Watch Of The Week: Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Bentley
What is it?
Why does it matter?
Breitling has been making watches in partnership with Bentley since 2002. The relationship clicked into place when the watchmaker was asked to design a dashboard clock for the reborn Continental GT, and has endured while other motoring tie-ups flit and fizzle in and out of existence. It’s more than easy alliteration, although the nature of the co-branding has evolved over the years.
Breitling used to separate its Bentley-branded watches into an entirely separate family, and with the benefit of distance in the rearview mirror, they were not always the most winsome of watches. One of Mr Georges Kern’s first acts as incoming CEO in 2017 was to drop the idea of a separate range, and use the Bentley association to denote special versions of existing models, which – spoiler alert – is what we have here.
The Chronomat name was first used by Breitling in 1942; it was actually the first watch with a slide-rule bezel, pre-dating the Navimiter by a decade. The Chronomat as we know it, however, came into being in 1983, when Breitling produced a chronograph for the Italian air display team, the Frecce Tricolori. It was notable for this “Rouleaux”-style bracelet and the “rider tabs” on the bezel, designed to make operation easier for gloved hands. (Nerd fact: you can unscrew the “15” and “45” tabs and swap them around, allowing the bezel to have either a count-up or count-down function.)
This year’s redesign – a pretty major and long-due overhaul – of the Chronomat harks closely back to that 1983 original, but the collection is no longer presented as a pilot’s watch. Instead, Breitling describes it as an “all-purpose watch for your every pursuit”.
Hence, the range includes this Bentley edition, denoted by its British racing-green dial. Smartly, there’s no other Bentley branding, a potential turn-off for those not concerned by a motoring link, but otherwise drawn to a very handsome watch.
But there’s a higher parallel to be drawn; I have driven both the older Continental GT and the current model, and, while no one would say the former was lacking in any department, its replacement is a tour de force. Classier than a Rolls, more comfortable than an Aston Martin, more exclusive than any German saloon, and considerably prettier to look at. The Chronomat has undergone a similar transformation – with this bracelet, the sleeker case and the vivid dial, it is a huge leap forward.
We haven’t even found time to mention the movement, Breitling’s in-house chronograph calibre that, unfathomably, doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves as a premium-quality manufacture movement. But then, when you’re in a Bentley, you don’t spend much time thinking about the engine, either.
The key details
Materials: stainless steel
Power reserve: 70 hours