If you noticed the sporty Chronoliner collection from last year, but decided to pass on it for the lack of bling, this new 2016 Breitling Chronoliner Triple Time-Zone Chronograph limited edition model may make you want to reconsider. Preserving the same energetic (some may even call it assertive) styling of the original, the new watch comes in a lot dressier rose gold case that, thanks to careful balancing the mix of materials and textures somehow manages not to look too offending and arrogant in all of its polished rose gold and glossy ceramic glory.
The original Chronoliner model that served as a base for this model was officially presented about a year and a half ago during Baselworld 2015 trade show. In a press release that accompanied the timekeeper’s announcement, the Swiss watchmaker admitted that its sources of inspiration are coming from as far as 1950s and 1960s when Breitling became what it is now: an ultra-luxury brand that is as closely associated with aviation as Tag Heuer is identified with all things motorsports.
Although the Swiss-based company didn’t name any particular model that this new collection pays homage to or at least is based on, I think that it was heavily influenced by the gorgeous Unitime Co-Pilot Chronograph from the 1960s. Looking as similar as they are, the main difference between the two is, of course, the choice of movements.
While the older model was powered by an archaic hand-wound Venus 178 caliber that couldn’t offer anything fancier than 24-hour military-style time display and chronograph (the second time zone was displayed using the same hour hand pointing at Arabic numerals on the bi-directional rotating bezel with another 24-hour scale,) this new crop features a more modern ETA-based caliber that follows a lot more convenient time representation convention: while the main time zone is displayed using a traditional 12-hour scale on the main dial, the second (and third!) time zones are indicated by an extra hour hand that points at respective numerals on the bezel and secondary chapter rings on the dial.
Since the extra zones are presented in 24-hour standard, there is no need for a day/night indicator that not only makes the watch easier to read, but also makes the movement less complex thus decreasing a chance of breakdown.
Of course, the new watch is quite large and deliberately massive, but so was the original Co-Pilot Unitime! Measuring 40 millimeters in diameter, the vintage timekeeper was gigantic compared to its less daring siblings. Yes, it was back in early 1960s when the supersizing race has actually started. And just look where it got us!
Case & Strap
Like its source of inspiration, the 2016 Breitling Chronoliner is big. Yes, it may not be as obscenely huge as some Breitling for Bentley models with their deliberately oversized cases hiding small ETA-based calibers deep behind heavy back covers, but it is still quite large.
According to official specs, the Chronoliner measures 46 millimeters in diameter and is almost 16 millimeters thick: it takes a lot of space on a wrist, especially after you factor in the long, massive horns that together add approximately six to seven millimeters to the Chronoliner’s total length.
I have an impression that for its promotional photos the Swiss brand uses models of heroic proportions that make the gargantuan pieces appear not as monstrous as they are in real life. However, it will take you about five seconds of googling the Chronoliner’s wrist-shot pictures to get an idea of how frighteningly big this timekeeper actually is. You really need to be a big person to make this watch look good on you.
Of course, this is a matter of personal preferences: I have met a great deal of people that wear their oversized timepieces with proud (and actually have whole collections of these titanic beasts in their winders,) but you still must understand that buying one of these online before actually trying one on your own wrist may not be a very good idea.
Well, if the watch will actually fit you, I don’t see any other problem neither with usability nor with ergonomics. The crown, while being quite short, is still easy to operate thanks to its larger diameter; the glossy bi-directional bezel, which is fashioned out of a solid piece of black ceramic material, turns in both directions with deeply satisfying solid clicks in one-hour increments and, too, is easy to use thanks to its huge notches; and the chronograph push-pieces are okay: they are no more comfortable than any of those on any other chronograph with standard controls, but also no less.
By the way, speaking of crown, it is reported to be of a non-screw-locked variety with the Chronoliner’s water-tightness ensured with nothing more than a pair of rubber gaskets. So, it is no wonder that the gadget’s guaranteed water resistance rating is limited to pretty underwhelming 100 meters (330 ft.) Of course, it is still practical enough for the watch to be used while showering and even swimming, but even doing some basic snorkeling you will immediately start to test your luck with this device. Well, it’s a pilot’s watch and it would be foolish to demand from it something that it is just not.
While Breitling usually tries to offer an impressive list of customization options with their timekeepers (and the list often includes at least two or three different bracelets and maybe a rubber strap,) the choice of available straps for this watch is limited to just a single Aero Classic black rubber band. Styled to look similar to the brand’s Ocean Classic mesh bracelets (the strap has the pattern embossed on its front surface,) the black wristband plays nicely with the black ceramic bezel and black dial of the watch.
