So often in life, design perfection can only be achieved by seeking advice and input from the experts. When the Italian airforce aerobatics team issued a tender for their first official watch, Ernest Schneider, who had purchased the Breitling trade name and stock from Willy Breitling before his death, consulted with the squadron members who would be using the requisite timepiece – a fortuitous move, because in 1983 his design became the watch of choice for the Frecce Tricolori.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Ernest Schneider could interpret the requirements of the Italian flying aces, because as a qualified pilot himself he understood the need for high legibility, functionality and ease of use while at the controls. In 1984 when Breitling had its 100th Anniversary year the watch which had been designed for the Frecce Tricolori became part of the brand’s celebrations in the form of the flagship Chronomat model.
Breitling Chronomat Airborne – Chronomat 30th Anniversary
2014 sees the 30th Anniversary of the Chronomat and it will be honoured with a special series release, the Chronomat Airborne, styled to pay tribute to Breitling’s affiliation with the Italian flight squadron.
30 years is, even in watchmaking terms, a long time and naturally the model has been updated over that time period but the improvements have remained faithful to the character of the original edition. When in 2009 Breitling singled out the Chronomat as the first model in their portfolio to receive their new Manufacture calibres, it demonstrated the brand’s commitment to the collection.
Breitling are extremely adept in the art of producing a tidy dial, and the new Chronomat Airborne models are no exception. Broad no-nonsense hands and chubby markers indicate time and contrasting toned counters heighten visibility. Tucked between 4 and 5 o’clock is a date window and at the dial edge a tachymeter scale is a practical inclusion. Inside the steel case is the Manufacture Breitling Calibre 01 COSC certified chronometer movement with more than 70 hours of power reserve.
A handsome face then, but what Breitling really excel at is the usefulness of their watches under extreme conditions and the new Chronomat Airborne models all feature four distinctive raised tabs on their rotating bezels for flight timing, functional even when wearing pilot’s gloves.
Two dial variations of the 30th Anniversary Breitling Chronomat Airborne will be available, black with silver-toned counters or an edition which the Breitling press release terms as silver-toned with black counters, but until I see this one in the metal at BaselWorld I have to conclude that it would appear to be closer to sand-coloured. In honour of the Italian Frecce Tricolori, each piece will feature a caseback engraving of an Aermacchi plane used by the squadron and the inscription “Edition Spéciale 30th Anniversaire”. With case sizes of both 41mm and 44mm secured to the wrist by a black military-type fabric strap, these new pieces promise to slip effortlessly beneath pilot’s gloves – or more likely, beneath a tailored cuff.