The Breitling Chronomat is a watch that has stood the test of time. It was worn in World War II, survived the quartz crisis, was reinvented after the company’s collapse, and the brand is now recognized as one of the most popular and beloved watches of all time.
Breitling designed the Chronomat as an all-rounder with sophisticated style and a modern profile, available in several different configurations. Although the Chronomat is one of the cornerstones of Breitling’s catalog, the watch has taken on many different looks as it has transformed from a scientist’s tool watch to a pilot’s watch to one of Breitling’s most famous models.
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Breitling Chronomat History
In 1884, Léon Breitling founded Breitling in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, which was mainly dedicated to the manufacture of chronographs. By 1899, Breitling had even obtained a patent for a simplified pocket chronograph, and by 1892, the workshop had expanded to a new factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds with 60 employees. The next decade saw great advances in chronographs and stopwatches, including timepieces with tachymetric scales for measuring speed and pulse meters for doctors to measure pulses.
Eventually, Willy Breitling (grandson of the founder) took over the company to continue his grandfather’s advances in chronographs and patented the world’s first wrist chronograph with two pushers, which eventually laid the foundation for the Chronomat in 1940. During this period, Willy was also the company that focused most of its efforts on making watches for pilots and clocks for aircraft. During World War II, even the Royal Air Force was a Breitling customer, and some of its bombers and fighters were equipped with Breitling dashboard clocks.
The Chronomat was one of Breitling’s first instrument watches, but the watchmakers wanted to further distinguish the model from all other pilot’s watches of the time, so the brand marketed it (hence the name “Chronomat”) – (a combination of “chronograph for mathematicians”) – to the scientific community of engineers and mathematicians. The original Breitling Chronomat with its calculating bezel was the brand’s first model with this unique feature, and has since become a signature design element of the Navitimer collection.
Over the years, the Chronomat has gone through several iterations, from the first automatic chronograph in the late 1960s to the quartz version during the infamous quartz crisis of the 1970s. For Breitling, as for many other watchmakers of the time, the quartz crisis had a negative impact on the company’s business, forcing it to cease operations in 1979. Instead of disappearing, however, the company re-launched in 1980 – only without the Chronomat in its lineup. in fact, the watch did not re-launch until 1984, this time entirely for pilots rather than scientists.
In 2004, Breitling even renewed its line again, this time with the Chronomat Evolution, launched in 2004 and 2009, using the B01 movement, the first Breitling movement to be developed entirely in-house.
Breitling Chronomat Dial
Today, the Breitling Chronomat is available with two main types of dials – a chronograph dial with three subdials at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, and a simpler time and date dial with a bar scale and date window at 6 o’clock. Dedicated to Breitling’s larger Chronomat watches, this chronograph now comes with a 42 mm case.
Historically, Breitling chronographs were known for their complex chronograph dials. The first Breitling chronographs from the 1940s had two subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock. There is also a very rare 1946 Chronomat with an additional 12-hour subdial. However, as the popularity of this watch grew, the design of these two registers remained largely unchanged through the 1950s, eventually undergoing some minor updates in the 1960s, such as the arrow markers at 12 o’clock. During this period, we also saw the first automatic Chronomat with a more striking dial – either a black dial with silver/white subdials and external indicators, or a black dial with white dial and external indicators with black subdials, and two versions that also featured bright red accents.
By the 1970s, however, the dial had changed dramatically, this time omitting the chronograph subdial altogether, as the watch was no longer actually a chronograph. All three models produced during this period included the Chronomat slide rule, but no longer had a chronograph function – the dial now had slender hour markers and a simplified face. By the 1980s, when the Chronomat was reinvented under the new Breitling ownership, the chronograph subdial was back, but moved to the 6, 9 and 12 positions, with the date window at 3 o’clock.
