In the 1970s and 1980s, things weren’t looking so great for the tried-and-true mechanical watch. Compact, highly accurate quartz watches had flooded the market, and more and more people were taking a pass on the intricate craftsmanship of mechanical watches and opting for battery-powered options. But Swiss watchmaker Breitling wasn’t content to let the mechanical timepiece fall by the wayside. To celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1984, the brand launched the Chronomat, a mechanical watch that demonstrated a strong commitment to spring-powered watches, and it soon became an icon. Now the watchmaker has released the Chronomat B01 42, and it references everything we love about the original: It’s highly functional, offers refined styling, and brings some interesting history to your wrist.
The Chronomat name actually goes back even further than 1984. According to a press release, Breitling first attached the label to some of its watches in the 1940s, and the word was a portmanteau of “chronograph for mathematics” (this was long before the Casio calculator watch appeared). The 1984 Chronomat recycled the name, but this time it referred to the watch’s self-winding, or automatic, movement—a notable departure from the quartz watches that were so common at the time.
“It was the watch that boldly proclaimed Breitling was staying absolutely true to its roots,” Breitling CEO Georges Kern said in a statement.
The 1984 Chronomat took design cues from a timepiece Breitling had previously created to honor the Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force. With its tachymeter for calculating speed and its rotating bezel, it quickly became popular with aviators, as well as Formula 1 drivers and boaters.
Today’s Chronomat comes in a dizzying number of versions to suit every taste, but all stay true to the design heritage of the ‘80s original—or “modern-retro,” as Breitling describes it. The watch features a 42-millimeter stainless-steel case with an integrated Rouleaux bracelet for a sleek look on the wrist (there’s also a rubber bracelet available for a sportier feel). Like the original, the Chronomat B01 42 comes with a rotating unidirectional bezel with rider tabs. Although a small detail at first glance, the tabs serve an important purpose: They protect the timepiece’s sapphire glass, and the tabs at three o’clock and nine o’clock are interchangeable, which allows you to utilize “count down” or “count up” functions.
We also love that the Chronomat comes in such a wide range of finishes, which makes it possible to nab a unique timepiece that also fits well with your wardrobe. For example, you can opt for a silver, copper, or blue dial with black contrasting chronograph counters, or a black dial with silver contrasting chronograph counters. There are also several options with striking red gold accents, and two eye-catching special editions: a Bentley edition honoring the famed British carmaker and a limited edition (only 250 available) honoring the Frecce Tricolori.
No matter which you choose, you’ll get a very well-designed watch. Breitling’s Manufacture Caliber 01 movement powers every Chronomat, and each timepiece boasts a 70-hour power reserve. Plus, they’re water resistant to 200 meters, which makes them more than ready for the rigors of daily wear.
Over three decades after the “quartz revolution,” we’re happy to see that mechanical watches—especially the Chronomat—are still going strong.