Breitling Introduces the Chronomat Red Arrows

A nod to the RAF's aerobatics team.

Best known for its pilot’s watches, Breitling has long enjoyed relationships with airforces across the world, including the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF), especially its fabled aerobatic team, the Red Arrows. Continuing a partnership that is three decades old, Breitling has just announced the Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition.

This is the latest in several Red Arrows editions that began in the 1990s, but the first that’s based on the latest-generation Chronomat, which also means it’s the first with an in-house movement, the Caliber 01.

Not as revered by enthusiasts as the Navitimer with its distinctive slide-rule bezel, the Chronomat is nonetheless underrated. Introduced in 1984 to mark Breitling’s 100th anniversary, the modern-day Chronomat was a return to form for the brand, being a bold, brand-new design equipped with a mechanical movement, specifically the Valjoux 7750. Made even more distinctive with its Rouleaux bracelet made up of baton links, the Chronomat quickly became a bestseller that defined Breitling in the 1990s.

Initial thoughts

Given that fact that perhaps the best known Breitling-Red Arrows watch was a 1995 Chronomat with a red dial, the new edition makes perfect sense. That said, the Red Arrows watch is essentially the same as the standard Chronomat with a blue dial, but with the Red Arrows logo at 12 o’clock.

Having more Red Arrows-specific elements incorporated to the design would have made it more distinctive, but since this was created with the blessing of the RAF – Breitling is its only watchmaking partner – the leeway in creativity was presumably limited.

On the flip side, the watch would appeal to anyone who wants a bit of air-force aerobatic allure in a discreet package. At the same time, the Red Arrows edition costs only about 5% over the standard model, which makes it a useful upgrade over the standard model for an aviation or aerobatics enthusiast. Add to that the fact that the edition is small, with only 160 pieces to be made, and it should sell briskly.

“Diamond Nine”

The only overt reference to the team on the dial is the Diamond Nine emblem, the trademark formation of the Red Arrows. It sits under 12 o’clock on the sunburst-brushed blue dial, juxtaposed against black sub-dials.

The Red Arrows edition has the same 42 mm steel case as used on the standard Chronomat. It’s fitted with a unidirectional bezel that features the rider tabs on the quarters that defined the first-generation Chronomat, but now streamlined to sit almost flush with the bezel.

As on the original, the rider tabs are interchangeable, allowing the wearer to convert the bezel from elapsed time to countdown. And the Red Arrows edition is paired with the revived Rouleaux bracelet, which adds a retro feel to an otherwise modern watch.

The Red Arrows edition is powered the Caliber 01, the in-house movement found in the brand’s higher-end chronographs, including the flagship Navitimer. Boasting a longish 70-hour power reserve, the Caliber 01 is a finely constructed movement that features both a column wheel and vertical clutch. It’s visible through the sapphire back, though only partially due to the Red Arrows badge printed on the crystal.

Key facts and price

Breitling Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition
Ref. AB01347A1C1A1

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: 160 pieces
Availability: From Breitling’s online store and selected retailers in the UK
Price: £6,900 including VAT (equivalent to US$9,600)

For more information, visit


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Grand Seiko Debuts the GMT “Seasons” Collection

The landscapes of four sekki.

A simple but bestselling complication for Grand Seiko, the dual-time zone GMT received a makeover for Seiko’s 140th anniversary. The result is a quartet of GMT watches that evoke the changing landscapes in Japan as the seasons change. Made up of both Hi-Beat and Spring Drive models, the Grand Seiko Elegance GMT “Seasons” all share the same classically-styled case that has been associated with the GMT since the very first model.

Each of the four watches is inspired by specific phases of each season. In East Asian cultures, each of the four seasons is further divided into six phases – known as 節気, or sekki, in Japan – to capture the subtle changes within a season. Each of the new GMT models is inspired by a sekki from each season. Consequently, the watches are each distinct in colours and finish, having inspiration as varied as green-cherry trees to the dark, moonlit sky.

The GMT “Shunbun” SBGJ251

Initial thoughts

The quartet exemplifies the style of modern-day Grand Seiko, especially in the splendid dials that translate the local landscape into intricate stamped patterns. And the cases are elegantly shaped but solid, and finished with Zaratsu flat polishing that is synonymous with Grand Seiko.

