The List




The List


Breitling B1


Quartz – the mineral that almost destroyed the Swiss watch industry – is not, you might argue, something that you would expect to find in any watch that has earned itself a coveted place on The List. It is the cheat’s way of making a timepiece; the accuracy achieved, not through rigorous design and meticulous attention to detail, but by the simple and cheap expedient of utilising a crystal that vibrates at a constant frequency when an electrical signal is passed through it.

But, whilst we do not disagree with the general tenor of this assertion, there is one quartz watch that we cannot help but admire. That watch is the Breitling B1 Professional Pilot Chronograph, which has earned its place on The List  by offering an appealing combination of functionality, ruggedness, and air force inspired looks.

The B1 does not try to disguise the fact that it is a quartz watch; although there is a normal analogue dial, whose face is reminiscent of the company’s Navitimer models, there are two additional digital readouts, enabling it to offer a range of extra functions, including a perpetual calendar, chronograph, second time zone and countdown indicator. These are all accessed by turning the crown, cutting down on the number of buttons needed.

The movement itself is quite different from that found in the average quartz watch. It is a Calibre 78, based on the thermally compensated ETA Thermoline, and has an accuracy of plus or minus 15 seconds per year – far superior to most quartz based timepieces, and earning it official chronometer status.

The main reason we like this watch, though, is its honesty. It is not pretending to contain a fancy movement – it is a functional piece of kit provides features that a pilot might use; features that would be difficult, or impossible to achieve with a mechanical movement.

Aesthetically, its digital readouts clearly differentiate the B1 from other sports/pilots watches, and make it refreshingly individual. The case itself has a military feel to the design and the very modernity of the movement complements this well, providing a more cohesive package than other similarly styled mechanical Breitlings.

Utlimately, one can say that in the B1, Breitling has achieved several feats that have eluded other manufacturers: of marrying digital and analogue; of producing a quartz watch of true quality and personality, and of manufacturing a pilot’s watch that combines useability with truly useful functionality. You, therefore, do not need to be a pilot to appreciate one (but it may help.)