One cannot think about Breitling without making the connection the brand has with aeronautics. And also with diving and sports watches. The brand’s name is associated usually with modern air aerobatics and air race, but Breitling was one of the sponsors of the Bentley team for Le Man 24 Hours race. Breitling was even a Bond watch in the 1965 Flemming’s James Bond movie Thunderball. Today we review one of the latest timepieces, presented during Baselworld 2018 – Breitling SuperOcean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44.
The brand Breitling and the company Breitling SA was founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling, in Saint-Imier, Bernese Jura. As a skilled watchmaker, he manufactured timepieces and measuring tools. As the company flourished, he became more focused on the development and manufacturing of chronographs. He developed and patented a simplified chronograph, easy to produce and maintain.
In 1892, due to success and high demand of his pieces, Léon Breitling opens a new factory with 60 employees in La Chaux-de-Fonds. His son, Gaston Breitling joins the business and takes over the company in 1914, at his death.
The world’s first wrist chronograph with separate push-piece is launched by Breitling in 1915. In 1923, the brand patented a pocket watch with two pushers. One for start/stop the chrono and the other one was used for reset. This system of two pushers to start/stop and reset is still in use today in almost all chronographs.
Initially, the brand produced a lot of watches with an unsigned dial or using clients name, but from the late 1920s, the Breitling name starting to be present on the dials.
In 1927, Gaston Breitling passed away and the company is lead by an external team. In 1932, and Willy Breitling, Leon’s grandson takes over at a time when Breitling SA had 40 different models of wristwatches and cockpit instruments. Willy filed a patent for a two pushers chronograph in 1934. And in 1936 he introduced the aviator chronograph with black dial, luminescent numerals and rotating bezel with luminescent pointer arrow.
In 1938, Willy Breitling establishes the Huit Aviation Department: to produce 8 days power reserve dashboard clocks and chronometric instruments for aviators. Furthermore, the Chronomat was patented in 1940. This watch with rotating slide rule was helpful for technicians and scientist.
In 1943, the brand presented the Premiere collection including 38mm stainless steel and solid gold watches designated for the general public. A year later, the Duograph was introduced with a split seconds complication. It was followed by Datora, a watch collection with calendar and moon phase.
Breitling releases the widely known Navitimer, featuring the slide rule as part of the Chronomat family in 1952. The end of the fifties brings the SuperOcean with 200m water resistance and the TransOcean, a shockproof, anti-magnetic and “super-sealed” automatic chronometer.
Breitling then goes to space: On the 24th May 1962, Scott Carpenter uses a 24 hours dial version of the Navitimer during his mission aboard the Aurora 7 spacecraft. This is the first Swiss-made watch in space. Yuri Gagarin, who is the first man in space wore a Russian made watch. Earlier Americans in space had pocket watches
Sean Connery wears a Breitling Top Time as James Bond in the 1965 Thunderball movie.
In 1965, Breitling was part of the consortium, together with Jack W. Heuer, Büren-based and Dubois-Dépraz which built the world’s first micro-rotor automatic chronograph in 1965. Breitling’s watch from this effort was launched in 1969 as the Chrono-Matic.
During the Quartz crisis, Breitling aligns with the new technologies and releases a quartz Chronomat and Navitimer models. Willy Breitling sells Breitling SA to Ernest Schneider in 1979. Schneider and family remain in leadership team until 2017.
In the modern era, the Breitling released the Emergency. This civil aviation watch is packed with a special radio module emitting on the 121.5 MHz distress frequency and serves as a backup for ELT-type airborne beacons. The watch’s emergency transmitter can be used in rescue missions for locating the wearer. The military version of Emergency operates on other frequency. The watch is available also for the public with the mention that in case of usage of the distress beacon, the wearer must bear the cost of the rescue intervention. Since 2013, the Emergency II is monitored also via satellites.
A big change comes for the brand in 2017, when the Schneiders sold the majority stake to a capital group who Georges Kern was appointed CEO. We were from the first to confirm this move. You can read about the future and directions of Breitling in our exclusive interview of Georges Kern in February 2018.
We review today the latest SuperOcean B01. Before we start, let’s have a look together at the clip we filmed during Baselworld 2018 presenting the wristwatch and his functionality.
