Most vintage collectors would agree that when they hear the name 'Breitling', the model that springs to mind is the Navitimer, the pilot’s chronograph and navigational tool.
The Navitimer is so revered that it has become synonymous with aviation and enjoyed an impressively-long production run, despite numerous aesthetic and mechanical changes.
But the Navitimer owes its success to the inroads made by its predecessor, the Chronomat. Where the later Navitimers were produced in 42mm, the Chronomat was built around a sleek 36mm steel case, making it infinitely more comfortable and discreet on the wrist.
This particular example dates all the way back to the very end of the Second World War, and features an absolutely stunning two-tone silvered dial with rich patina and colorful red accents. Coupled with luminous blued steel hour/minute hands and luminous Arabic indices, this piece is very much the definition of an era - and a stunning watch to boot!
But despite its good looks and a very interesting history, the Chronomat hasn’t climbed into the clouds just yet. And while fans of this handsome chrono might bemoan its lack of fame, it has kept it off the radar of collectors, making this a compelling option for any fan of Breitling’s distinct aviators watches.
In 1941, Breitling applied for a patent for a unique watch that would herald things to come. The patent—number 217012—was for a watch that featured a rotating slide rule on the bezel. The fact that it had a slide rule was by no means unusual, or even unprecedented. However, the patent filed by Breitling would be unique in that the slide rule would be combined with a chronograph.
Breitling released the Chronomat in 1942, at the height of the Second World War. Compared with the spartan, black-dialed chronographs destined for military use, the Chronomat seemed—visually and technically—the antithesis of military watches. Rather than an instrument of war, it was meant to be an instrument of peace, once the trumpets of war ceased to sound and swords were beaten to ploughshares.
It was created and then promoted as a watch for scientists, engineers, mathematicians. Rather than calculate bomb strikes or troop movements, it was to be used for timing and financial calculations. By the end of the war, the watch was advertised in a way that would appeal to hard-working men of achievement in the new age that dawned after the dark, war-torn days of the 1940s.
The Chronomat remained in production until the late 1970s. It's the ancestor of the famous Navitimer, beloved of pilots (and even astronauts). The Chronomat's slide rule is often referred to by collectors as 'Type 42' to differentiate it from the 'Type 52' slide-rule first seen on the Navitimer.
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