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Kit O. Payumo

Stratospheric

Breitling surpasses itself

Breitling’s most famous and signature flyer (which has been flying the horological skies since 1952), is taking the brand’s newest engine on its inaugural flight: the all-new, in-house Calibre B03, the brand’s newest and, “ultimate” proprietary split-seconds chronograph, in the new Navitimer Rattrapante.

Indeed, the mechanical chronograph has long been mentioned in the same breath as Breitling.  But only a handful of watchmakers produce their own mechanical chronograph movements.  Fewer still offer their own proprietary split-seconds calibers.  So, the fact that “Breitling” and “rattrapante” can now be mentioned in the same breath is a big deal because not only is the split-seconds chronograph notoriously difficult to design and produce, it is only, ever, produced in small numbers. 

This is because of the lengthy process of adjustment and rating that watchmakers are required to perform.  Breitling, thus, went back to its roots to develop a system that minimized the number of components required, which, in turn lessened the time needed to adjust them.  In a nutshell, the independent watchmaker found a simple and effective solution to a complicated problem, a task that took several years of R&D. 

And that’s not all: the biggest problem of a rattrapante movement is its energy requirement.  The constant stopping and re-starting of the split-seconds hand is a sure way to deplete energy reserves, which, then leads to chronometric imprecision.  This is why a split-second chronograph, given the delicate nature of its construction, has never been known for it reliability, nor, for that matter, its precision. 

Breitling changed all that by using an isolating system composed of two innovations (for which Breitling filed two patents) that disconnects the split-seconds hand when it is stopped.  The first: Breitling replaced the component driving the split-seconds lever, which normally takes the form of a cylindrical pin, an organ that is a nightmare to produce below a certain diameter, with a stamped part thereby achieving a more precisely defined and robust shape.  Thanks to this, the use of the split-seconds hand no longer has any impact on the precision of the timing, nor on the power reserve.

Second: inspired by cycle brakes equipped with rubber pads, the Breitling engineers surrounded the wheel that is clamped in place for stopping the split-seconds hand with an O-ring seal that is instead compressed by the clamp.  This resulted in extremely precise stopping in a system that is simpler, and thus, more reliable to produce.

A first for the collection, and, indeed, a first for the brand, the Calibre B03 is officially chronometer-certified by the COSC, boasts a 70-hour power reserve, and features innovative modular-type architecture.  That’s right, produced using an efficient 28 pieces only, this high-performance engine, is a module fitted between the mainplate and the calendar mechanism.  So, not only is it easily produced and assembled, but it can also be completely removed as a single block for easy servicing; and if needed, replaced, in its entirety. 

The new Navitimer Rattrapante boasts a 45mm wingspan in either stainless steel or in a 250-piece 18K red gold limited edition with the latter equipped with a transparent caseback.  “Panamerican Bronze” graces the dial, a vintage-brown color that is exclusive to Breitling, and serves as a backdrop for the silver-toned counters and inner bezel reflecting the signature Navitimer aesthetic.

A fun design element is the Breitling anchor logo, which is split between the two chronograph hands.  The “B” is the counter weight of the main chronograph hand, while its lower half, the “anchor,” is the counter weight of the rattrapante hand.  They look, for all intents and purposes, like a solid piece until the split-seconds hand is “stopped,” and the “B” continues on its merry chronometric way.  Only re-starting the rattrapante hand does the Breitling logo become whole again. 

The new Navitimer Rattrapante is matched with a steel bracelet for the all-business steel version while the more elegant red gold model gets to dress up with a choice of either brown calf or crocodile leather or a rubber strap.

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