute register was marked at 3, 6 and 9 minutes as long-distance phone calls were charged in 3-minute increments back then. The rotating bezel included an outer telemeter scale and the watch was equipped with the legendary Calibre Venus 175.
The Chronomat’s functionality helped create one of the greatest aviation chronographs ever made, the Navitimer, and from 1954 up to 1962 both models co-existed, targeting different segments of the market. The first was promoted back then as the chronograph for engineers, the second as a tool watch for pilots. However, in the July 1962 edition of the AOPA Pilot magazine, the newly designed Chronomat (Ref.808) was promoted as a watch suitable for pilots. Despite this confusion, the model’s character did not change. The Chronomat went on to be produced in many forms including a version of the first automatic chronograph watch in the late 1960s and a quartz non-chronograph during the 1970s. Then in the 1980s it was reborn in a different form as a pilot’s watch without the slide-rule.
After the catastrophic Quartz crisis Breitling Chronomat series replica watches had to re-invent itself. In 1984 the Chronomat (Ref.81950) was (re)introduced. This new incarnation was designed with input from Italian military pilots however it was very different than the iconic Navitimer. In the place of the old type 42 slide rule it had a rotating timing bezel with four projecting “rider tabs”, easy to grip while wearing gloves in the cockpit. They also provided a measure of protection for the crystal. The pushers and crown were made more prominent and therefore easier to use while wearing gloves. This also marked the first time Breitling used the Valjoux 7750 movement.