This version of the Breitling Chronomat Replica started life in 1983 and was designed especially for the Italian airforce’s acrobatics team, the ‘Tricolori’. Since then the replica watch has become a reference point for aeronautical chronographs, and a masculine, utilitarian icon. It could also be claimed to be the “replica watch that saved Breitling”, as it was the first model new owner Ernest Schneider chose to release, five years after he bought the company off Willy Breitling mens replica at the height of the so-called ‘Quartz Crisis’. The unfashionable at the time mechanical (and oversized) replica watch was a smash hit. With pilots and the general public. Breitling was back, baby. Trivia buffs may also be aware that the Chronomat had a previous life as a military model – in fact only the second replica watch designed with a slide rule function – that was released in 1941. However the likeness is in name only; the original iteration of the Chronomat more resembled a Navitimer Montbrilliant.
This Baselworld, to celebrate the second coming of the Chronomat turning dirty thirty, Breitling have released a very handsome tribute to the original design. In the years since ’83 Breitling have changed some details and updated a few features. The new Chronomat Airborne pares the Chronomat back, giving the icon a welcome refresh.
The most notable update is the bezel – gone are the stylized Arabic numerals, and back are the more military feeling hash marks. This totally changes the look of the replica watch, it’s still very Breilting (the raised rider tabs don’t let you forget that), but it’s also less brash. Another nice feature is that the hash marks on the brushed bezel are actually rubber inserts, which are injected into the bezel, so that the bezel can be banged up, repolished and generally used and abused without falling out. All told this new Chronomat has a very cool looking bezel.
The dial is another winning element of the Chronomat Airborne, available in either black or a creamy silver-y colour, the dial is fairly clean, and has a deceidely vintage feel (thanks largely to the ‘aged’ luminous material). The case comes in 41 or 44mm options, which is nice, and (thanks largely due to the distinctive crown and pushers) is pure Breitling DNA.
Breitling have managed to walk quite a delicate line with this replica watch –it nods its head to heritage, without feeling like a full on heritage replica watch. The end result is a very pleasing, and eminently wearable chronograph, that I suspect will appeal to a broader demographic than previous versions of the Chronomat.