The pantheon of great watches is filled with names with all recognize. Regardless of the brand, certain watches have earned throne-like seats in the minds of collectors and enthusiasts. The Omega Speedmaster, the Rolex Daytona, the Heuer Carrera, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus all have earned a spot in Valhalla.
For Breitling, the most revered model is easily the Navitimer, the pilot’s chronograph that 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. But where the first Navitimers were produced in 42mm, the Chronomat was built around a sleek 36mm steel case, making it infinitely more comfortable on the wrist. Further, with its white dial with red accents, the watch is as fetching as it is a joy to wear.
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.
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.
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