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The Breitling Chronomat is a blend of modern and more traditional details (such as the onion crown), and of pilot's and diver's watch styles. This results in a distinctive and modern design, which was very different from the usual Breitling design, when it was introduced.
Its design hasn't much changed in 20 years, and it is fair to say that the Chronomat has become a classic. Several later models have been “inspired” by this design, like the SuperOcean, Crosswind, Wings, etc.
A Chronomat next to a Rolex DateJust—another classic watch from a different brand
At 40.5 mm in diameter, it is substantial, and the watch sits quite high on the wrist. Since this was designed to be an instrument, the design is partly defined by its functions (see the dial).
The case, made of almost 80 parts, is arguably complex. Some parts are brushed, some are polished, depending on the type of reference number. In fact, that is the only thing about the case that has changed during all its production (except the caseback). In short, the earlier models look more matte, and the later models look more polished.
In addition, the Chronomat has flat lugs, which the Chronomat Evolution doesn't have any more.
Illustration of the flat lugs
The bezel of the Chronomat has markers for the minutes, so you can time events without the chronograph. It is made very much like that of a diver's watch: ratcheting (with a click for every minute) and unidirectional, so that if you turn it by mistake, it will not tell you that you have more oxygen left in the bottle than you actually have.
A tiny “B” is engraved in the side of the bezel, as a means of authentication
The 12 screws, placed to hold it in place, also give a sophisticated looks to the timepiece. Aside from the removable rider tabs, its construction is very similar to the Superocean's bezel.
Based on a design completed in October 1982 by Ernest Schneider, Breitling's CEO, the rider tabs are a part of the bezel. They serve several purposes: they are of course visual markers, grip aids (easy to use even with gloves), and also protect the domed sapphire crystal (which is glare-proofed both sides).
Unlike those of the SuperOcean, the Chronomat's rider tabs are screwed to the bezel.
The 15-minute rider tab
From an unknown source:
The first patent describes a construction aimed at making it mechanically impossible to lose the bezel, as the functional screws of the bezel are used to lock it. A second patent protects the precise indexing of the bezel, meaning its alignment in relation to the minute track on the dial. The third patent deals with a device for low-pressure ratcheting designed to lengthen the life of the click spring.
They have sometimes been called “sweater killers”, because they protrude from the watch's profile… but I have yet to ruin a piece of cloth because of those. On the other hand, you may damage a strap because of the screws that attach the tabs to the bezel.
The 0-minute rider tab sports a luminescent dot, which is visible in the dark. (Actually, the lume inside this rider tab is not waterproof—don't try to dive into ketchup or something.)
The pushers and screw-in crown have an onion shape, evoking the early days of watchmaking.
Each pushpiece has two water-resistance seals gaskets. In order to guarantee perfect watertightness of the pushpiece tubes (the cylinders into which the pushpieces are inserted), they are soldered to the case.
Parts ensuring the water resistance.
(Illustration Breitling, but I miss the labels)