As far as colors are concerned, the dial of the Chronomat has varied considerably over the years between blue, black and white/cream. However, the Breitling Chronomat is also available in green and even with a very rare yellow “FOR AMERICA” dial. In addition to the more classic black, white, silver and blue options in the current collection, the time and date models have a killer feature – a mint dial.
Breitling Chronomat Case And Bezel
The contemporary Chronomat collection is now available in 3 case sizes: 32 mm, 36 mm and 42 mm. In the past, the Chronomat was available in case sizes as large as 49 mm, just like the first “big case” automatic Chronomat watches. More recently, the Chronomat climbed to 47 mm for the Jet Team GMT MB04108P/BD76 Limited Edition. However, the original size of the Chronomat was a modest 36 mm, which was fairly standard at the time, when most men’s watches usually hovered between 34 mm and 36 mm.
Traditionally, the case material of the Breitling Chronomat was stainless steel and yellow gold, as well as both stainless steel and yellow gold colors. However, Breitling has previously updated this material, such as the GMT mentioned above, with a brushed black stainless steel case that has a modern and tactical feel. When it comes to the bezel, the metal usually matches the case, unless it is a two-tone watch, where the bezel is always equipped with gold.
As for the design of the bezel, there have been variations over the years. When Breitling first began production of the watch, the brand actually patented its rotating bezel, which featured an internal circular-gauge scale below the crystal. At the time, the rotating bezel included an external telemetric scale for measuring the distance of time. The original serrated bezel also became a beaded bezel (like the navigators we know and love) in short order. In the “big cases” of the late 1960s, we also got a new, patented, geared bezel mechanism with more serrated edges.
In the 1980s, the Chronomat was updated with a rotating chronograph bezel with four protruding “rider pieces” that allowed the pilot to hold the bezel easily even when wearing gloves in the cockpit – one of the reasons why Breitling renamed the model the Pilot’s Watch rather than the Scientist’s Watch. In 2000, the bezel was updated again with a different numeral font and wider 5-minute markers . Today, the bezel is unidirectional, with 5- and 15-minute markers on the non-chronograph version, as well as on the chronograph, but with additional minute markers on the first and last 15-minute increments.
Breitling Chronomat Watch Strap
Today, modern Chronomat straps have a one-piece look (although they are removable) and are seamless from case to strap. These metal straps are available in stainless steel, two-tone and solid gold to match the watch case, while the current generation comes with the collection’s signature “Rouleaux” strap, made up of its fine circular links.
Several other models were equipped with leather straps, a traditional Chronomat strap until the 1970s, when the brand began producing quartz models with integrated straps to keep up with the trends of the time. Starting with the rebirth of the Chronomat in the 1980s, we continue to see metal straps for the Breitling Chronomat, such as the Rouleaux and Pilot link straps.
Breitling Chronomat Price
As with most Swiss luxury watch brands, Breitling prices vary by material, size and function/complexity. However, the core price range for the new Breitling Chronomat stainless steel watch hovers between $4,000 and $8,000. As you might expect, Breitling gold watches retail for much more, but are down about 25-30% on the secondary market, making them a great value proposition.
Today, at the retail level, you can get a 32mm Breitling chronometer with a stainless steel quartz movement for $3800. The most expensive Chronomat clock is the $25,650 36 mm model with an automatic movement made entirely of red gold. Stainless steel Chronomat watches with mechanical chronograph movements are usually the most popular watches among collectors, and most can be purchased on the secondary market for $4,000 to $7,000.
Breitling Chronomat Movement
As Breitling has updated and upgraded the Chronomat, the brand has equipped the watch with a variety of different movements. Below, we have gathered a comprehensive list of almost all the movements used in Breitling chronographs over the years.
- Venus 175: early 1940s Chronomat. 17 jewels, central chronograph hand recording seconds, minute chronograph at 3 o’clock recording to 45 minutes, and a running seconds hand on a subdial at 9 o’clock.
- Venus 178: a very limited 3-dial subdial model from the 1940s.
