We admit it, we have a love/hate relationship with Breitling.
In our opinion, the modern iteration of the brand has struggled with design and overall identity for decades. John Travolta, anyone?
But dismissing the brand entirely would be a mistake as well, as their archives are filled with both functional and beautiful designs from years past. Many of which feature quality movements from some of the best houses. And some don't. Sussing them out can be a challenge, and many a collector has been burned by a less-than Breitling timepiece in their collecting career. Of course, that's where we come in.
The example that we have here, a Reference 785, dates from the 1940s, and is driven by a Valjoux 72c ('c' for calendar) drivetrain and represents what some believe was the pinnacle of Breitling's achievements in complex chronograph production.
Outwardly, the watch is drenched with design; its cascading faceted bevels and crown vibrate with a timeless Art Deco styling. Its solid 18k gold case is crisp and its hallmarks clearly legible. On the dial, flashes of red in the tachymeter track and the arrow-shaped date indicator hand sing playfully against a the simple silver-tone backdrop with classic applied dart markers and a prominent applied Arabic 12:00 marker.
As handsome as it is elegant, this expression of the oft-praised Datora design is arguably the most striking Breitling chrono you've ever laid eyes on. Just wait until you put it on your wrist!
While the Navitimer, with its storied connection to aviation and spaceflight, is perhaps the most notable of Breitling's chronographs, the brand's earlier examples are not to be ignored. With functional, legible dials and simple case designs, they're an exercise in understated elegance; indeed, one could almost say they're dress watches, particularly those with cases constructed from precious metals.
Breitling have been producing technical timepieces more or less since the brand's inception in 1885. The brand developed the first ever monopusher chronograph wristwatch in 1915, and further innovated chronograph design by adding a second pusher at 4 o'clock in 1933. Breitling's perfection of the chronograph blossomed in the 1940s, when it developed chronograph calibres with further complications, such as rattrapante (split second), day and date, and moon-phase functions.
The brand began applying the name "Datora" to chronographs with date windows in the 1940s, but the name is perhaps best associated with a triple calendar version (which was also produced by Heuer). While Breitling relied mainly on èbauche manufacturer Venus for its chronograph movements, the brand also employed the king of chronograph calibers, Valjoux 72, in some of its designs.
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