Replica Breitling Chronomat 44mm Blacksteel Special Edition – Looking Into The Past And The Present Of This Extraordinary Line of Sport Chronographs
Breitling was founded in 1884, and right from the start, specialised in chronographs to that extent that it is fair to say that the form of the chronograph, as we know it today, had been solidified due to the development done by the company. It was in 1942, that Breitling introduced the first watch with a circular slide rule, the Chronomat. Some years later (1954) the legendary Navitimer was also introduced. However, the focus of the article is on the Chronomat, perhaps one of, if not, the most commercially successful Breitling of the past sixty years. Contrary to general belief, it is not the Navitimer but the Chronomat that has proved to be Breitling’s biggest seller. However, before we examine the UK replica Breitling Chronomat Black Steel 44 SE we must understand how this model evolved.
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 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’ and the model’s raison-de-etre was technical. Quite simply emphasis was given on engineering and mathematics, science and industry, which after all stuck perfectly with its functionality (analog computer).
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, thus facilitates 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. In common 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 turning bezel included an outer telemeter scale while it 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 in Breitling’s 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) promoted as well as a watch suitable for pilots. Despite this confusion, the models 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 very different form as a pilot’s watch and without the slide-rule.
After the catastrophic Quartz crisis Breitling had to re-invent itself. In 1984 in particular the Chronomat (Ref.81950) 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 in the cockpit. Breitling used the Valjoux 7750 movement for the first time.
This new watch was named the Navitimer Chronomat and was very different from earlier Chronomats. It was admittedly a sportier chronograph with an interesting blend of ultra-modern and traditional elements, which had all the necessary specifications of a proper tool chronograph. After all it was water resistant to a depth of 100 meters and had been tested to forces of 20g. During 1984 a special version of the Chronomat with the Frecce Tricolori logo on the dial was issued to members of the aerobatic team.
Up to 2009, with the introduction of Breitling’s in-house B01 calibre the Chronomat little by little transformed to the ultimate sport chronograph, inside the company’s catalog, that could withstand almost everything. As well as in the old-school original Chronomat we have also witnessed many versions and it is as if the model became the test bed for experimentation by Breitling. For instance in 1985 we had a moon-phase model, while in 1989 we had the introduction of the Chronomat Yachting with a modified Valjoux 7750 movement with a special countdown timer in the place of the usual minutes counter at 12 o’clock. In 1996 the model had reached a level where it was offered in countless combinations of case metals, dials, straps/bracelet etc.
That same year Breitling created a special version, the Blackbird, that was true to the original Navitimer Chronomat of 1984. It was named after the legendary spy plane Lockheed Blackbird SR-71. However, the next big change in the line up happened in 2004 with the Chronomat Evolution becoming bigger in diameter, thickness and weight than the previous models; quite a departure from the original 1984 model. In 2009 the first watch to be announced with the new in-house cheap replica Breitling B01 movement was the Chronomat. This model was called the “Chronomat B01” and had also a number of stylistic differences from the Evolution but it was very recognisably a Chronomat.
Chronomat 44 Blacksteel Special Edition
Fast forward in 2016 with the introduction of the Chronomat 44 Blacksteel Special Edition we going to present, we realize that through the ages the model changed almost totally in order not to clash with the legendary Navitimer and in parallel in order to fulfill the role of the rugged sports chronograph inside the Breitling catalog. The modern Chronomats are surely bold watches both in their dimensions and their technical specifications, therefore combining a resolutely technical and masculine style. This Special Edition is perhaps the perfect embodiment of this.
The case and bezel are satin-brushed made from steel and they do stand out by their black carbon-based high-resistance treatment, which offers an unparalleled protection from scratches while it offers a very unique and cool stealthy look. The watch dimensions are 44mm in diameter, 16,95mm in height, 54mm lug to lug, while the weight of the watch is at 128,6 grams without the strap. Surely that is a hefty watch that cannot been worn with a suit, its purpose its not exactly that. It is extremely rugged and well made and is focused to people that want a cool and robust chronograph that can withstand almost everything you throw at it, and maybe more.
Of course, it has the technical specifications to support this role, since it is water resistant to 200 meters with a screw down crown and pushers while in parallel, the unidirectional rotating bezel with black rubber-inlaid numerals is equipped with four polished rider tabs serving to measure elapsed time as well as assist hand grip. The strap matches the Blacksteel’s character as well. It is the twin-pro strap (as Breitling calls it), which is high quality rubber, embossed with the name of the company. On the down side it is yellow in order to match with the dial and it is cut to fit. It also has a black steel push button with ratcheting clasp. All machined to a very high standard.
Besides the robust case and the watch specifications the coolest thing of the Chronomat Blacksteel SE is the dial color, a bold choice that you do not see very often in the industry. The yellow dial chosen has an almost school bus yellow tint and immediately commands attention against the slightly recessed black chrono sub dials and red hands, which they do remind of instrument panels. The hands and indexes have a certain aroma of patina, which reminds those of the Airborne edition of the Chronomat (personal favourite among the line). On the rehaut we have a 10-minute indication and on top of that we find the classic tachymetric scale. The result is a dial that stands out with admirable clarity and combines a bold color matched cleverly with various modern and vintage elements. At first glance this might look graceless but on closer inspection this is not the case. The dial ensures optimal readability thanks to its large luminescent-coated hour-markers and hands, protected by a sapphire crystal glare proofed on both sides.
As well as the stealthy looks and the robust nature of the Chronomat Blacksteel SE I think that its biggest advantage is its calibre. I do consider the in-house luxury fake Breitling B01 chronograph perhaps one of the greatest mass produced modern chronograph calibres along with the Omega cal.9300 and the Rolex cal.4130. This is the part that I might become a little more technical but I think it is worth it. The research for creating this started in 2004 and ended in 2009. The B01 is a 47-jewel caliber with an extended 70-hour power reserve obtained from a single barrel (unusually high for a self-winding movement), a modular design that considerably facilitates its maintenance, as well as instantaneous date change ability. It oscillates at the frequency of 4 Hz and offers a chronograph precision within 1/4th of a second. This calibre has a column-wheel arrangement and also a vertical coupling system (of chronograph and timekeeping mechanisms) that eliminates hand jumping once the chrono feature is triggered. In our case Breitling chose to paint black the oscillating weight of the B01 in accordance with the general character of the watch. Of course it can be seen through a transparent sapphire crystal caseback and I think it might be a pleonasm to mention that it is a COSC certified.
By concluding this preview I have to say that this is an exceptional modern chronograph that ticks all the right boxes. It houses a great calibre, it is robust, and it is bold in its dimensions and in its aesthetic appeal. Who is it for then? Surely the Chronomat Blacksteel is not for the vintage/retro chronograph lover, it is not a timepiece that is flexible and can been worn in various occasions throughout the day. It is not an elegant and classy timepiece and surely if you want such a exact copy Breitling chronograph you can choose something from the Navitimer or Transocean lines. This model is modern and bold, with light vintage strokes and aims at a man, who is active and wants on his wrist a quality chronograph that can withstand every punishment imaginable. Perhaps the Blacksteel might be classified as one of those perfect do-it-all summer watches. Surely, this model is an exceptional modern chronograph that begs to be used as intended. An exceptional new instrument for aviation professionals – and all passionate fans of accomplishments.