Hands-On With The Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Red Arrows Chronograph Watch
Breitling brings out the big guns with the Chronomat 42 B01 Red Arrows Limited Edition. As the name suggests, this version incorporates the RAF Red Arrows’ insignia. Not only that, but the famous flying “diamond nine” formation of the Red Arrows jets is displayed prominently on the dial, in place of the “B” logo.
In my first hands-on review of the revived Chronomat, I referred to my Frecce Tricolori as a guilty acquisition. Typically guilt turns to resentment, and I feared the Chronomat would end up sitting unloved in the watch box. As it turns out, the opposite happened, and I find myself fighting the urge to grab the Breitling FT over all the others, including some review pieces. It might just be me, but I personify my watch collection a bit like the toys in Toy Story. Sometimes I wonder if, when I turn my back, they come to life and start bemoaning that I never play with them anymore. But don’t worry, I won’t be engraving my name on the case-back like Andy inking his name on Woody and Buzz Lightyear’s boots.
Chronomat Red Arrows available online
So why was I guilty about getting the Chronomat? It just so happened to be the first new watch I had ever bought via e-commerce without seeing it in person first. I came close a few times before, though. In 2018, my finger was nervously hovering over the BUY NOW button for the Omega Speedmaster #SpeedyTuesday II “Ultraman”. Just as I had decided to go for it, the barber called me to the chair. I thought leaving it for 20mins would be fine and didn’t want to rush typing in my details. Well, you can probably tell from my tone that it didn’t work out as enthusiasts and speculators alike flocked to the second Fratello × Omega Speedy.
Online watch shopping is starting to feel natural.
Missing out on the “Ultraman” is still my biggest watch collecting regret. So for a while, I swore off buying watches through online retail. But during the pandemic, it has become the only option. I knew the redesigned Chronomat was coming, and writing the introduction only spurred my desire to own it. When the watch launched, I wasted no time in pouncing. Now online watch shopping feels natural to me, although part of me misses the in-person retail experience.
Red, white and blue smoke
The new Chronomat for today follows a year on from the Frecce Tricolori. Instead of the Italian aerobatic squadron, we have the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows. This new watch is also available to buy online and is limited to even fewer pieces at 160 against the FT’s 250. So what makes them different?
Flashes of red flying past.
The Frecce Tricolori was notable for paying homage to the 1983 model that eventually became the Chronomat the year after. As such, the ton sur ton blue dial and sub-dial layout came in tow. As the Red Arrows piece has no heritage model to draw from, the necessity to remain faithful is less prevalent. This is no better exemplified than in the black sub-dials contrasting against the blue dial. Contrasting sub-dial colors is a Breitling chronograph trait that distinguishes models with the in-house B01 movement with compax layout. Conversely, the Valjoux-derived tri-compax chronographs typically have a single tone across the dial.
Alongside the black sub-dials on the blue dial are the flashes of red on the seconds hand and decimal scale. This is a common color combo across the new Chronomat range. Only the Frecce Tricolori has a silver chrono seconds hand and white decimal scale. Those were some of the features that made me choose the Frecce Tricolori over the other options. However, on the Red Arrows, it only makes sense to incorporate red for these indications.
“Eclat” means excellence.
Most noticeably is the lack of a Breitling logo — wings or flying “B” — on the dial. You have the brand name written below the center pinion and the chrono seconds counterweight flows into the “B” motif. But at 12 o’clock, a considerable portion of the dial is filled with the silhouette of nine Red Arrow Hawk T1 jets.
RAF Red Arrows insignia
Turning the watch over reveals the most significant change to the appearance. Laser-engraved on the crystal is the RAF logo that covers most of the exhibition window. Perhaps I would have preferred a solid case-back engraving over the inhibited view to the B01 caliber, but the colored emblem is rather well done. The halfway-house of only providing a limited viewing space through the sapphire is not ideal. However, I spoke to Fratello photographer Bert, who provides these sumptuous images, about his feelings on this watch: he loved the RAF logo as his only Breitling is the Aerospace with RAF emblem on the dial.
Other than these touches, the Chronomat Red Arrows stays consistent with the rest of the line. The 42mm×15.1mm case is brushed on all sides and bevels that continue on the rifle-shell style Rouleaux bracelet. The identifiable bullet crown is flanked on both sides with crown guards that also incorporate the chronograph pushers. Powering the straight baton hands is the manufacture Breitling B01 caliber with a 70-hour power reserve.
Cementing a connection
Lastly, let me tap into my experience with the Red Arrows, and especially Breitling. Attending air shows is something I very much enjoyed pre-pandemic. From Shoreham to Dunsfold, I’ve seen aerobatic displays, sonic jets, and rare vintage aircraft flying above my head that still send a shot of excitement through my veins whenever those memories cross my mind. I’ve attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed since the early 2000s, and Red Arrows maneuvering in tight formation has been a mainstay fixture for many years.
Alongside Goodwood is my experience at the Eastbourne air show. The aircraft fly at low altitudes over the sea, providing great views from the coastline. One of the world-renowned acts from my experience at air shows is the Breitling Wingwalkers. Wingwalkers are typically female daredevils in jet-black attire waving to the crowd while perched on the wings of cobra yellow bi-planes. These wings have the Breitling logo strewn across them, thus forever associating the brand with aviation for me.
As mentioned above, the Breitling Chronomat 42 B01 Red Arrows is a 160-piece limited edition available for £6,900. The limitation number was chosen in tribute to all the pilots that have flown in Red Arrows jets since 1965. You can read more about Breitling here. As a bonus, I watched the six-part documentary on Red Arrows available for streaming here (UK only), which is worth checking out.