Breitling Chronomat B01 42

Breathing new life into old things is a particular talent of today’s luxury Swiss watch industry. The formula is simple. Take something from the past, adopt it for the tastes of today, and make sure when people see it they aren’t quite sure what era it was made for. Breitling’s re-launch of the Chronomat with the tube-style “Rouleaux” bracelet is very much an exercise in what today’s watch industry does best. Breitling quietly puts the previous Chronomat model to rest (it had been produced for a decade or more), and then brings back something from the Breitling world that I don’t believe retailers have seen in their shops since the 1990s.
The bad news is that terms like “Chronomat” have become a lot like “911” (in Porsche terms). They do mean a type of car/watch, but they don’t necessarily refer to any one particular item. So let’s call this watch by its slightly more precise (albeit just as vague) name, the Breitling Chronomat Bo1 42. Other parts of the aBlogtoWatch team have seen this watch before me. Launched in 2020 during the pandemic, it was not possible for us to all meet with Breitling at one inclusive event. aBlogtoWatch first launched the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 watch here, and then a bit later our David Bredan went hands-on with the larger Breitling Chronomat B01 42 timepeice collection here.
The question I wanted to answer for myself with the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 was how well it stood up to the competition given what works with collectors today. With prices starting at just above $8,000, the Chronomat is not just another fun aviation-inspired tool watch, but a serious luxury item that buyers will need to pit against Rolex, Omega, Blancpain, Glashutte Original, TAG Heuer, IWC, etc…. The challenge for Breitling is to produce a product that does three things well at the same time. The first thing is that the watch needs to fit the mold of a traditional tool watch. Second is that the watch needs to be visually handsome and complementary to the style of the wearer. Third, the watch needs to come from a brand whose appeal and popularity today merit luxury positioning and buying confidence.
Many would argue that compared to a lot of other brands Breitling is more of those things than much of the competition – especially in regard to branding and luxury positioning. Currently, under the leadership of Georges Kern, Breitling was fortunate to get a leg up on other brands by having been able to release a number of new watches late 2019 and early 2020 (whereas most of the competition was waiting to release new watches that trade shows canceled by the pandemic). Breitling has also been investing a lot in marketing prior to the pandemic, and the momentum of that noise has carried on into the first half of 2020. For now, Breitling is rather hot with collectors, which means that an attractive and spirited new product collection will command even more attention and be gobbled up by consumers now versus after the market has had time to become more familiar with the product.
The core story behind the Chronomat is the type of military tie-in which is at the basis of so many great timepiece tales. In around 1984 Breitling produced a watch for a squadron of Italian airforce pilots (the Frecce Tricolori) that eventually turned into the first Chronomat models. This is when Breitling debuted both the Rouleaux bracelet and the rotating bezel with the “rider tabs” (that I called “bezel claws”). This look (especially the bezel) dominated the look of Breitling watches for nearly a decade. When Breitling started to make their own in-house caliber B01 automatic chronograph movements, the Chronomat lost that bezel and bracelet – turning into something a bit more generic (albeit still very nice) and help carry Breitling through an important era. On aBlogtoWatch I reviewed the previous generation Breitling Chronomat 44 GMT here. While it features the same movement, the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 is a very different watch. What I find interesting is that while it is inspired by nearly all generations of Breitling Chronomat watches, it ends up being something entirely new altogether.
The case size has been something of a conversation topic. People are trying to lean toward more comfortable and easy to wear watches – which means some larger Breitling watches of old are more passe in style. The previous-gen Chronomat’s largest case size was 47mm-wide — clearly massive for many wrists. The 2020 Breitling Chronomat B01 42 is 42mm-wide and about 15mm-thick. It wears large but not too large, in my opinion. The sense of size is really a function of all the nicely polished steel and the wide lugs combined with the dramatic tapering of the Rouleaux bracelet. As always for Breitling, the steel case (two-tone or an all gold version is also available) is exceptionally well-made with excellent finishing. I have always stood by the opinion that Breitling makes some of the best cases on the market when it comes to crisp details and the quality of polishes and surface treatments.

Breitling also now has a watch that at least in appearance competes in the “steel watch with integrated bracelet market.” For me, that is the best trick that the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 plays since it isn’t traditionally thought of as a watch that fits that style — now it does. From a construction standpoint, the new bracelet is nothing like the traditional Rouleaux bracelets of a few decades ago. These new ones are built more like contemporary luxury products with parts being individually machines and polished, and generally using much more sturdy pieces of metal. Old Rouleaux bracelet would bend and stretch over time. This bracelet doesn’t appear to be prone to any of that type of wear over time. The fresh form of the bracelet is what is important. It is comfortable yes, but more important is that it sticks out and helps the experience of wearing a Breitling Chronomat B01 42 be more distinctive. This will only help increase the value of the watch for many consumers, as people don’t want generic luxury watch experiences at these price points.

