One of the main reasons I am an avid watch collector is I appreciate the skill, craft, imagination and intensive labour that is required to create a high-end, accurate and reliable mechanical movement. Everywhere you look today our portable gadgets, of which wrist watches can be considered, are powered by batteries. I like the fact that the mechanical watch movement possesses the ability to power itself (or is hand wound) by utilising the same fundamental components, power source and technology of 400 years ago. The more complications a mechanical movement has the better. Although, the more the complications the movement has the pricier, is sadly true. Exponentially true in fact.
Therefore, I will happily concede that there are those people that do not care about such romanticisms. They want a watch to do a job. They are willing to pay for quality and reliability but if something else can offer the same functions with better accuracy, for less, then all the better.
This is one reason why electronic quartz-regulated movements make so much sense to most people. There is a certain demographic that wants to buy a luxury wrist watch that will have the kind of fit, finish and overall high levels of quality bestowed on it that is normally only justified on a watch that has a mechanical movement, for the reasons stated above. This fraternity will be interested in the attributes that are granted with an electronic movement rather than the charm and character of a mechanical movement, which is a result of the personal involvement and touches afforded. The former being accuracy and multiple complications at a very reasonable price.
This is exactly why the brand new Code Orange and Code Yellow Avenger Seawolf Chronographs from Breitling are incredibly desirable and offer so much for the money.
The first thing that needs to be taken into account is the fact that Breitling’s SuperQuartz© movements are incredibly, almost mind-bogglingly, accurate across the complete range. Quartz movements are usually a lot more accurate than mechanical movements. Mechanical movements are deemed very accurate if they only gain or lose 2-3 seconds per day. Any quartz movement should be able to achieve 2-3 seconds per week. However, Breitling have used their technical prowess and created a quartz movement that is guaranteed accurate to within 0.5 seconds per week. By introducing a clever thermo-compensating feature and utilising high precision manufacturing techniques this now fits perfectly within their brand philosophy of rating every one of their movements to Chronometer standard. This 127 year old Swiss company is the only watch brand in the world to achieve this. Please see my article on Chronometer Certification here:
The Avenger range has been built around the principles of strength and functionality. These tool watches are incredibly well designed and built so that they can withstand the 3 tonnes per square inch of pressure witnessed at the 3000m sub-aquatic depths that the Avenger Seawolf is guaranteed to. The Avenger Seawolf Chronograph is as equally impressive for its water resistance specification in that the chronograph and countdown timer (more on that later) pushers can be operated at depths of 1000m.
This is due to a patented technology that means that the Avenger Seawolf Chronograph is the only chronograph in the world that can offer this incredible feature. This extraordinary feat is not possible with a mechanical movement because the pushers are registered using magnetic contacts and mechanical movements do not react well to anything with magnetic properties. Furthermore, these pushers control something that is at once useful and adds incredible charm to this tool watch: The chronograph function can be used as a countdown timer. This is facilitated by the addition of the white central chronograph minute hand.
Once the crown is unscrewed it can be pulled out very slightly to the first position. This takes a little practice but then quickly becomes second nature. At this point the date can be set by turning the crown. However, if the bottom pusher is pressed it will move the white chronograph minute hand in a clockwise direction. Once this hand is in the required position the crown can be screwed in, to achieve full water resistance again, and the chronograph started. This will act as any normal chronograph whereby the central second hand starts to count. However, as the first minute elapses this causes the central minute hand to move in a clockwise position. If, for example, this hand had been originally set to the 50 minute position the user can read off the time left as the chronograph continues to count down the required 10 minutes towards the 12 O’clock position, or time zero for the countdown. This is a very cool feature to have on an analogue watch.
Incidentally, when the crown is in the same position as described above rotating it will increase or decrease the hour hand without affecting the time. This is to allow an incredibly easy and quick way of changing the timezone.
The other advantage of having the chronograph hours registered on a central hand is that it frees up a subdial of the normal tri-compax layout. Breitling have used this “spare” subdial to display 10th of seconds for the elapsed time. Another useful and desirable feature to have.
Finally, the Chronograph has a split time function using a fly-back seconds hand.
The Avenger Seawolf Chronograph range tends towards the large side but not to the point where it discriminates against anyone with a small wrist. This is the gorgeous Code Yellow on my 6.5” wrist.
One dimension that does cause real world issues is the height. At 18mm it does mean that you will find it difficult to wear the Avenger Seawolf Chronograph under a shirt sleeve.
Also, in the above shot you can see the Helium Escape valve, which reflects the Avenger Seawolf Chronograph’s diving potential.
As with all Breitlings, the glass is Sapphire, making it virtually scratch proof, and is anti-glare proofed on both sides.
The uni-directional bezel has useful diver’s indices that allow any specified time, up to one hour, to be monitored. The chapter ring holds yet further information in the form of a compass scale.
I have spent a considerable amount of prose discussing the functionality of the Avenger SeaWolf Chronograph. It is, therefore, a given that a lot of information is presented on the dial. Legibility is always a key-word when describing Breitling’s collection of tool watches and this example is no different. The clever use of the Yellow or Orange highlights, the large white hands against the black dial and the symmetrical layout have all contributed to an interface that allows any one of the many complications, including the date, to be read off easily.
The cases of these two Limited Edition pieces are stunning in their stealthy light-absorbing Black Steel coating.
This discretion is further aided by the use of the comfortable and great looking Ocean Racer rubber strap, which is complimented by a Black Steel push button clasp.
Please follow the link below for my introduction into the Breitling BlackSteel range:
SuperQuartz© movements created by Breitling have genuine integrity and in no way can Breitling be accused of losing any of their traditional dignity by offering these world leaders in the electronic watch movement world. The quartz movements that Breitling create are highly respected by watch connoisseurs and the Calibre 73 used in the Avenger Seawolf Chronograph range is one of my favourites.
Don’t hang around if you are considering one these technical marvels because they are very limited in their production numbers. There will only ever be 1000 individually numbered examples of each of the Code Yellow and Code Orange.
As with all Breitling Limited Editions the individual number is stamped on the case or caseback and a certificate of authorisation.
In conclusion: Although I am an evangelist of the mechanical movement I truly appreciate the Avenger Seawolf Chronograph for its clever, useful functions and peerless accuracy. I do not feel sullied by this decleration because I feel the Avenger Seawolf Chronograph offers everything I look for in a high end watch. The Limited Edition Black Steel Code Orange and Code Yellow versions are even more covetable than the standard, class leading, Avenger Seawolf Chronograph. They truly offer everything that a high-end electronic watch could: 25 seconds per year accuracy, impressive water resistance (including the industry first operable pushers), impeccable fit and finish, incredible legibility, ease of use, useful functions and limited number collectability leading to desirability. This is one of those electronically powered timepieces that will garner respect even amongst the most steadfast mechanical movement lovers such as myself. There are many examples that can be used when making analogies of why seemingly similar items can be so much more expensive than others. The Avenger Seawolf Chronograph should be used in this context. Yes you can buy a wrist watch for a 40th of the price of the Limited Edition Avenger Seawolf Chronograph Code Yellow or Code Orange but I’d rather have one of the latter than 40 of the former. Ideally, I would have two of the latter: One Yellow Code and one Orange Code. Oh crikey! I can just imagine the derisory comments of all those who cannot grasp the concept of paying tens of thousands for high end complicated mechanical timepieces: “You see, I told you.”
All words and pictures by Richard Atkins (unless otherwise stated). Please ask if you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article.