Breitling (Re)Introduces the Chronomat with Rouleaux Bracelet

The 1990s icon returns.

One of the most fashionable watches of the late 1980s and 1990s was the Breitling Chronomat with the distinctive Rouleaux bracelet, specifically the two-tone, steel-and-yellow-gold model with a dark blue dial.

The watch of choice for assorted air force squadrons, the Chronomat was also spotted on major Hollywood stars of the era, most prominently Jerry Seinfeld and Bruce Willis. Breitling’s supercharged success after the Quartz Crisis – having been rescued by Swiss entrepreneur Ernest Schneider – was largely down to the Chronomat.

Now the Chronomat on the Rouleaux bracelet is making its comeback, after having been discontinued several years ago. Abandoning the styling of recent, unsuccessful facelifts, the new Chronomat B01 42 returns with a tightly-executed design that incorporates several elements of the 1990s classic.

A historic hit

Launched to mark the 100th anniversary of Breitling in 1984, the Chronomat marked the brand’s return to mechanical watches. In 1979, the late Ernest Schneider took over an ailing Breitling, which until was then making mostly quartz watches with a military flavour.

Having delivered the inaugural version of the Chronomat to members of Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic team of the Italian air force, Schneider had a hit on his hands once the Chronomat was sold to the public.

A page from the 1987 Breitling catalogue showing several versions of the Chronomat

Though it had the same name as a vintage Breitling chronograph, the Chronomat launched in 1984 was a thoroughly new design. It was strikingly modern for the 1980s, with several peculiar elements that gave it a novel look, including the four “rider tabs” secured by screws to the bezel, allowing the wearer to convert the bezel into a countdown timer. In addition, the Chronomat was available on a rouleaux, or “roller”, bracelet, made up of long, cylindrical links with rounded tips resembling tiny bullets.

These elements that defined the original Chronomat have been revived in the new model, and in a nod to its history, the line-up once again includes a Frecce Tricolori edition.


Chronomat B01 42

Like the 1984 original, the revamped model is available in a variety of material combinations, eight references in all. The line-up ranges from all-steel to two-tone with a steel case matched with either gold rider tabs or an entirely-gold bezel. And the top-of-the-line version is entirely in 18k pink gold. The movement inside the robust, in-house B01 that has a column wheel and vertical clutch – it’s the same movement used in several other Breitling models, including the flagship Navitimer.

The new Chronomat measures 42 mm across and 15.1 mm high, making it substantially more wearable than the immediate-past generation model that was 44 mm by 16.95 mm. That said, it’s still substantially larger than the 1984 original that was just 39 mm – extra-large back then.

Though the new case takes its cues from the original, retaining the same short, pointed lugs, the finishing has been upgraded, with brushed tops and sides separated by a wide, polished bevel. In addition, while the new model retains the signature fluted-onion crown, the matching screw pushers of the original have been replaced by more conventional pump-style pushers, giving it a much cleaner look.

And the trademark rider tabs have been dialled back, making them less prominent. The rider tabs are brushed while the bezel is entirely polished for contrast.

But staying true to the original, the 15- and 45-minute tabs are interchangeable, allowing the bezel to go from being an elapsed-time counter to a countdown timer. All markings on the bezel are all engraved and filled with black ink, which improves legibility as well as offer a stronger look especially since there isn’t a bezel insert.

Because the new Chronomat is smaller than the immediate-past generation model that had the same movement, the dial proportions have improved. At the same time, the date display is now smartly integrated into the sub-dial at six o’clock, with the date disc matching the colour of the counter. This makes the date less obvious, while also giving the dial symmetry.

As with the case, the details on the dial have been refined. While the indices and hands retain the original shape, they are now faceted lengthwise, giving them more depth. In addition, the chronograph counters are deeply recessed, while having with raised centres finished with concentric guilloche.

And finally, perhaps most significant aspect of the revamp is the resurrected Rouleaux bracelet that retains the look of the 1984 original but executed in a more refined manner.

The cylindrical links are brushed, but fitted with polished rings on alternate links for contrast. And the ends of each link are flat rather than rounded, with each end topped by a pronounced, polished bevel.

Brushed, cylindrical links with polished bevels on the ends

The two-tone Rouleaux in steel with pink-gold rings


Chronomat B01 42 Bentley

Alongside the new range, Breitling has also introduced the Chronomat B01 42 Bentley, perhaps one of the most striking watches Breitling has made for the British automaker.

The Bentley edition has two features that distinguish it from the standard model: one being the dark-green dial, and the other the being the carmaker’s logo on the case back. The rest of the watch is identical to the standard Chronomat B01, and it is part of the regular collection.

The Chronomat B01 42 Bentley


Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition

And last comes a watch that harks back to the launch of the original Chronomat in 1984, the Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori.

The watch pairs a steel case with a blue dial that has the aerobatic squadron’s logo taking pride of place at 12 o’clock, with Breitling’s own logo reduced in size and placed just below. Limited to 250 pieces, the Frecce Tricolori edition is otherwise identical to the standard model.

The 1983 original (left) and the new model


Key facts and price

Breitling Chronomat B01 42
Ref. IB0134101G1A1 (steel with “panda” dial)
Ref. AB0134101B1A1 (steel with “reverse panda” dial)
Ref. AB0134101K1A1 (steel with beige dial)
Ref. UB0134101B1U1 (steel case with gold bezel)
Ref. RB0134101B1S1 (pink gold case rubber strap)

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 15.1 mm
Material: Steel or pink gold
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: Caliber B01
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds; date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Rouleaux bracelet

Limited edition: No
Availability: To be updated
Price: US$8,100 in steel on bracelet; US$9,350 with pink gold rider tabs; US$12,100 with a gold bezel; and US$20,200 in all-pink gold with rubber strap


Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Bentley
Ref. AB01343A1L1A1

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 15.1 mm
Material: Steel
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: Caliber B01
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds; date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Rouleaux bracelet

Limited edition: No
Availability: To be updated
Price: US$8,250


Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition
Ref. AB01344A1C1A1

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 15.1 mm
Material: Steel
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: Caliber B01
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds; date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Rouleaux bracelet

Limited edition: 250 pieces
Availability: To be updated
Price: US$8,250

For more, visit Breitling.com.


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