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. Actually, another brand, Mimo, had put out a watch with a slide rule the previous year.
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 conceived 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.
Over the three decades of its production, the Chronomat came in multiple variations. This particular Chronomat is a Reference 769 with a 2-register configuration. Its rectangular pushers mark it as an earlier iteration, released before 1958, when the pushers would become round; additionally, the presence of Arabic numerals on the dial (and a painted-on "B" in the logo) are features the Chronomat bore in the 1940s.
In common with other chronographs at this time (and in keeping with its civilian purpose), the minute register is marked at 3, 6 and 9 minutes with elongated hash-marks. These were meant to time long distance calls. Long before Skype, long distance and especially international 'toll' calls were very expensive at this time; it was important not to go 'over' and become liable for a charge of a further three minutes.
With its long lugs, the Chronomat wears larger than its 35mm would attest. In 18k pink gold, it strikes the perfect balance between the casual and the formal, and the presence of the slide rule makes it anything but mundane. While we might side with Sam Cooke on the subject of the slide rule, there's no denying that it's still a useful and handy tool—for certain people at least.
People who prefer the analog over the digital, who prefer to work out a problem by hand rather than on a computer, people who revel in the discovery of an "outdated" piece of machinery and find that it isn’t all that outdated at all.
We're those people, and we're sure you are too.
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