Even though Breitling is the only watchmaker who has every single movement certified by COSC, up until three years ago, it never had a completely in-house made caliber. Before the creation of the first proprietary B 01 movement, the brand from Grenchen tended to utilize ETA and Valjoux ebauches which were further improved in Breitling Chronometrie workshops in order to fit the company’s high standards of quality. However, everything changed in 2004, after the decision to produce its own caliber, which was caused by several reasons. Firstly, there was an increasing scarcity of blank movements, especially the ones with a chronograph function. Apart from desire for more independence in the manufacturing of timepieces on a larger scale, there was also a prestige-driven desire to create a manufacture movement that will excel in terms of reliability, performance and functionality. After the creation of the initial caliber, Breitling later introduced B 04 and, more recently, B 05 movement, both based on the first one.
Five Years of Development
Eight years ago, Breitling made a decision that could be marked as a turning in the watchmaker’s history. Since a movement can be considered as a manufacture one only if it is completely made in-house, it is a task that requires a lot of expertise, money and time. The basic idea was to make a caliber with previously mentioned basic traits of user-friendliness and reliability. More specifically, it was supposed to be a self-winding chronograph movement with an included date indication. After mobilizing various departments of the manufacturer, Breitling assembled an R&D team. As the story goes, in order to keep the task of the team a secret, the brand from Grenchen named the department PFI (Professional Flight Instruments) and split it in three sections which were responsible for different goals (the specialization of the task was not caused by the secrecy, but with the desire for improved efficiency). Since Breitling wanted to make this caliber on a larger scale from the very start, each of the suppliers of components was instructed to utilize appropriate equipment that would allow this. The suppliers complied and began delivering necessary components at the end of 2005 and the start of 2006.
The Birth of Chronometrie 2 and the Start of the Mass Production
To test the possibility of mass production and the brand’s ability to manufacture it, Breitling did not opt to make a single or a couple of prototypes, but decided to make several. These prototypes were then thoroughly tested and at the end of the year, each of them was COSC certified with flying colors. Soon, the brand built Chronometrie 2 facility, a new building devoted to the creation of the in-house movement which rounded up all of the professionals involved in the process. The following year was used to set up the necessary equipment that was needed for production on a large scale. In 2009, the brand finally unveiled its first proprietary movement which was appropriately named Breitling B01. The success of the entire enterprise can be demonstrated with the fact that Breitling was able to produce about 40,000 movements in 2011.
A Few Tricks for an Easier Production and Improved Performance
Breitling B01 caliber is a column-wheel chronograph which is the traditional and arguably more valued solution. It also uses a vertical coupling system (of chronograph and timekeeping mechanisms) which eliminates hand jumping once the chrono feature is triggered and reduces potential for differences on its displays. However, it cannot be said that this is a superior solution, since opinions on this matter tend to be quite opposed, even among the heads of some of the most prominent watchmaking brands.
Furthermore, B01 is equipped with a patented auto-centering system for the reset hammers of its chrono feature, which is very much in the accordance with the general intention of manufacturing on a large scale, since it means that there is no need for individual adjustment for every single caliber. Additionally, the first caliber by Breitling is equipped with a special index regulating system with tiny visual reference indexes which are very helpful for the adjustment of the rate of the timepiece.
The rest of the admirable traits of this 47-jewel caliber are: an extended 70-hour power reserve obtained from a single barrel (unusually high for a self-winding movement), a modular design that considerably facilitates the maintenance, as well as instantaneous date change ability (regardless of the time of the day). B01 oscillates at the frequency of 4 Hz and offers a chronograph precision within 1/4th of a second. Speaking of its chrono feature, this caliber enables tricompax or three register layout (with counters at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions) for its chronograph with sub-dials for small seconds, 30-minutes and 12 hours. As far as the finishing is concerned, it is limited due to the large scale of production. However, the caliber does involve Côtes de Genève pattern, circular graining, diamond polished bevels and snailing.
Breitling Models with B 01 Caliber
There are several models by the brand from Grenchen which are constructed with the first Breitling manufacture caliber, despite its relatively short existence. Quite a long list of models includes Chronomat 01, Chronomat 01 Limited Edition, Chronomat 41, Chronomat 44, Chronomat 44 Limited Edition, Chronomat 44 Top Gun, Montbrillant 01, Montbrillant 01 Limited Edition, Navitimer 01, Navitimer 01 Limited Edition, Navitimer Blue Sky, Transocean Chronograph and finally Transocean Chrono Limited.
The Successors: B 04 & B 05 Movements
Breitling’s first in-house caliber was later used as a base for the remaining two manufacture calibers. The first one of these is Breitling B04 movement which replicates all the features of its predecessor and has an additional GMT complication. B04 is featured in Chronomat GMT, the limited edition of this model, and its slightly smaller “cousin” Chronomat GMT 44. The latest one of the manufacture calibers by Breitling bears the name Breitling B05. The distinction of this 56-jewel caliber is the presence of the patented double disc world time system. It is thus far featured only in Transocean Chronograph Unitime model.