Breitling Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition | Watch of the Week
Breitling follows up the 2020 release of its new and improved Chronomat collection with a collaboration that is sure to appeal to high fliers. Meet the Breitling Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition…
Breitling has gone about its business in a most impressive way over the last few years. The freshened-up branding and edgy marketing strategy – featuring a roster of pioneering, adventurous watch ambassadors (and, er, Brad Pitt) – has pulled the Swiss watchmaker away from its former pilots' watch niche towards a much broader worldwide appeal.
The quality of the product, of course, has never waned over the years but much like a good-looking bloke who's started paying more attention to what's in his wardrobe, Breitling has recently thrown out some of its less desirable pieces, and replaced them with a few contemporary alternatives that really accentuate its best features; namely, utilitarian watch design, with a touch of vintage chic.
Speaking of which, we've seen Breitling refresh many of its big-name collections since 2018, starting with the flagship Navtimer collection, performing CPR to the oft-forgotten Premier watch series, and then giving a facelift to the previously polarising Chronomat. The positive noises from all corners of the watch sphere tells you all you need to know: Breitling has never looked better.
So what do we have here then? Well, the modus operandi for Breitling collections is we get a rollout of the main watch line-up, followed not too long after by a series of limited-edition pieces that have a particular story to tell.
Coming after the well-received Chronomat reboot of 2020, Breitling has reconnected with the Red Arrows for this limited run of watches we're looking at today.
Meet the Breitling Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition.
Breitling may have diversified away from being solely a pilots' watch brand, but the watchmaker certainly wouldn't want to shake its reputation as the leading supplier of timepieces to the aviation industry.
As if to underline this point, last year Breitling released a limited-edition watch that celebrated the Frecce Tricolori – the famed Italian aerial squadron – and this year it has paid the same favour to the much-loved (and superior – come on Britain!) Red Arrows with its latest release.
The Royal Air Force Acrobatic Team has been closely associated with Breitling for 30 years, with a string of limited-edition pieces over that time period to prove it, and remains the only luxury watch brand granted exclusive permission to feature the distinctive emblem of the Red Arrows on its timepieces.
The reason for such a tight-knit relationship dates back even further to the 1930s when Breitling's on-board chronographs were supplied to RAF aircraft and vital in all those menial tasks, like calculating distance and fuel, that are now handled by computers.
Presumably those trusty Breitlings got the RAF out of a few scrapes in their time, as the watchmaker has been the brand of choice ever since. Even today Breitling creates private commission timepieces exclusively for RAF and other military squadrons.
Photo by Cpl Adam Fletcher
The Chronomat collection is an excellent pilot's companion as it is rooted in practicality, rather than purely being design-centric. The chunky so-called 'rider tabs' are easy to grip, even when you're wearing gloves, and combine with the countdown bezel to create a useful tool when in the aircraft, while the watch itself is tough enough to withstand whatever the cockpit might throw at you.
Trouble is, the utilitarian design has always been a bit marmite. Sure it's great on the job, but what about when I'm in a bar trying to Top Gun my way into a date?
First created in 1984 (though the Chronomat name dates back to 1941), this isn't a design that has aged particularly well. Or at least, it hadn't until last year when a wholesale redesign gifted the Chronomat the facelift it's been crying out for.
The new collection is a design that I find surprisingly appealing, given my previous aversion to the Chronomat. Particularly noticeable is how much more integrated the 'rider tabs' are within the dial, resulting in a watch that feels both elegant and sporty – a long way apart from some of the more cumbersome iterations we've seen over the years.
It's funny, the design blueprint is roughly the same as it's always been – this watch is no less a Chronomat than the original – but smoothing out a few lines here and there has really been a gamechanger.
The Breitling Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition doesn't stray too far from the garden path in its design, insofar as there are no watchmaking acrobatics on show in this tribute to the aerobatic squadron.
The headline here is the Red Arrows Diamond Nine logo positioned at 12 o'clock, where you'd normally find the Breitling logo. It also features an 'RAF blue' dial (read: a stylish shade of metallic blue), with black contrasting sub-dials. In short, it looks great, especially that gleaming red logo pride of place on the dial.
Oh, there's also the Royal Air Force insignia on the caseback’s transparent sapphire crystal.
Much like Breitling's other collaborations, this isn't a shouty white-label exercise designed at using another brand's clout as a marketing tool. (Not naming names, but if you've seen any football team-associated watches, you'll know what I'm talking about.) It's simply two brands that share similar values tastefully aligned in a singular timepiece.
To my mind, this is a case in point of how Breitling does collaborations better than almost any other watch brand around.
So who's going to buy this watch?
It's worth pointing out that this timepiece is limited to 160 pieces as a tribute to each Red Arrows display pilot who has served in the squadron since their first display in 1965.
As a result of that, I'd imagine there's an amount of collectibility about this watch for ardent Red Arrows fans, while I'm sure there's a chance former or existing pilots may also like a piece of the action.
However, there's a third option. Owning one of these watches is an immediate conversation starter: "This old thing, yeah it was given to each of the 160 pilots to have flown in the Red Arrows. Did I mention I was a Red Arrows pilot?" Sixty percent of the time, it works every time… if it doesn't, you're still looking at a stylish sports watch suitable for almost any occasion.
Alexa: play "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins.
The new Breitling Chronomat Red Arrows Limited Edition will be available on breitling.com and from select retailers, priced at £6,900.