Breitling release a set of three very interesting chronographs for Watches and Wonders 2021: two with hand wound movements and one automatic. Here is our hands on and up close review of the base hand wound chronograph in a beautiful new pistachio green dial.
The 40 mm Premier Heritage Chronograph is manually wound, just like its 1940s predecessors. It is powered by the Breitling Manufacture Caliber B09, which is based on the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01. It comes in two variations: with an eye-catching pistachio-green dial encased in stainless steel or a stately silver-colored dial encased in 18 k red gold.
The case, dial and hands
The case is in the case of the Breitling Premier series. Now in the “just right” case size of 40mm, the watch is all the more wearable, with the nicely elegant, sweeping curved lugs to allow it to hug smaller wrists even better. The case is the same classical in proportions as with the larger Premier chronographs, and retains the ribbed sides to break the visual monotony. The entire case is finished in a high polish – from the sloped bezel to the case sides and back bezel even the chronograph pushers and crown sport a polish finish.
The dial is a rather pale pastel green, which Breitling calls pistachio green – a fitting name for the very attractive hue, especially when coupled with the brown alligator strap. A box style sapphire glass crystal protects the dial, and completes the vintage feel.
The dial layout is a bi-compax style, with the constant seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock and the 30 minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock. Both sub-dials feature concentric circles as a decoration and also to offer some visual relief to the otherwise smooth dial. The hands are syringe shaped with infilled SuperLuminova. The seconds hand is a thin needle like affair with the counterweight end in a circle. The rehaut is sloped with tachymeter markings. A railway style minute scale resides inside and just a small step below the level of the tachymeter, and the appliqué Arabic numerals offer the hour markings within.
This dial visual is familiar to the other Premier line 42mm chronographs, and is very pleasing to the eye. Legibility is good, and the markings are clear. We do know that some will lament that the 2, 4, 8 and 10 numerals are cut by the sub-dials, but this does not bother us, and we rather like the aesthetics. Others will rejoice that the chronograph comes sans date. A curved B logo without wings adorn the pride of place in the center of the dial above the transfer printer moniker “BREITLING 1884” in two lines.
A peek at the red gold version – the dial is a very rich creamy hue, and markers are similar, except that the hands and appliqué Arabic numerals are now in red gold as well.
The movement: Breitling B09
The movement is the new Breitling B09, which is a development of the B01. The B01 is an in-house manufactured movement, and has quite some good credentials, as it has been selected for use in Tudor chronographs. This is a robust, well functioning column wheel chronograph which has stood the test of both the Breitling branded watches, as well as in the Tudors. And known to be reliable and trouble free. The B09 is the hand wound version, created by deleting the rotor and the automatic winding system. As such, it is slightly thinner: 13.08mm case thickness vs the 42mm Premier Chronograph’s 13.6mm.
The B09 features the same vertical clutch column wheel as the B01, which is a pleasure to use. Each activation – start, stop, reset is smooth and operates with a light, but positive pressure. The force needed for each of the operation is consistent, as is quite the norm for column wheel driven chronographs.
Movement finishing is not at haute horlogerie levels, but neither are the asking prices, and we think the level offered is highly commensurate with the pricing level. The chronograph works are in steel, and finished to a nice level, with good polish on the flat surfaces, and proper anglage applied to the edges. The movement plates are now fully visible, instead of being blocked by the rotor. Overall, the movement finish is judged to be adequate for the task, and a good engineering level.
The competitive landscape
The landscape is one which is crowded. The chronograph is a basic complication which is useful to many. And the fascination of being able to start, stop and reset a time interval is intriguing to many. The crowd is mainly in the automatic winding space – with competitors like the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph (same movement as the Premier Chronograph 42), the various iterations of the Zenith El Primero, including the very attractive vintage re-issues, and from Omega’s omnipresent Moon Watch series (though there are some Speedmasters with hand wound movements). But the tale of the tape on the hand wound side is perhaps lacking.
At the very high end, we have maisons like Lange with their 1815 Chronograph conquering the landscape, and the Patek Philippe Ref. 5172. But these are pitched at a higher pricing level and only available in precious metal cases. Yes, even in the 18k red gold case, the Premier B09 is considerably lower in the retail asking prices.
One possible comparison might be made with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Steel. The JLC features a high level chronograph movement made in the maison, and is also bi-compax in dial layout, with no date.
There is much to love about this new Breitling B09 Chronograph 40. The new, smaller “just right” case size of 40mm is just a starting point. The hand wound caliber is an attractive proposition to lovers of old school chronographs, and it benefits from being able to make the case slimmer. The dial layout is already a proven formula of the Premier series – clean, legible, and very beautiful. The pale pistachio green dial is a bonus, and gives the watch a nice, fresh look.
The overall aesthetic is very pleasing. And kudos must be given to Georges Kern and his design team for their eye to beauty. They may be criticized for lack of creativity, for the chronographs take quite a few leaves from others in the competitive field, but never for creating beautiful chronographs.
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