Because all four watches are powered by longstanding movements – instead of the latest-generation 9SA5 that costs a lot more – the prices are all in line with existing models, US$6,300 for the Spring Drive GMT and US$7,100 for Hi-Beat automatics. Though the movements are less exciting, they are familiar workhorses – and arguably offer better value – and are especially helpful for anyone who is drawn in by the patterned dials.

That said, the only drawback of the new watches is the fact that all of them reuse dial patterns found on earlier models. While the watches are new, each of the dial patterns have been seen before, albeit with minor tweaks. As a result, while the intrinsic appeal of the patterns and colours is undeniable, the contradictory backstories behind the same patterns isn’t convincing. The Spring Drive GMT Kanro SBGE271, for instance, is supposedly inspired by the night sky, but it is exactly the same pattern found on the dials of the Spring Drive 20th Anniversary SBGC231 and SBGA403, which were supposedly modelled on a lion’s mane.

The GMT “Kanro” SBGE271

The GMT “Tōji” SBGE269

A personal gripe is the bracelet; the five-piece links are too fussy to complement the patterned dials. The three-link, all-brushed bracelet found on models like the SBGM007 is a more natural fit. That said, most Grand Seiko watches look best on a strap, and swapping the bracelet out is easy since the cases have drilled lugs.

Interestingly, the Seasons collection is not a limited edition, nor it is catered for a specific market like the recent Asia-only GMT. Instead all four watches are part of the regular catalogue. That’s a good thing, because region-specific watches will disappoint clients located elsewhere, while frequent limited editions tend to dilute the concept. And it helps build sustainable interest in the brand. Clearly a flagship line of sorts, the Sekki watches could possibly become as much of a signature as the “Snowflake”.

The GMT “Shōsho” SBGJ249

The Hi-Beat

Two of the quartet – Shunbun and Shōsho – are Hi-Beat watches powered by an automatic movement running at 36,000 beats per hour. Shunbun is a sekki that coincides with the spring equinox, so a lush, forest green is apt. And it’s also a nod to the first-ever Hi-Beat GMT limited edition, the SBGJ005 that was launched in 2014. The SBGJ005 shares a similar dial colour, but with a radially-striated “Iwate” finish.

The finely-woven lines on the “Shūnbun” dial represent the greenery of spring

And the Shōsho, which translates as “little heat”, is the beginning of midsummer. It’s depicted as waves on a lake surface as the summer wind goes by. The dial is similar to last’s month Grand Seiko “White Birch”, but with more angular strokes. It’s stunning and refined, having three-dimensional patterning with nuance in its graining.

The intersecting streaks of the Shōsho dial capture the choppy surfaces of a lake in summertime

Spring Drive

Like the Hi-Beat pair, the Spring Drive duo comprises both dark and light dial, inspired by autumn and winter sekki respectively. Kanro evokes a cloudy, moonlit night in autumn with a black dial covered in brushstrokes a gilded GMT hand that’s meant to bring to mind a luminous moon. Black, patterned dials are uncommon for Grand Seiko – few have been made, despite the numerous limited editions, and the most recent example is ultra expensive.

The seemingly random brushstrokes on the “Kanro” dial depicts clouds in an autumn night

Last is Tōji, or winter solstice. The fine, dimpled pattern on the dial is softly textured like freshly fallen snow, with a rose gold-plated GMT hand meant to be a ray of sunlight on the ground.

Crisp, fresh snow on a sunny winter’s day is captured on the dial of “Tōji”

Key facts and price

Grand Seiko Elegance Collection GMT
Ref. SBGJ251 (Green, Hi-Beat)
Ref. SBGJ249 (Blue, Hi-Beat)
Ref. SBGE271 (Black, Spring Drive)
Ref. SBGE269 (White, Spring Drive)

Diameter: 39.5 mm (Hi-Beat); 40.2 mm (Spring Drive)
Height: 14.1 mm (Hi-Beat); 14 mm (Spring Drive)
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m (Hi-Beat); 100 m (Spring Drive)

Movement: 9S86 (Hi-Beat); 9R66 (Spring Drive)
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (Hi-Beat)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 55 hours (Hi-Beat); 72 hours (Spring Drive)

Strap: Steel bracelet with folding clasp

Limited edition: No
Availability: At Grand Seiko boutiques and retailers
Price: US$7,100 (Hi-Beat), US$6,300 (Spring Drive)

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