World War ravaged the globe, and in doing so, it left its mark on virtually every facet of human existence. Watches, naturally, were not immune to its power.
As the world slipped into war, the need for sturdy wrist-borne timepieces increased hundreds-fold. Though a handful of manufactures had established the wristwatch as a soldier's tool in World War I, by the early 1940s, many of the brands we know today were beginning to create military-grade timepieces for both Axis and Allies.
This is perhaps the greatest calling for the chronograph. While chronograph movements for use in wristwatches had begun in earnest as early as the 1920s by companies like Longines with its celebrated 13ZN movement, the two-pusher chronograph movement took root in the midst of the frenzy to create accurate and reliable wristwatches for aviators.
One of the most widely celebrated chronographs of this era is the Breitling Premier. With it's larger-than-average 38mm (that's right, 38mm!) stainless steel case and Venus 175 manually-wound chronograph movement, the Reference 777 was nothing short of a form-follows-function tool watch designed to withstand the harshest climes. Featuring early waterproofing, shock protection and antimagetic properties, the Reference 777 set an impressively high bar for the 1940s.
Most Ref. 777 chronos from this era are woefully over-restored, or have polished-to-hell cases and reprinted or refinished dials, making this unrestored example extremely alluring. With a luminous Arabic dial and luminous blued-steel hands, this 1940s example is one of the nicest we've seen.
Finding honest examples of these veteran chronographs is getting increasingly difficult, and we're honored to offer it here.
We're all fairly familiar with Breitling's chronograph offerings. If asked, we can rattle off a list of them:Navitimer, Chronomat, Top Time, Superocean 2005, Datora. But that only scratches the surface of all the chronographs Breitling has to offer. There are numerous other chronographs Breitling has manufactured over their 132-year history. While they may not be as recognizable or iconic as those other chronos, their frank designs and sturdy construction merit consideration.
Breitling first started manufacturing the Premier line of chronographs as early as the 1930s. With triple chronograph registers and blued hands, they're an exercise in understated elegance. One could almost say they're dress watches. Sure, they're not as sporty (and not nearly as large) as the Navitimer, but just one look - whether at the luminous syringe hands and tachymetre track - will reveal that the Premier was always designed to be utilitarian.
Outwardly, the steel barrel case is pleasing to eye with its thin, stepped bezel and its gently tapered lugs and pleasing to the wrist at sturdy 35mm. Breitling, ever the aviator's manufacture, designed these cases to be antimagnetic, shock-protective, and waterproof long before those traits were requisite features of a tool watch. Granted, you're probably not going to be wearing it in the cockpit of an airplane, but suffice it to say that Breitling was out to produce a tough-as-nails timepiece that could operate in any condition.
As contemporary Breitling continues to grow in size - despite a renaissance of smaller, slimmer case sizes - enthusiasts are looking to the brand's past to find quality-built chronos that belie the idea that bigger is always better.
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