What was the original inspiration for the Chronomat in 1984?
The Chronomat from 1984 is directly inspired from the chronograph “Frecce Tricolori” developed a year before, in 1983, for the famous Italian Jet Team. 1984 was the 100th anniversary of Breitling and Ernest Schneider wanted to launch a new watch that would revolutionise the industry and put the mechanical chronograph back at centre stage, proving that it could still attract a cool and trendy clientele. Keenly aware that he has created a chronograph that perfectly embodies the brand’s entire philosophy and mission, he sees this watch as the perfect foundation to develop the new standard-bearer of the Breitling spirit.
The Chronomat was famously reborn in the 1980s to satisfy the demands of the Italian army’s Frecce Tricolori acrobatic team. How has this partnership evolved since then?
Breitling and the Frecce Tricolori have remained close friends during all these years. Many different special edition watches were produced to celebrate the famed Italian aerial squadron (not only Chronomat but also Professional watches).
What are the iconic design features of the Chronomat family and how did these evolve in this latest version?
Any Chronomat can be instantly recognized thanks to its bezel with 4 rider tabs, its rouleaux bracelet and its case shape. I will talk you through each of these important features.
One of the key design elements of the Chronomat are the rider tabs, that are directly influenced by the “Frecce Tricolori” Chronograph.
While developing this chronograph for the Italian Jet team, Ernest Schneider discovered during a trip to Italy why some pilots sometimes returned with broken watch crystals: when opening the aircraft’s canopy after landing, some pilots gave their watch a hard knock against the metal frame as they extended their arms. This lead to the brilliant solution of slightly recessing the crystal in the bezel and to protect it with four “rider tabs.” These soon became the iconic signature mark of the Chronomat.
The rider tabs not only protect the glass, but they also mark every quarter of an hour (0, 15, 30 and 45). Since the pilots of the “Frecce Tricolori” could not decide on a count-down or count-up function for the bezel of their especially designed chronograph, the rider tabs at 15 and 45 were made removable. Unscrew them, invert them, and you can choose between using the bezel for countdown or count-up. A very useful feature for any mission! But please be advised it is not recommended to change the rider tabs yourself but rather visit the Watch Specialists at Gregory Jewellers who will happily assist you with this.
The Rouleaux bracelet
Another key design elements of the Chronomat is of course its “rouleaux” bracelet, that makes it easily recognizable among any other watches. The particular design of the links make it a very supple and comfortable metal bracelet to wear on your wrist.
The case design
Thanks shorter angular lugs, the Chronomat actually sits very nicely on any wrist. Also, the onion shaped crown and pushers are a key design features that made the Chronomat stand out.
Is Breitling the only company currently producing Rider Tabs that can be interchanged?
Yes, the Chronomat inspired and gave birth to many other Breitling collections that started in the 1980’s – 1990’s. The 4 raised rider tabs actually became a signature design element of these other collections too. You can find them on the Avenger, the Colt, the Galactic and even some Professional watches like the Aerospace.