While many of its competitors are postponing 2020 novelties, Breitling maintains its top form and launches a wide range of completely new watches without hesitation. Key among those are the 10 new Breitling Chronomat B01 42 watches for 2020, all completely redesigned.
Since its 1984 debut, the dependable, functional, and stylish Breitling Chronomat has earned its place among the most beloved and successful Breitling collections. Many of its iterations have managed to be the ideal all-purpose watch that combined a taste of Breitling’s trademark flamboyance with robust construction, both inside and out. 2020 sees a long-awaited overhaul with the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 collection and, in typical Breitling fashion, it happens with not one or two, but a host of model variations and special editions. Let’s dig in.
I rarely infuse personal preferences into news articles, and I will keep most of it for the Wrist Time review, but I want the Chronomat enthusiasts among you to know that this first look at the new Breitling Chronomat 2020 collection is written by a fellow Chronomat fan. In other words, I think of the Chronomat as the best all-round mechanical Breitling collection of the 2000s and 2010s — which is why I was quite bummed, and a bit scared, when I saw the uncharacteristically bland update to the collection two years ago.
Now, I am pleased to say, the Breitling Chronomat is back to form with a completely re-designed, exciting look with a new case style and case size, new bracelet, and new dial options. All this is performed in tune with Breitling’s recent change of direction (a change that occurred almost exactly three years ago to date), which entails a more vintage-inspired remix of contemporary references. The Chronomat is finally no exception, with the bulky, shiny, brick-like allure of the Chronomat 44 now re-tuned for a 1980s vibe.
The new Breitling Chronomat B01 42 for 2020 comes in a 42-millimeter-wide case that is 15.10 millimeters thick and is notably rated water resistant to an impressive 20 bars, equivalent to 200 meters. If you have ever held a modern Chronomat, you’ll know that special, heavy, dense feeling — something that stems from the way Breitling’s cases are stamped over and over again. A little insider info, not in Breitling’s current press release, but something that has contributed massively to that uniquely “dense” feel of a Chronomat: Chronomat cases were stamped over the course of two weeks and over 15 times, subjected to a total pressure of 875 tons, heated to 1,100°C (2,012°F) before each stamping. So yeah, the Chronomat has always had a few tricks up its sleeve to attain that especially rugged and dependable feel. Last I heard (in November, last year), Breitling still uses the same Swiss supplier and the same methods for its steel cases, so I expect the same heavy-duty yet refined vibe from these new Chronomats, and nothing less.
The big aesthetic changes to the case, beyond the downgraded diameter that went from 44 to 42, are the straighter lugs that hearken back to the original, and the flatter bezel. The rider tabs are still there, and God knows I’ve tried, but I simply couldn’t tell from Breitling’s images if these tabs are indeed rider tabs that slide above a fixed bezel when turned or turn together with a one-piece bezel like on a more ordinary watch. Perhaps not the most essential “update” — but I wouldn’t dare call myself a Chronomat fan if I didn’t want these rider tabs to work as they should.
The cases are available in all-stainless steel; stainless steel with 18k red gold bezel “rider tabs,” crown and pushers; stainless steel with a heavier reliance on 18k red gold in the bezel and bracelet; and finally, there is a solid 18k red gold cased version — albeit without an all-gold bracelet, sold on the Black Diver Pro II rubber strap with an 18k red gold folding clasp.
The Rouleaux bracelet makes a spectacular return, as well. Breitling doesn’t say much about it other than that it comes in all-stainless steel and two-tone stainless steel mixed with 18k red gold, both secured by a butterfly clasp. As such, we’ll reserve judgment on the Chronomat 42’s Rouleaux bracelet until we get to wear these during a hands-on or a review. The tight rows of slim links might mean a flexible and comfortable fit, but hair-pulling and a noisy “operation” can only be ruled out once these are in our hands.
Altogether, there will be a total of 10 different Breitling Chronomat B01 42 watches launched in 2020. All versions feature the Breitling B01 manufacture caliber with self-winding, column wheel, and vertical clutch.
The four all-steel regular production models come with a choice of silver, copper, blue, or black base-colored dials with contrasting sub-dials. This “panda” look is in line with Breitling’s recently introduced rule that on regular models, the presence of its in-house manufacture B01 caliber (and its variations) is indicated by contrasting-color sub-dials. ETA/Valjoux 7750-equipped chronographs have sub-dials matching the base color of the dial. There is an exception to every rule, and those are special-edition Breitling watches: They’ll have uni-color dials matched to a manufacture caliber.
The Frecce Tricolori limited edition makes a return, as well. Pictured above, the first Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows) version was the reference that inspired the Chronomats introduced a year later to celebrate the brand’s centenary, and so it is an important and notable variation among the frankly countless different iterations the Chronomat has seen over the years. It returns with a blue-on-blue dial, the Frecce Tricolori at 12 o’clock, and a heavy-handed limitation of just 250 pieces worldwide.
Bentley gets its own special edition with reference AB01343A1L1A1, with the trademark racing green dial that we have been seeing on Breitling-Bentley co-produced pieces. Lumed hands and indices and blacked sub-dials are present here, as they are on every reference, and the Rouleaux bracelet isn’t missing either.
Beyond the vintage-inspired all-steel piece with a few gold components, there are three other references with greater amounts of gold, for that added touch of luxury and ’80s vibe. Judging from Breitling’s images, the 18k red gold looks great on the new Breitling Chronomat B01 42 — and although these clearly (and joyfully) do not wish to be exact copies of the originals, I wonder if an 18k yellow gold option would’ve also worked.
What Breitling keeps doing better than so many others is finding the nigh-on perfect balance between vintage inspiration and contemporary style. All of these, and especially the three two-tone versions, have a distinct vintage flair but with a noticeable modern element. Add to that good proportions, a recognizable design and, hopefully, the well-known rugged construction of the collection, and the Chronomat is indeed back to form.
Pricing for every Breitling Chronomat B01 42 watch in 2020 is as follows:
The Breitling Chronomat B01 42 steel versions are priced at $8,100 with the silver, copper, blue or black dials (references AB0134101G1A1 ; AB0134101K1A1 ; AB0134101C1A1 or AB0134101B1A1).
The Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Bentley is priced at $8,250, reference AB01343A1L1A1
The Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori is also priced at $8,250, reference AB01344A1C1A1.
The Breitling Chronomat B01 42 two-tone is priced at $9,350 with the smaller gold accents, reference IB0134101G1A1.
The Breitling Chronomat B01 42 two-tone versions with gold bezels are priced at $12,100, references UB0134101C1U1 or UB0134101B1U1.
Lastly, the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 in solid 18kt red gold is priced at $20,200, reference RB0134101B1S1.