The Calibre Of Breitling
 
As one of the most heavily marketed brands in the world, Breitling is part of a small group of brands at the forefront of the general public's awareness as a quality Swiss watchmaker. Interestingly, for the majority of the uninformed public, the reality of Breitling's activities as a watchmaker in recent years would probably not be in-keeping with their perception of traditional Swiss watchmaking. Despite the company's reputation for sturdy, robust pilots watches, prior to 2009 Breitling's watches did not contain movements actually manufactured by the company itself.
 
However, following the unveiling of the Calibre B01 at Baselworld 2009, alongside the Chronomat B01 (containing the new manufacture mechanism), Breitling became part of another select group of watch brands, those with the capacity to manufacture their own movements. In fact, the release of the Calibre B01 saw the La Chaux-de-Fonds based company become a member of an even more exclusive club, those brands capable of manufacturing their own chronograph movement.
 
Prior to the Calibre B01, Breitling, like many other Swiss watch brands, utilised (and continues to do so for other collections) ETA movements that were modified in the company's workshop for the majority of its timepieces. The brand's chronographs, upon which it has built its fine reputation, were and still are to a large extent, based upon ETA 'Valjoux' calibres (most notably the 7750 and 7753); including the brand's premier collection, the Navitimer. Upon unveiling the new Calibre B01 at Baselworld 2009, brand officials cited "market demand" as the primary reason behind the development of a manufacture chronograph movement. However, uncertainty surrounding the future supply of ETA movements following the announcement of the aggresive business intentions of ETA owner, the Swatch Group, will have undoubtedly provided the catalyst for creating the new manufacturing facilities. In reality, the reason behind the progression is largely irrelevant, the end result is that brand connoisseurs and the general watch buying public now have the option of a Breitling watch that has been manufactured in the manner they would expect.
 
  Deservedly so, the Calibre B01 was met with positivity from both the marketplace and the industry press, including favourable reviews from a number of high profile publications. The 47 jewel movement features several hallmarks of a great chronograph; a column wheel, a classic attribute of many historically significant movements; a vertical clutch, providing a smooth engagement of the chronograph and a 70 hour power reserve, from a single barrel. Two interesting additonal features are an innovative date mechanism that allows the date to be changed at anytime, including around midnight without causing harm and a new (patented) system for the adjustment of the chronograph hammers. The last of which is largely for the benefit of the watchmaker, although arguably the customer ultimately benefits as a result.
 
 
Upon review, the Calibre B01 is arguably an excellent movement, but not a fine movement. Comparable to Omega's Calibre 1861 or Ebel's Calibre 137, Breitling's manufacture chronograph is built with function in mind, not form. The level of finishing is industrial and decoration pedestrian, yet like all great 'work horse' movements, it's mechanical competence undeniable.
 
In additon to the merits of the product itself, the manufacturing processes made possible by the brand's purpose built facilities have also been the subject of praise. Following five years of research, the Calibre B01 can be produced in incredible quantity, upto 50,000 units per year; a production scale surpassed only by industry behemoths ETA and Rolex.
 
With a manufacture calibre in place, once again Breitling came to the attention of collectors and connoisseurs and expectations of how the brand would progress the manufacture collection were high. For many, the Chronomat B01 lacks the refinement of the classic chronographs for which the company received such respect in years gone by and so hopes were high that it would not be long before the Calibre B01 found its way into the legendary Navitimer collection, where the calibre's dial configuration would be perfectly at home. So as the Calibre's first anniversary approached, all eyes were on Baselworld 2010, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Breitling's latest creations and how, if at all, the brand had developed the Calibre B01's presence amongst its collections. TimepieceReview was invited to discover the novelties unveiled at this yar's exhibition.
 
The Novelties
 
Disappointingly there was no 'Navitimer B01' to be found, but there were instead a number of exciting new additions to the brand's established collections. Most notably the 'new wave Superocean', a dynamic, ultra sporty diver's watch and a fresh re-invention of a legendary timepiece. Exhibiting many characteristics of a 'classic' diver's watch, the new Superocean will compete with the likes of the Rolex Submariner and the IWC Aquatimer, not only aesthetically but also in terms of specification; water resistant to 1500m and available with a choice of bracelet and strap options, the Superocean contains the C.O.S.C. certified Calibre 17. The feel of the watch speaks volumes of its incredibly sturdy case construction while the sloping stylised numerals ensure that the watch looks as ready for action as it is. The Superocean boasts a rich heritage that dates back to 1957, when  
 
Breitling unveiled a pioneering 200m water resistant watch intended for military use that went on to earn the respect and affections of divers the world over. A multitude of colouful dial options and a competitive pricing policy support an aggressive assault on the market and will ensure that the superocean is well received by diving enthusiasts and the general watch buying public alike.
 
Another interesting discovery was the Avenger Seawolf Chrono Blacksteel Limited Edition; although novel for 2010 only as a limited edition, this quartz chronograph showcases the brand's technical mastery of case construction and innovation. Astonishingly operational at depths of upto 1000m, the chronograph function of the Avenger Seawolf Chrono utilises patented magnetic pushpiece technology; allowing the user to engage the chronograph mechanism without any actual contact between the pushpiece and the movement.
 
Amongst the other highlights of Breitling's 2010 novelties are several additions to the Galactic collections, including highly attractive ladies models, ranging from 30 to 36mm diameter and comprising both quartz and automatic variations. Each case size offers a different aesthetic, yet
 
 
all possess distinctly feminine qualities, while the option of heavily diamond set variations provides an unmistakeably glamorous example of precision Swiss watchmaking. Each of the ladies models is as robust and resistant as its male equivalent and these latest additions will certainly make a significant impact on the ladies market, that is often lacking in technically excellent timepieces.
 
Overall it would be unfair to suggest any sense of disappointment with Breitling's 2010 novelties, afterall those presented would be the 'pièce de résistance' of many other brands. Yet after Baselworld 2009 and the release of the Calibre B01, Breitling had set itself a new standard, one that has arguably not been repeated. This year's novelties will undoubtedly be met with great enthusiasm by the market and will bring the brand further commercial success for sure and as Vice-President Jean Paul Girardin explained, the intention of the Calibre B01 is not only to raise the brand to meet even the highest expectations, but as importantly, to secure the future of the company. With this in mind, it is clear that the progression of the brands other collections towards manufacture movements is likely to follow an organic development rather than a rushed attempt to satisfy the desires of every minority.
 
Shae Spreafico (Apr 2010)
 
For more information visit www.breitling.com
Images: Breitling
Back To News
© copyright TimepieceReview. All Rights Reserved.