- Venus 184: Equipped with a Chronomat moon phase function, it was the top Chronomat model of its time. Powers 3 registered models, including the moon phase and date complications.
- Venus 175: for the Chronomat ref. 769, ref. 808 and the “Grand Case” ref. 818.
- Valjoux 7733: equipped in the late 1970s with ref. 818 of the late 1970s.
- Calibre 11/12: The first automatic “Grand Case” Chronomat was equipped with a newly developed “Chrono-matic” micro-rotor movement called Calibre 11. This movement was also used in ref. 8808.
- Valjoux 7740: chronomat reference. 1973, 7808 equipped with a manual-winding movement.
- Quartz movement: During the quartz crisis, Breitling switched to quartz movements and abandoned the “big case” 9108 and the regular model chronographs. 7808 was equipped with this movement.
- Valjoux 7750: This movement with 17 jewels was used in the first models. 81950s and modified for the Chronomat moon phase watch. 81950 and the yacht chronograph for the Chronomat Yachting ref. 81950.
- Breitling 13: This movement is used in the 39.8 mm Breitling Chronomat Blackbird ref. A13350, launched in 1993. Today, the Blackbird is part of the “Avenger” collection.
- Breitling B01: the Chronomat finally has a movement entirely designed and manufactured by Breitling itself.
Today, Breitling uses the Manufacture caliber 77 Superquartz on the 32 mm model, the Type 10 self-winding movement on the 36 mm model and the Type 01 self-winding movement on the 42 mm model.
Breitling Chronomat Serial Numbers
Below, we have listed the years used in Breitling chronograph watches and the corresponding approximate vintage serial number ranges. If you have a Chronomat, you can determine the approximate year of manufacture of your Breitling by looking up its serial number range.
- 1944: 563659-568959
- 1945: 568971-636507
- 1946: 636508-692266
- 1947: 703562-717737
- 1948: 717784-728688
- 1949: 728724-740210
- 1950: 740405-769843
- 1951: 769844-808456
- 1952: 808457-817915
- 1953: 817916-832126
- 1954: 832127-844123
- 1955: 844124-868778
- 1956: 868779-889562
- 1957: 889563-898029
- 1958: 898830-910504
- 1959: 910505-922163
- 1960: 922164-933063
- 1961: 933064-947803
- 1962: 947804-963553
- 1963: 963554-975997
- 1964: 975998-1002734
- 1965: 1002735-1060398
- 1966: 1060399-1122809
- 1967: 1122810-1204581
- 1968: 1204582-1262904
- 1969: 1262905-1337825
- 1970: 1337826-1356899
- 1971: 1356900-1382203
- 1972: 1382204-1406566
- 1973: 1406567-1426969
- 1974: 1426970-1433372
- 1975: 1433373-1439417
- 1976: 1439418-1442922
- 1977: 1442923-1448464
- 1978: 1448465-1448473
Breitling Chronomat Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Breitling Chronomat watch.
What is the Breitling CHRONOMAT?
The Breitling Chronomat is a chronograph that was first produced in 1940 and then revived by the brand in 1984. Once a watch for scientists and mathematicians, but renamed as a pilot’s watch, the Chronomat is now an everyday sports watch. 2009 saw the release of the Breitling Chronomat, the first watch produced entirely by Breitling, with the in-house Calibre B01 movement.
Is the Breitling CHRONOMAT a good watch?
The Breitling Chronomat is an exceptional watch, with a first-class movement and superb finishing. Dating back to the 1940s, there are many classic watches as well as modern versions of this watch, all with their own unique style and aesthetic differences.
How much does the Breitling CHRONOMAT cost?
On the retail market, the Breitling Chronomat retails for between $3,800 and $20,500. On the secondary market, you can find great value prices for the Chronomat – stainless steel models typically range from $3,000 to $8,000, with precious metal versions and rare or collectible vintage references increasing in price from there.