The dial of this piece, as I have already noted, is heavily influenced by styling ques drawn from the iconic Co-Pilot Unitime model from the 1960s. Still, it is evolved enough to be pretty far from being called even a true “homage”. Although the basic layout (albeit having its 30-minute chronograph sub-dial relocated from 9 o’clock to more convenient 12 hours,) as well as the basic shape and proportions of all hands and even the typefaces -including that for Arabic numerals on the bezel- that were used by the team that is responsible for this new watch are still quite close to the “original,” there are, of course, lots of visible differences between the two.
The first of all, there is an extra hour hand that points both at the 24-hour scale on the secondary chapter ring and the one on the aforementioned ceramic bezel. Basically, it serves to turn the watch from a simple GMT-capable chronograph into a simple Triple Time-Zone watch with chronograph functionality. Since the extra hour hand looks too similar in shape to the chronograph’s central seconds hand, it is painted different color -bright red versus bright white- and has a different shape of its tip in order for the chronograph indicator to preserve its spearhead-shaped pointer that is almost identical to the one used on 1960s model.
The second difference is, of course, the date window. While the caliber Venus 178 that animated the vintage model came sans calendar, the Breitling caliber 24 that powers this timepiece features a simple date indicator at 3 o’clock. As usual, the date window is rather small, but is still usable with its tiny numerals printed in bright white over the black background of the calendar wheel.
The color scheme used for the timekeeper’s face is very well-chosen with all three of its off-white sub-dials nicely contrasting matt black paint of the dial itself, as well as the stick-shaped hour markers in the main time zone. Together, these measures not only make the watch look cool, but also allow for superb legibility. However, I think that the lack of even a drop of Superluminova on the secondary hour hand, as well as on the bezel and the secondary chapter ring seriously hampers the timekeeper’s nighttime legibility. Yes, you can always make necessary calculations in your mind by knowing time in your main time zone, but, frankly, what’s the point of having a GMT-capable watch if you have to make calculations in your mind?
Otherwise, it is a fairly standard layout that you probably have seen on dozens and hundreds of other models from all sorts of watchmakers that, too, are powered by numerous variations of the same self-winding movement. This brings us nicely to… right: the mechanism.
You probably have already guessed (in an unlikely event that you didn’t know it from the start) that the Breitling caliber 24 that powers this piece is in fact based on the well-known ETA Valjoux 7754 automatic chronograph movement.
Modified to slightly higher specs in order to pass COSC certification as a chronometer and in order to increase its accuracy and reliability, the mechanism is a natural-born chronograph movement that is basically the good old ETA Valjoux 7750 ebauche that was modified in order to put an additional 24 hand that greatly enhanced its functionality. The fact that the traditional day of week indicator was dropped in the process didn’t make the piece any less usable in my opinion.
Sporting unidirectional winding, ball-bearing rotor and beating at standard 28,800 vph, the movement is far from being “revolutionary” in any meaning of the word. What it is, is an extremely reliable mechanism that works for years without problems and can be fixed by any service person in any part of the world, which is not usually the case when it comes to real in-house calibers or even simpler ETA or Sellita three-handers equipped with proprietary add-on modules.
Yes, the cal. 24 is boring, but it is boring in a grand-daddy’s-old-limo-that-never-seems-to-break-down kind of way.
Pricing & Availability
Predictably, this new Breitling Chronoliner Triple Time-Zone Chronograph Limited Edition in rose gold is approximately four times more expensive than the version in stainless steel that was released last year. Limited to just 250 pieces, the timekeeper costs $29,900 (depends on your local taxes, and prices in other parts of the world may differ a lot) and is available now on most markets.
The watch is certainly expensive, even for a Breitling. For example, a beautiful Bremont Kingsman with the same base movement and in a rose gold case will set you back at a lot less overwhelming $20,250 (give or take) and the gorgeous Chopard Mille Miglia GMT Chronograph (ref. 161292-5001) retails for some $24,400. But, hey, Breitling watches have always been terribly overpriced, what did you expect?
See also: Breitling Transocean Chronograph 1915
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 3.5/5
2016 Breitling Chronoliner Triple Time-Zone Chronograph Limited Edition watch specification
Price: $29,900 (MSRP)
Movement: Breitling 24 (base caliber ETA Valjoux 7754), COSC-certified chronometer, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 25
Movement frequency: 28,800
Power reserve: 42 hours
Movement decoration: No data
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, two 24-hour GMT indicators, chronograph
Case material: 18-carat rose gold
Bezel material: Black ceramic, glossy
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 46.00 mm
Case height: 15.95 mm
Lug width: 24/20 mm
Dial: Matte black
Hour markers: Applied, luminous (Superluminova)
Hands: Rose gold, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black rubber Aero Classic strap
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective coating on both sides
Case back: Solid, screwed-in, engraved with stylized planes