chronomat

THE ALL-PURPOSE ICON – TECHNICAL INSPIRATION, STYLISH EXECUTION

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Italian Frecce Tricolori Jet Team circa 1980s flying in a squadron
Frecce Tricolori Jet Team C. 1980s

A SPECIAL CHRONOGRAPH FOR THE FRECCE TRICOLORI JET TEAM

In the early 1980s, Ernest Schneider – at the helm of Breitling since 1979 – learns that the renowned Italian Frecce Tricolori Jet team is looking for a new chronograph for its pilots. As you would expect for Italian gentlemen, this chronograph should be elegant enough to be worn with a suit when pilots are not on duty but still sturdy enough to properly function in a jet cockpit. It also has to be mechanical, because the elite aerobatics team wants an analog display; at the time, no quartz chronograph movement of this type is yet available on the market.

Ernest Schneider doesn’t want to simply offer an adaptation of an existing model; he intends to create a completely new chronograph that perfectly fits the Italian pilots’ needs and desires.

As a pilot himself, he intuitively understands the importance of legibility and comfort on the wrist. On a trip to Italy to meet with the Italian Jet Team, he also discovers why some pilots sometimes return with broken watch crystals: when opening the aircraft’s canopy after landing, some pilots give their watch a hard knock against the metal frame as they extend their arms.

This leads to the brilliant solution of slightly recessing the crystal in the bezel and to protect it with four “rider tabs.”

These soon become the iconic signature mark of the Chronomat.

Rider tabs technical drawing, C. 1982
Rider tabs technical drawing, C. 1982

THE RIDER TABS: ALL-PURPOSE AT HEART

The rider tabs not only protect the glass, but they also mark every quarter of an hour (0, 15, 30 and 45).

The rider tabs at 15 and 45 can be unscrewed, and inverted, making it possible to use the bezel for countdown or count-up. A very useful feature for any adventure, be it flying in the air, racing on the ground and sailing overseas at sea!

They also give the watch a bold look, nicely balanced by the restrained case diameter of 39mm and the absence of sharp edges, which ensures the elegance you would naturally expect from Italian pilots.

Original Catalog showing a Chronograph “Frecce Tricolori” and a cockpit circa 1994
Original Catalog Chronograph “Frecce Tricolori”, C. 1994

1983 - THE CHRONOGRAPH “FRECCE TRICOLORI”

The chronograph “Frecce Tricolori,” is presented to the eponymous Italian Jet Team in 1983; pilots immediately see the appeal of this ultrafunctional, original and elegant chronograph.

The black dial bears the patrol’s emblem: three arrows in the colors of the country’s flag above the inscription “P.A.N frecce tricolori,” with P.A.N standing for Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale.

1983
Chronograph “Frecce Tricolori”
Valjoux 7750
39mm

1983
Chronograph “Frecce Tricolori”
Valjoux 7750
39mm

Many different special edition watches were then produced to celebrate the famed Italian aerial squadron.

The latest Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition (250 pcs) marks the Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary.

Original Catalog showing a Chronograph “Frecce Tricolori” and a cockpit circa 1994
Original Catalog Chronomat, C. 1984

1984 - THE CHRONOMAT

1984 is quickly approaching, and with it the 100th anniversary of Breitling.

For the momentous occasion, Ernest Schneider wants to launch a new watch that would revolutionize the industry and put the mechanical chronograph back at center stage, proving that it can still attract a cool and trendy clientele.

It is worth remembering that at the time the trend was on slim time-only watches, mostly powered by quartz movements; launching a substantial mechanical chronograph was a bold move from Ernest Schneider.

Keenly aware that he has created a chronograph that perfectly embodies the brand’s entire philosophy and mission, he sees the chronograph “Frecce Tricolori” as the perfect foundation to develop the new standard-bearer of the Breitling spirit.

1984
CHRONOMAT
REF. 81950
Valjoux 7750
39mm

1984
CHRONOMAT
REF. 81950
Valjoux 7750
39mm

In 1984, Breitling presents the Chronomat (Ref. 81950), a name that combines chronograph and automatic, Chronomat being a legendary name for Breitling as it previously stood for Chronographe Mathematique, the 1940s ancestor of the Navitimer.

The “new” Chronomat success is instantaneous and global.

Technical drawing of a Chronomat case circa 1984
Original Chronomat Technical Scheme, C. 1984

AND IT MAKES THE CHRONOGRAPH COOL AGAIN

The Chronomat keeps the design elements that made its precursor a faithful companion of Italian Jet Pilots one year before – including the signature rider tabs, the smooth and streamlined case and the iconic “Rouleaux” bracelet.

The interchangeable 15 and 45 rider tabs are perfectly suited for either flight (count up) or regatta (countdown) missions and the inner tachymeter scale offers the perfect finish to make the Chronomat the ideal all-purpose chronograph.

The Chronomat event gets a yachting version and a version specifically designed for the Renault F1 Team.

Soon, a two-tone version is offered with rider tabs, crown and pushers in gold and gives the Chronomat a luxurious flair, making it a symbol of style.

From sportsmen to businessmen, actors to jetsetters, everybody wears the Chronomat and enjoys its sport-chic look that really makes it stand apart from the competition of that period.

1980s
Chronomat “Yachting”
Valjoux 7750
39mm

1980s
Chronomat “Yachting”
Valjoux 7750
39mm

1990s
Chronomat “Renault F1 Team”
Valjoux 7750
39mm

1990s
Chronomat “Renault F1 Team”
Valjoux 7750
39mm

Caseback view of the Chronomat 01 from 2009
2009 Chronomat 01 Breitling Caliber 01 42mm

THE EVOLUTION OF THE CHRONOMAT

The Chronomat has remained in production since then and has seen several aesthetic and technical evolutions.

Underscoring its cornerstone position in the Breitling collection, it also becomes the first Breitling to receive the in-house Manufacture Chronograph Caliber 01 in 2009.

In 2020, the Chronomat collection has been re-designed for a new era while keeping the signature design codes of the original. With the comeback of the iconic “Rouleaux” bracelet, the Chronomat is the perfect watch for every pursuit.

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