Why not... ? Breitling Chronomat Frecce Tricolori 2020
Here is a little story about fake watches, Chronomat, passion and emotions.
Let’s clarify right away the word chosen for this Why Not: “false”. I’m not going to make excuses for fake watches here under any circumstances. And I love the new Chronomat that Breitling just introduced. What I am going to do, however, is to tell you a story. It starts in 1984. I just turned 20. I wasn’t interested in watches yet, enrolled as a student at the Institute of Political Studies (IPS) in Strasbourg. This little detail will perhaps catch the attention of Breitling’s enthusiasts. The IPS of Strasbourg has seen many future business leaders pass through. One is called Georges Kern—future CEO of the Grenchen-based brand. Our paths probably crossed on the benches of this school since we were there at the same time ...
But back to the watches. My first watchmaking “shock” was the Chronomat, and I remember exactly where I first saw it, in a shop window of a Strasbourg watchmaker. I went inside, put it on my wrist. If I remember correctly, it was a two-tone version, but I wouldn't bet on it. What is certain is that I literally fell in love with this watch. It has shaped my taste for watches for a long time: original, solid, simple but refined, versatile. But, of course, I walked out of the store without the watch. Too expensive for a student.
I continued to ogle the window of this watchmaker, seeing the Chronomat collection growing. Life then took me to other cities. Without the Chronomat. At the time, I regularly went to visit family in the South of France and my family rented a small apartment in the Var for the holidays. One of our traditions was to visit the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. That year—1989 if I remember well—the visit continued towards Menton and then Ventimiglia in Italy.
The market of Ventimiglia is famous for its forgeries. Of course, I come across a counterfeit Chronomat. I pull out a few bills and within seconds it’s on my wrist. It’s not even a good fake. Probably not waterproof, a quartz movement, but a design that comes close to the Chronomat of my dreams. I can hear the screams and shouts from here. Scandalous! Yes, perhaps... but there’s a statute of limitations. I repeat: you must not buy a fake. But 30 years ago, I did it and I was quite happy.
Because for the first time I felt the pleasure of owning a watch I had always dreamed of. It was a fake, of course, but thanks to that I started to look for even more information about the Chronomat. I compared my fake to the real ones. I regretted my purchase a thousand times over. But I was also happy to remember that trip to Ventimiglia and that little emotion I had felt at that time.
Of course, the fake Breitling died quickly. But I kept it for a long time. Until the day when—at last—I could afford a real Chronomat. And I chose a version that came as close as possible in appearance to the bad copy I bought in Ventimiglia. It was my first and last counterfeit watch, and my first beautiful watch. The Breitling Chronomat is therefore for me a very special watch.
I’m not going to go back over the history of the brand, of which I've already presented several models in past articles. What is currently interesting with Breitling is their return to fundamentals. Like many I was often disappointed by some models presented these last years; it was too much. And I won’t talk about the evolution of “my” Chronomat, whose design has slowly moved away from what I liked in my first Breitling. I tried 100 times to convince myself to take one back. I never took the plunge. Honestly, the Chronomat had become... ugly.
Navitimer Automatic 35 Collection © Breitling
But that all changed when George took over Breitling. Little by little, the brand began to make eyes at me again. There have been new Navitimer or new SuperOceans, including my favourite, the Outerknown and its Econyl bracelet. There was the reissue of the famous 806, which I’m wearing now while writing this article. I hope to soon wear the new AVI 765, one of the brand’s most mythical timepieces. The new 2020 collection, with, among other things, the return of the Chronomat, definitely brings me back to Breitling.
Superocean Heritage '57 Capsule Collection © Breitling
The Breitling Chronomat “Frecce Tricolori”: if Ventimiglia had wings
What is certain is that with its 2020 model, Breitling finally has the Chronomat I was waiting for. The collection is composed of ten models but it is the Frecce Tricolori version that caught my attention the most. Why is that? Because it talks about Italy, and it is one of the most mythical models of the brand.
Let’s already talk about what all these Chronomat models have in common: a 42mm case, the famous rounded crown, the rider tabs and the famous roller bracelet, such an eighties design! The bezel has been reworked and is—at last—refined. The movement is the solid B01, the masterpiece of the Manufacture in Grenchen. It is visible through a sapphire caseback. The date is positioned at 6 o’clock and remains relatively discreet, which is a good thing.
Chronomat Collection © Breitling
Let us now turn our attention to the only Chronomat Limited Edition, the Frecce Tricolori. History has it that the Chronomat was initially born out of a partnership between Breitling and the Italian Air Patrol. This was in 1983, a few months before the Chronomat was launched. Since then, there has been an unfailing link between Breitling and the squadron. The Frecce logo has been found on several limited editions. But fans are looking for the first gold/steel version with a midnight blue dial and PAN Frecce Tricolori logo at 3 o’clock. This model would be followed by another product in 1994, in matte steel and black dial. There will be several other variations but none of them will dethrone the first two Frecce.
Chronomat B01 42 Frecce Tricolori © Breitling
What a joy to discover that this year, the Frecce comes back in a limited version of 250 pieces. It has the original blue background. The PAN logo is this time positioned at 12 o’clock. The watch is made of steel, and it too is equipped with the roller bracelet. I hope that Breitling will continue its momentum and will later propose more aerial-inspired Chronomat watches, including the Red Arrow and its bright red dial. Time will tell. For now, I am savouring the return of the Chronomat.
What does Devil’s Advocate think?
How can I speak ill of a dream? Whatever the devil thinks, this Chronomat is almost perfect for me. If I had to find something wrong with the Chronomat, I could mention the rectangular chronograph pushers and the positioning of the Frecce Tricolori logo. Admittedly, the B01 movement does not allow to free the space at 3 o’clock, but the PAN logo at 12 o’clock is hidden by the chronograph hand. It’s a bit of a pity. Otherwise, the Breitling Chronomat of 2020 is certainly the version that is the closest to the “real” one of 1984. Thank you!
Chronomat Collection © Breitling
Wearing the Breitling Chronomat Frecce Tricolori in style
The essential accessory will come from the one brand officially associated with the Italian Air Force — Aeronautica Militare, which has been offering clothing in the PAN colours for many years. My choice would be a dark blue polo shirt with the tricolor logo, matching perfectly with the Breitling Chronomat. If you wish to add a jacket, I recommend a vintage military M65 in olive, or a camouflage version of a vintage Jungle Jacket (Vietnam War era). My favorites are sold by Bulang & Son, who modify vintage items by adding some nice details.
For the pants, let's dare to go off-white. Many options exist, but I really like the SKU (Save Khaki United) models. On the feet, sneakers of course, and why not the new John Lobb Foundry in the grey/white version. There you go! — all ready to... stay at home in confinement.
That said, you can always look at the empty skies and imagine yourself at the controls of one of the Frecce's jets, with your real Chronomat on your wrist.
Stay home and stay safe ! And don't buy fake watches.
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