At Baselworld 2016, I got to play with the first watch using Breitling's so-called "Breitlight" case material, which is the Breitling Avenger Hurricane (debuted on aBlogtoWatch here). This is a deceptively cool watch even though it clearly isn't for everyone. With that said, I really like it when brands like Breitling produce intentionally niche watches like this that work really well for particular purposes. What makes the Breitling Avenger Hurricane weird? Well, in addition to displaying the time in a 24- versus 12-hour layout, the case happens to be really big at 50mm wide and produced from a form of carbon polymer.
Carbon composites of various types have become increasingly popular in luxury sport watches. Carbon fiber is perhaps the most well-known of these materials, but it isn't the only way carbon is treated in luxury watches. Unlike more established watch materials such as metal, we are still new to understanding how to compare various carbon polymer materials with one another. Moreover, we still need to gain a lot of expertise and information to know whose cases are better than others, why, and if materials such as "Breitlight" are indeed a proprietary blend, or a slick name a brand like Breitling applies to this type of material.
There are a lot of open questions about carbon composite materials that I, frankly, don't have all the answers to - such as whether they are actually luxury materials, and how they hold up over time. What I do know is that it isn't possible to properly mill and machine all carbon polymer materials, so usually only the most high-quality ones can be used for watch case materials. With that said, we don't always know how difficult these materials are to find, their construction costs, and what types of performance and durability benefits they offer for watches.
It is, however, a very good thing that watch brands are experimenting with interesting case materials such as carbon polymers. Use of these materials is less about solving existing problems in watches (save for perhaps weight reduction) and more about being creative and keeping traditional timepieces relevant. A good example of that is how nicely the traditional look of this military-style Breitling case (that we have, of course, seen in metal) translates into being rendered in a carbon polymer. That in and of itself is interesting and noteworthy.
Brands like Breitling are finding these materials from other industries such as car, plane, and boat construction. The materials are quite useful, actually, being several times lighter than steel, very tough, resistant to things like temperature or magnetism, and shock absorbent. With that said, you still can't really polish a carbon polymer case, so we are currently left with mostly matte finishes that show off the native textures that these materials bring to the table. Further, much of the "art" involved in showing the right carbon materials for watch cases is specifically in choosing those which have the right shades of colors and aesthetic textures, etc.
Breitling didn't need to make the Breitling Avenger Hurricane 50mm wide, but I think they did so in order to demonstrate how light a watch can be at this size, in the Breitlight material. If successful, future Breitling watches with Breitlight cases will be smaller. Super large watches are wearable if they are light-enough, but you do need the "wrist charisma" to pull them off visually.
In matte tones with a very utilitarian dial, the Breitling Avenger Hurricane very much feels like a tool watch - and that is a good thing. Yes, a refined luxurious tool watch from Breitling, but it has been a while since I've worn a watch from the brand that so felt like a dedicated instrument - even if it is very niche in its appeal.
Inside the Breitling Avenger Hurricane watch is Breitling's in-house-made caliber B12 movement which offers the time in 24-hour format as well as the date and a 12-hour chronograph. Such 24-hour dials are rare in the watch industry, and most of them actually come from Breitling anyways. This requires you to read the dial differently, but for those people (military or civilian) that prefer to read the time in this way, the usefulness is clear. The automatic movement operates at 4Hz (28,800bph) and has about 2.5 days of power reserve, if memory serves me correctly.
The expansive dial allows for a relatively uncluttered look (all things taken into consideration) and very much like the military stencil-style font for the hour indicators and the matte hands that just super emphasize good legibility. Breitling combines the black and white tones with a sort of orange-yellow accent color.
With 100 meters of water resistance and a well-made AR-coated sapphire crystal, the durability you expect from a Breitling is all there, but now in a lighter case from a still exotic material that is quickly being adopted (and played with) by a number of typically conservative brands like Breitling. On the rubber and textile strap you can get a snug and comfortable fit, which makes the Breitling Avenger Hurricane all that more wearable for those who wish to brave it on their wrist. With that said, have no doubt about the fact that this is a huge timepiece. In a niche way, the Breitling Avenger Hurricane is a definite success and a pleasant surprise in a concept that could just have easily failed as succeed. Price for the Breitling Avenger Hurricane is $8,390. breitling.com