The new rotating bezel design is clearly inspired by the original Chronomat watches, but they lack a lot of the funky character. Breitling did an amazing job of making them feel refined and high-end, for sure. That said, the oddity of the screwed-on “rider tabs” and the peripheral screws that jut out are gone. The bezel of the new Chronomat collection does even have those screws around the periphery, but they are effectively minimized such that you can’t really call them a key part of the piece’s personality. It isn’t that the bezel is a missed opportunity, but rather that Breitling made the specific decision it should not be a major part of the new Chronomat’s distinctive features — they left that to the bracelet.
Many brands including Breitling have delighted in updated vintage “hot dog on a stick” style hour and minute hands to make them feel a bit more modern and angular. Likewise, the new Chronomat’s hands take the shape of vintage Chronomat watches and render them for today’s tastes. The tri-compax array chronograph dials of the Chronomat watches are very refined and elegant and demonstrate a sort of simple conservatism that today’s Breitling enjoys. The dial experience works because of the familiar look and the good use of colors and materials. Breitling isn’t innovating much in this area, but I don’t think the dial will leave anyone feeling anything but, “That’s a handsome watch.”

I do like that Breitling managed to engineer out the screw-down chronograph pushers. This vestigial element was designed to offer more water and elemental resistance, but for the most part simply prevented more people from using the chronograph. The watch still manages to be water-resistant to 200 meters without the screw-down chronograph pushers — a success, in my opinion. I also like the slightly oversized look of the crown and the design of the entire crown and pusher region of the watch on the right of the case. Depending on your taste and budget, Breitling offers the Chronomat B01 42 case and bracelet in all steel, or with various degrees of gold for two-tone models. An all-gold model exists, but I do not yet believe there is a solid-gold bracelet option. Eventually, there will be, and that will make one hell of a bold statement on the wrist for those who can fork over for it.
With variety in mind, Breitling designed the Chronomat B01 42 to be available in literally dozens of versions of the years. Simply by swapping colors and materials, the chore Chronomat B01 42 case with chronograph movement can be rendered in so many interesting ways. I happen to love those dials with contrasting subdials, and for now, I happen to prefer the watch in all steel. The movement isn’t new, but Breitling’s in-house-made caliber B01 automatic chronograph is a great performer and has held up well. It still looks great in execution, and while not industry-leading in any regard, is a stable 4Hz frequency movement with about 70 hours of power reserve. You can view the movement through the sapphire crystal window on the rear of the watch.

Breitling has a new hit with the Breitling Chronomat B01 42. I think most watch lovers will enjoy it since it combines conservative masculinity with trendiness and high-quality construction. Yes, the base price is over $8,000, but these are good looking and sturdy-feeling watches that aren’t out of league at all for the price. Mr. Kern has another hit on his hands for a brand that is doing great if he can maintain the momentum. How possible that will be during pandemic times has yet to be seen, but at least for him, Breitling has a leg up on most everyone else.

Breitling Chronomat B01 42

The new Breitling Chronomat B01 42 easily ranks among the more important watch releases of the year. Amidst a global pandemic and canceled events, such as Breitling Roadshow presentations, we were looking forward to seeing the very new Chronomat face-to-face. That time, at last, has come — along with a quick comparison with the chunky and brash Chronomat 44!