The Breitling SuperOcean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44 is a well built, robust machinery. The 44mm steel case features an overall polished finish, a detail found on many of the Breitling watches. The lugs are long with straight surfaces and precise corners. A design feature mandated by Kern so that the watch can fit smaller wrists.
The front of the watch is occupied by a big rotating bezel. The 120-toothed unidirectional diving style bezel offers a smooth, effortless handling with or without gloves. The blue ceramic insert makes a pretty nice show with the engraved indexes. The 12’s o’clock triangle features a steel ring insert filled with Super-LumiNova.
The watch is fitted with a screw-in crown. The domed crown is decorated with the new Breitling logo. The chrono-pushers are manufactured in polished steel. They have a classic cylindrical shape and are easy to push, offering a precise but soft handling.
The caseback is a screw-in with a see-through sapphire design. The case gives a good robustness feeling, and the 200m water resistance makes the watch a reliable partner. The metal bracelet is nicely manufactured and polished. The overall sporty look is balanced, the watch is rather big but wears smaller as expected. The SuperOcean B01 Chronograph could be a nice daily companion.
The Breitling SuperOcean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44 Ref. No. AB0162161C1A1 is fitted with a three register blue dial. The layout is a classic one with small seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock, 30 minutes counter at 3 o’clock and 12 hours counter at 6 o’clock. The sub-dials are sunken, present a stamped circular pattern and have black printed indexes and numerals. The hour markers are polished batton applied indexes and Super-LumiNova dots on the minutes and seconds’ track. The seconds’ register marks every 1/4 of a second (4Hz movement).
The date window, placed at 4:30 o’clock respects the dials colour theme and have a good contrast and legibility with white printing on a blue background. The dial is further decorated with printed brand’s name on top of which we find used the latest Breitling logo.
The new SuperOcean Heritage II Collection comes with distinctive hands. The hour hand is a broad arrow filled with Super-LumiNova and the minute hand is sword-shaped, also filled with Super-LumiNova. The seconds and the small seconds/chrono hands are baton polished steel with a surprisingly good legibility.
The dial is balanced and nice to look at. Not too busy (the big 44mm size helps) but also not slatternly, the dial offers good legibility and a nice, interesting note due to hour’s and minute’s hands.
Until the development of B01, Breitling was using the movement ebauche from ETA/Valjoux. In the early 2000s, the lack of clarity on the availability of chronograph movements specifically and the uncertainty of supply in the ebauche market, together with the wish to be independent pushed the brand to take action.
The calibre B01 is the result of five years of development of a five-man team. The intention was to create a robust movement, COSC certified easy to produce and maintain, feasible for mass production.
The Calibre B01 is built as a column-wheel chronograph with a vertical clutch system. The vertical clutch system eliminates the hand jumping when the chronograph is triggered.
The B01 features an auto-centering system for the reset hammers. A brilliant feature, especially considering that the movement is mass produced and no individual adjustments are performed for every calibre. For the rate-adjustment, the B01 uses a special visual regulating system using reference indexes.
The calibre B01 has a balance weel working at 28,800 v.p.h. or 4Hz with a Nivarox escapement and an impressive single barrel power reserve of more than 70 hours. The instantaneous date change is a nice addition.
The decorations are lovely for a movement designed to be mass-produced: mainplate with perlage, snailing and Côtes de Genève brushes, diamond polished bevels, a gold filled engraved rotor weight, all visible freely under the see-through caseback.
The Breitling SuperOcean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44 is a lovely watch. The 44mm size is a proper size for many wrists and could fit even a smaller wrist. Even a lady can consider it a statement for an active life. The watch feels good on the wrist with a slight weightier wear. Those used to only quartz and/or carbon/titanium watches might find it on the heavy side at first. The ones used to having a solid automatic chronograph steel watch will find the SuperOcean B01 lovely, the extra bracelet weight giving a feeling of assurance and robustness.
The pushers are easy to use. The initial stuttering in the video was caused by the author’s incertitude by handling through camera viewer. The chrono pushers respond well, creating a robust feel without effort.
While not a dress watch, the Breitling SuperOcean B01 still boosts enough comfort and confidence for a daily use. In these times, where etiquette is more casual and relaxed, the piece can be a good conversation starter even on a business attire. But the watch requests and deserves action, beach or cold mountain lakes. It deserves adventure.