Breitling Transocean Chronograph

The Breitling Transocean Chronograph features a fully integrated column-wheel chronograph. Angus Davies explores this glorious timepiece imbued with styling from the 1950s and 60s.

This detailed review of the Breitling Transocean Chronograph includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Image of Breitling Transocean Chronograph

In the 1950s the notion of flights for the masses was unheard of. The transatlantic jetliner was the preserve of the affluent middle classes. It is said that a ‘standard’ seat cost a third of an average worker’s annual salary. In flight entertainment did not existence and the passage across the ocean consisted of food, drink and polite conversation with fellow passengers.

Recently, I was reminded of this era when I held the Breitling Transocean Chronograph in my hands. This timepiece has a wonderful retro feel, as if created in a bygone era. However, don’t misconstrue this is a watch which is modern and created for today’s generation of horophiles who appreciate a nod to aviation.

Stepping aboard my imagined BOAC de Havilland DH 106 Comet, I buckled up for a journey of exploration, appraising the Breitling at close quarters.

The dial

The dial is a creamy sea of loveliness featuring three subdials. The hour and minute hands are partially openworked and incorporate luminescent treatment along their form. The hours are indicated with golden rectangular batons.

Image of Breitling Transocean Chronograph

The three subdials eschew snailing, featuring smooth recesses instead. A 30-minute chronograph register resides at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour chronograph register is located at 6 o’clock, while a small seconds display features at 9 o’clock. The tri-compax arrangement works well, especially with the creamy dial tones employed.

Positioned at 04:30 is a date display. The aperture is stepped, encouraging the eye to look at the date presented on the white disk. The sense of nostalgia is reinforced with the typeface of the date which features serifs.

Image of Breitling Transocean Chronograph

A tachymeter scale encircles the dial in a rusty red hue to eye-catching effect. A golden applied Breitling ‘B’ logo is positioned below 12 o’clock, again reinforcing the sense of nostalgia.

The potential danger of embracing period styling is that the pursuit of retro aesthetics can be at the expense of practicality and ease of read-off. Thankfully, no such problems afflict this watch which exhibits style and lucidity in equal abundance.

The case

The 18-carat red gold evinces a delightful russet tone in dim light. The case measures 43mm in diameter with a thickness of 14.35mm. Its modern proportions should suit a broad range of wrist sizes while according sufficient scale for all dial indications to breathe easily and, in so doing, allow the wearer to readily discern information.

Image of Breitling Transocean Chronograph

The sapphire crystal is of the ‘glass box variety’ allowing light to flood the dial plain and illuminate the various dial components, augmenting ease of read off. The crown is adorned with the brand’s vintage ‘B’ logo on its vertical flank and the chronograph pushpieces are capstan-like in profile.

The dorsal flank of the case reveals the self-winding movement via an exhibition caseback. The maximum water resistance of 100 metres is proclaimed on the reverse of the case.

The movement

The Breitling 01, manufacture movement is an impressive calibre I have discussed on many occasions. It has a fully-integrated column-wheel chronograph i.e. it does not consist of a base movement and module.

Image of Breitling Transocean Chronograph

Pressing the pushpieces confers a smooth, positive feel which surpasses the action found with most modular chronographs. Moreover, with many modular chronographs, actuating the stopwatch function results in the central chronograph seconds hand wobbling or stuttering before it commences its journey. With the column-wheel chronograph no such wobble or stutter occurs.

The balance oscillates to a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 47 jewels. The movement has a prodigious power reserve of 70 hours.

Breitling has imbued the Calibre Breitling 01 (Manufacture) with agreeable finishing. The oscillating mass is adorned with a sunray motif, while the bridges are decorated with Côtes de Genève. However, the finishing pales by comparison to the sight of the column wheel and coupling in mechanical dialogue. I confess that I cannot tire of starting, stopping and resetting the chronograph, watching the coupling move in between the pillars of the column wheel. It is a delightful sight.

Closing remarks

The Breitling Transocean Chronograph draws on some of the styling cues of the 1950s and 1960s, doffing its cap to yesteryear while embracing modernity, with its Calibre Breitling 01 (Manufacture) movement.

The dial has a softly spoken character. It is festooned with numerous functions, including chronograph registers, the date, a small seconds display and a tachymeter scale, however, it doesn’t appear cluttered. The sunken subdials, sans snailing, provide a beautiful quotient of interest and style. The legibility of the dial is superb with all indications proving easy to decipher.

Warm autumnal tones make the case appear gentle and comely. If Breitling wished to fully embrace the design codes of the 1950s it should probably have chosen yellow gold for a true period look. However, I like the warmth proffered by 18-carat red gold. The glass box sapphire crystal does subscribe to period styling and invites light to flood the dial, aiding legibility.

But, I have to return to the movement which is a peach. It operates with impressive smoothness, is pleasingly finished and accords sight of the column wheel and coupling interfacing sweetly.

Modern day transatlantic flights may now be cheaper but, save for the seats in First Class, it is no longer a glamorous means of travel. However, the Breitling Transocean Chronograph captures the romanticism of the past while embracing the technical virtue of modern-day know-how. It is a glamorous watch for the modern era.

Technical specification

  • Model: Breitling Transocean Chronograph
  • Ref: RB015212 G738 739P R20BA.1
  • Case: 18-carat red gold; diameter 43mm; height 14.35mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph; date; tachymeter scale
  • Movement: Breitling 01 (Manufacture), self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 47 jewels; power reserve minimum 70 hours.
  • Strap: Brown leather strap
  • Price: £16,235 (RRP as at 7.2.2017)

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