Long before John Travolta pitched the brand in the shadow of his private jet, Breitling made good watches. In fact, they made some of the most purpose-built tool watches of any brand in Switzerland rather than 47mm “pilot” watches with puffy steel bezels and generic movements. That 1990s and onward Breitling era really sticks in the minds of watch collectors, hurting vintage enthusiasm around the brand immensely. Only recently has deserved recognition hit vintage Breitling, specifically the Navitimer, Super Ocean, and Co-Pilot, but the entire 1940s through 1970s catalog remains a high relative value.
Established in 1884 as a neighbor of Longines in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, Breitling focused—from its small shop roots—on chronographs, sport use watches, and scientific timing instruments. Swelling beyond that initial shop, in 1892, the firm left Longines behind by moving to a larger facility in the hottest Swiss watchmaking town, La Chaux-de-Fonds. There Breitling joined a new set of neighbors including Girard-Perregaux and Jacquet Droz. In 1914, the brand’s founder, Léon Breitling passed away with his son, Gaston, taking over operations. Under the guidance of Gaston, Breitling introduced their first wristwatch chronograph in 1915 and cemented its place in the universe of Swiss watchmaking as a chronograph specialist—a focus it would champion for the next 60 years and beyond.
Gaston Breitling sadly passed away unexpectedly in 1927, leaving his 14-year-old son, Willy, as the brand’s only successor. Gaston’s son took a few years to literally grow up before taking hold of the Breitling wheel in 1932. Proved to be an outstanding sherpa, Willy Breitling filed a patent for the world’s first two-button wristwatch chronograph, created the first black dial and heavily lumed aviator chronograph, and, in the early 1940s, introduced the Chronomat, Premier, Duograph, and Datora product lines. Willy really should be regarded right there alongside Jack Heuer as Swiss watch innovators because he did not stop there. Breitling’s Navitimer, Super Ocean, Co-Pilot, Top Time, and Chronomatic all were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s while Willy was at the helm.
Breitling’s Chronomat was among the first innovations of the great Willy Breitling, dating back to 1942. The aviator focused wristwatch chronograph was among the first of its kind and, in fact, the second slide rule watch produced behind the chronograph-less Mimo-Loga just a year before. While the design language and production runs overlapped for a significant time period, it is important to note that the Chronomat dates back ten years prior to the introduction of the now renown Breitling Navitimer. While today viewed as a little brother to the Navitimer, these watches are actually not as similar as it may seem—the Chronomat is not a pilot watch. Rather, the earlier model was marketed as ideal for engineers, doctors, sportsmen, aviators, and technicians.
The seller’s Breitling Chronomat dates to 1967, towards the latter end of the ref. 808 production run. Differences between early and late examples are few but notably include a different style beaded bezel with early versions having full round beads where later examples show a flat surface such as this one. The case number, 1132434, stamped inside the caseback dates this example to 1967.
The case is preserved in good to great condition with sharp original bezel lines but has been polished in its past. The Breitling signed crown and pushers appear correct and original to the watch. On the caseback, virtually no scratches are seen, most of the text remains deeply stamped, however, the Breitling logo and 808 reference number appear to be wearing. The acrylic crystal is free of any major scratches although shallow hairline scratches are seen.
The Dial and Hands
This example’s dial is in good condition with a center black section that shows light patina around the hour markers and an outer white portion that shows age at 6 and 10 o’clock. Subdials appear in the best relative condition compared to the center and outer portions. Lastly, the lume plots at the hour markers are present and appear full taking on a cream patina in natural sunlight especially.
The handset is correct for this reference and variant. Condition is great with no flaws to note.
The Breitling signed Venus cal. 175 TJ movement is in good running order, keeping accurate time, and the seller states it has been serviced at their watchmaker.
|Location||New York City|
|Movement||Manually Wound Venus cal. 175 TJ|
|Dial||Matte finish reverse panda|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Leather Strap|