For a rundown on the whys and hows behind this — frankly, timely — update to a Breitling staple, read our debut news article here. Now, let us concentrate on our first in-the-metal impressions.
First Time On The Wrist — Is It Really 42mm?
First, the new Breitling Chronomat B01 42 feels way bigger, than I had anticipated, judging from the 42mm designation in its very name and also from Breitling’s press release images. The 2020 Breitling Chronomat is beautifully proportionate across every surface and detail, and that’s a property that can trick even the trained eye of seen-it-all watch lovers into expecting something more compact.
We can say this in full confidence: The Chronomat 42 wears considerably larger than most other watches out there that claim to be 42mm-wide. Your mileage may vary, but it sure felt and looked much bigger than, say, my Jaeger-LeCoultre Navy SEALs Automatic 42. So, is that a good thing or a bad thing? We’d urge you to try it on and see how it fits before making up your mind on it. Those passionate about Breitling’s big, bold, and unapologetic design DNA — something that has been watered down considerably by Georges Kern and the new management that took over the brand but a few years ago — will likely rejoice in the fact that the Chronomat has not been turned into a petite vintage-retro chronograph. In fact, it stays remarkably close, at least in size, to its bigger and now retired brother, the Chronomat 44. More on that comparison soon.
A Mix Of Ageless Details
Second, the surprising visual and physical heft of the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 is beautifully counterbalanced by everything else. Breitling has easily been among the best at taking “heritage designs” and modernizing them. Kern loves calling this “modern retro,” and it’s hard to argue with that way of looking at it once applied to Breitling’s more recent watches. The Chronomat 42 has thrown away most of those in-your-face details that defined the Chronomat 44 — such as the massive bezel with huge numerals, the textured dial, the bulky case, and so on — and replaced those with decidedly more filigree shapes, surfaces, and typefaces.
Consequently, the Chronomat 42 is an impressively ageless watch (I didn’t say timeless), as it blends a modern size and modern quality of artisanship with “iconic” designs of yesteryear like the Rouleaux bracelet (more on that soon), the rider tabs, and the like. And the fact that the resulting watch is a tasteful and proportionate thing is exactly what places Breitling at the front of the pack in this regard. It’s ageless in that it’s neither vintage nor modern, but only time will tell if it proves to be a timeless watch that ages well. I reckon it has all the correct individual components for that to happen — except for the size. Had it looked a bit more nuanced in its heft on the wrist, that is what I think would really drive the timeless point home for this watch.
About That Rouleaux Bracelet
Breitling’s old-new Rouleaux bracelet looks and feels as fantastic as it is refreshing on first impression. After what feels like every last drop of creativity has been squeezed out of the three-link and five-link bracelet designs of the world, the Rouleaux bracelet is a breath of fresh air. Its long, thin, cylindrical links do exactly what they should: add a touch of vintage flair and combine it with the might of modern state-of-the-art manufacturing. We sure hope the guys and gals behind making this bracelet reality are very proud of themselves. Because modern watchmaking shouldn’t be — and isn’t — all about movements or ridiculous new materials. In fact, watchmaking is often at its best when it is about taking existing materials and existing designs… And taking them to the next level. Because everything from the look of the watch to the feel of the metal is familiar — and yet, the end result is everything but that.
The polished and beveled edges in which the long, thin strips of metal end are as impressive as the integration of polished intermittent links on every other long link… And that’s only until you flip the bracelet around and take a look: It’s got as many openings as a $20k skeleton watch — but this one moves and swivels! The reason I’m thrilled about this bracelet is mainly that it tells me that Breitling’s willingness to create unique details and manufacture them to very high standards isn’t gone in this new era of the brand.
Overall Feel
Third, the Replica Breitling Chronomat B01 42 will feel and look one heck of an expensive watch even to non-watch-connoisseurs. “It damn well should do that for nine grand!” I hear some of you say — and I agree, it damn well should. But it doesn’t take too many luxury watches to handle before one sees that not all high-four-figure-priced watches actually look expensive to the untrained eye. Without having to take it off the wrist, the Chronomat 42, from afar, already makes the impression of one very expensive watch — and again, if this were the norm, we wouldn’t be highlighting it like this. From the intricate bracelet through the shiny and multi-tiered bezel to the rich-colored and detail-laden dials, the Chronomat 42 is full of details one simply doesn’t see on anything but luxury watches.
Wearability we will judge once we get these in for a proper Wrist Time review. The real questions there concern the long-term feel of the Rouleaux bracelet, as well as its ability to cope with the larger and, therefore, rather heavy watch head in steel. Oh, and all those beautifully machined openings on the back of the bracelet? I bet we will want to rinse this watch more often than others to keep those from clogging up with the untidy combination of dust and sweat.
New vs. Old In The Chronomat Universe
I was thrilled that we could pull out an “old” Chronomat 44. I disclosed this on the debut news article of the Chronomat B01 42: I have been quite smitten by the appeal of the Chronomat 44 (and Chronomat 41, for that matter). Yes, it is as heavy on the eyes as it is on the wrist and certainly has never won the non-existent Most Tasteful Watch Of The Year award anywhere in the world. But it was its own thing and you could take it or leave it. Importantly, it matched its brutish looks with a scarcely matched feel of quality — radiating from the steel case that’s stamped over weeks and is put through dozens of immense heat-cold cycles for a properly compacted alloy. The massive hands over the dial and the oversized numerals of the bezel were balanced by subtle details, and all the Chronomat 44s I have ever handled have a truly fantastic level of execution.
The new Chronomat 42 takes a lot of that unapologetic loudness and it turns it down from 11 to about a gentle but still enjoyable 7.

On a personal note, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be in the minority when I say that it will take some time before I can adapt to this new, arguably more refined Chronomat and feel comfortable with saying goodbye to that charmingly, sometimes almost idiotically confident Chronomat 44. Because the Chronomat 44 felt like a contemporary watch that had been designed in the now for the now — as opposed to a “modern retro” mix-mash. But that’s for another discussion.
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the new Breitling Chronomat B01 42 will prove to be extremely successful and that it will make its owners very happy. The construction of the new Rouleaux bracelet will have to prove itself as a comfortable and durable design, but that we will only know for sure sometime later down the road.

Available in a host of variations that you can browse on the brand’s website, as well as in our gallery below, pricing for the new Breitling Chronomat B01 42