In a nutshell the B01 is the amalgamation of Breitling’s flagship model, the Chronomat Evo, and their new in-house movement, the Calibre 01.
I’ve already presented literary material on the incredible new Calibre 01 movement that Breitling introduced to considerable global acclaim in 2009. I will not venture into the interesting and genre defining details of this movement within this review and, instead, I will simply point you towards some further reading in the form of a previous article I have written on this extraordinary technical marvel.
and a few bullet points of this fabulous and well thought-out movement:
• COSC certified
• 70 hour power reserve
• Vertical Coupling Clutch for the Chronograph
• Instant date change that can be altered at any time
• Modular design facilitates quick servicing
Please also find a link below to the all new in-house GMT model:
For some reason, of which I am not privy to, I have already been loaned the Navitimer 01 and aforementioned B04 for review. However, it was the B01 that was the model used to introduce the glorious new Calibre 01 to the world. As previously mentioned this model is a direct descendant of Breitling’s now discontinued and much lamented flagship model, the Chronomat Evolution.
There are a few obvious changes that Breitling made from the Chronomat Evo and some not so apparent. The main aesthetic difference is the new bezel with its 70s graphic font.
This has divided opinion ever since the release, which I don’t think is a bad thing because all strong and defining designs have received plaudits and disparaging comments in equal measure. Personally, I love it. Although, I could certainly see the worth in offering a more utilitarian option such as that which was on the original Chronomat Evo.
One thing that cannot cause any cogitation is the operation of the silky smooth bezel, which gives just the right amount of feedback.
The other main difference in the looks department is the slightly stronger looking and more defined hour markers and hands.
These have both been on a full fat diet and as a result they offer slightly better legibility than the original Chronomat. Breitling polish their hands and markers to a deep lustrous finish. This means that they attract even the subtlest light. Given one of the darker dials, from the myriad of dial options available, the hands and markers ping right out of the dial. It is an extremely pleasurable visual affect to witness. I also like the way the markers and hands are of exactly the same girth and the markers have been moulded around the centre square of the dial. These discrete design details are indicative to the attention to detail that has been bestowed on the whole watch.
Other very classy details, that are usually only seen on high end dress watches include the applied Breitling logo, the perfectly rounded and polished case sides, the wonderfully detailed subdials and the box section chapter ring with tachymetre scale.
The B01 is what I would consider to be the perfect size for this watch, 43.5mm. It is large enough to give great wrist presence and at once gives a sense of solidity, strength and reassurance and yet it is also very comfortable to wear and remains elegant. The B01 is one of those rare watches which truly can compliment a shirt in the boardroom and a t-shirt on the boardwalk.
Further wonderful details that reflect the true sporty/classy schizophrenic nature of the B01 include the brilliant inter-rider tab sloped angles of the bezel, that assist in giving a good purchase, and the pleasantly designed and easy to use domed crown. The crown screws down to allow an impressive 500m water resistance, which is always going to be far more than normal mortals will require but does give protection for the 47 jewel movement against moisture and dust ingress.
It is also worth pointing out at this time that the winding operation of the movement is one of the nicest I have witnessed. It is smooth and gives an ideal level of resistance which is accompanied by a low-pitched whirring sound that reminds you of the action that you are helping to perform within the microcosm of the in-house movement. Just like the wonderful operation of the bezel it is these fundamental tactile elements that are often overlooked on watches with high end aspirations.
The pushers have a protective screw down collar which have to be fully unwound to operate either button. This can be a little fiddly and frustrating to perform when you suddenly need to start, start or reset the chronograph. I do appreciate that this safety feature has been included to prevent accidental underwater operation but it is still a bit of a bother to the everyman. I did, however, overcome this slight nuisance by leaving the collars wound out when I knew I wasn’t going to be in contact with water.
Due to the new layout of the Calibre 01, which sees the subdials placed at 3, 6 and 9 O’clock, the monochromatic perfectly legible date window is placed between the 4 and 5 O’clock markers.
Carrying on from the considerable opportunities to personalise the outgoing Chronomat Evo, Breitling offer the B01 in an amazing array of dial colours, hour marker designs, strap configurations, case finishes and case/bezel materials. Considerable thought would allow you to easily find your perfect B01. It is one of those timepieces that look equally at home on a rubber, leather, crocodile or stainless steel strap.
The luminosity is peerless. It requires very little encouragement to shine bright enough to be seen even in well lit conditions. When the light starts to fade and then disappears altogether the lume becomes entrancing.
My main criticism of the B01 is the lack of an exhibition case back to showcase the extremely impressive and aesthetically pleasing Calibre 01. There was a Limited Edition of the B01 which had a sapphire glass case back. Understandably, it quickly sold out.
The introduction of the new movement is easily reason enough to justify upgrading from the long serving and soon to be classic Chronomat Evo. I appreciate by including a sapphire exhibition back the B01 would cost a little more and that the 500m water resistance may be slightly compromised. However, I do not see the issue with offering this option alongside the current model.
In conclusion: Breitling took a huge leap of faith when they decided to create their own chronograph movement, globally accepted as one of the most difficult movements to design and conceive. Their decision to offer the movement in a re-invention of the popular and class leading Chronomat Evo was a wise decision. The use of this case design as a conduit for their new movement reflected the nature in which it was aspired to be used. The Chronomat Evo was dutiful to whomever it was worn. Whether they wanted to look classy in a dress suit or wanted to relax in the pool in a bathing suit. The Calibre 01 was also designed to work through the full spectrum of the average person’s life situations. The B01 offers incredible functionality, accuracy, legibility, ease of use and reliability in a bold and beautiful package.
Even though Breilting were historically responsible for such incredible innovations regarding the chronograph (such as the first ever separate pushpiece, the first ever start/stop pushpiece and the first ever seperate reset pushpiece, giving us the face of the chronograph we know today) they realised that the introduction of their very first in-house movement was the most important stage of their illustrious history. The B01 is the perfect vehicle for this incredible milestone. The next stages in this compelling saga can be read about here in my introduction to the Calibre 01 in Breitling’s iconic Navitimer case and their new TransOcean 01:
All words and images by Rick Atkins (unless otherwise stated). This article may not be reproduced in part or whole without the permission of the author.