Friday, November 13, 2009


Breitling BO1 Launch Event
Hong Kong


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An undercover Sydney Tart was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Breitling's new in-house chronograph movement, the B01. It was a dinner event held at the Island Shangri-La on Hong Kong Island.  The Global Financial Crisis has struck luxury brands worse than I thought.  Penny pinching strategies now include cutting back on the number of letters they have on their display cabinets.  Besides saving money, Breitling can now purport to be the oldest watch manufacture in the history of the world.

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The new chronograph movement represents the first in-house movement for Breitling, which has traditionally modified Valjoux 7750 and other ebauche modules it buys from ETA.

So what is so special about the B01?  Well, firstly it is a fully integrated columned wheel vertical clutching chronograph movement with over 70 hours power reserve.  For those of you who visit this blog for its food post, bear with me (or just scroll down till you see food pictures).  

Secondly, the movement is modular, which means that Breitling can add other complications to this.  Given its vertical clutching mechanism, the movement is rather thick allowing ample space for additional components.  Besides, Breitling is not known for having slim watches.  

Thirdly, the movement is structurally designed for easy maintenance and assembly, meaning lower cost of manufacturing and servicing.  How this is considered an end benefit to the consumer is a mystery to me but it seems like a big selling point for Breitling.

Finally, this investment makes Breitling a little more independent from the Swatch Group, in particular their reliance on ETA for the Valjoux 7750 ebauche.

But how does this stack up?  

The vertical clutching column wheel design is probably its greatest feature, since it removes the occasional second "jump" inherent in horizontal clutching chronographs.  This is an important consideration given that Breitling is a tool watch used by pilots.

The thickness of the movement should not be an issue for Breitling given their bias towards larger time piece.  And as mentioned earlier, leaves also leaves a lot of room for additional complications.


Aesthetically, it is not the prettiest of movements, but this works for Breitling since they do not offer display backs and it does save on additional costs associated with decoration and finishing.  

However, the activation of the chronograph was a very tactile experience as the pushers for every B01 I tried was super stiff.  The Valjoux 7750 versions felt creamy smooth in comparison.



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Besides the B01, there were an assortment of other Breitling models.  To be honest, I have always found Breitling's diverse product range to be overwhelming.  Its catalog, which I did not take home, clocks in at a whopping 200+ pages.

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Also present was the Breitling for Bentley (or is it Bentley for Breitling) collection.

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Let's take a pause here to see what was on the wrists of some of the guests. 


Here is a nice Breitling re-edition of their first automatic chronograph, which Breitling and Heuer collaborated in competition against Zenith.  Pity the re-edition contains a Valjoux 7750.


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Then there was this nice Logines re-edition of their alarm diver's watch.


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Finally, it is always refreshing to remind a brand that is blowing its own trumpet about some supposedly greatest horological innovation since the sun dial what true in-house innovation is really all about. The B01 is a Kitty Hawk to the Patek's A380.


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As we gathered for dinner, I noticed the Breitling coaster, which was a nice touch.

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To mix things up a bit, I'll be matching watches to the evening's courses.  The starter was a refreshing dish of Parma ham, melon and buffalo mozzarella.

Unfortunately, the over zealous chef decided to distract the wonderful and harmonious flavours of the ham, fruit and cheese with oven roasted capsicum and olives.  The capsicum's sweetness and smokiness over powered the subtleties of the dish while the olives added an unnecessary layer of salt. The chef must learn restraint.

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The watch matched with the starter was one of several variations of the B01. Notice the square on the dial?  I'm not sure whether I like it or hate it.  What do you think?

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The next dish was another curiosity.  It was a Mexican themed tomato based soup with chunks of avocado and tortilla chips.  There was a mild spiciness to remind you that this was suppose to be Mexican, just in case you missed the floating chunks of avocado and tortilla chips.  Think warm Dorito's salsa dip and you've got a pretty good approximation of the flavour.  Surprisingly, I liked this a lot.

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The watched matched with the Mexican salsa soup was this variation of the B01.

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There was a choice between two main courses.  The red meat dish was veal. The flavour of the meat was rather bland and was a little over cooked for my liking.  It was served with some gnocchi tossed in mushrooms.  The gnocchi was unfortunately a little rubbery.

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I'll leave you to decide what you think about this watch.  Tell me what you think, what you really really think.


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The white meat dish was chicken.  It looks very well presented and I was told it was better than the veal.


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The chicken was thus matched with what I think is the most attractive variation of the B01.  It is masculine and bold with a certain softness to it. 

The colour combination lends well to its tool watch roots regardless of its shiny finish.  I would love to see a brushed steel version of this.  Two thumbs up for this B01.

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Now this was a great dessert.  A chocolate hazelnut tart served with home made chocolate ice cream.  I guess if you use that much chocolate, you can't go wrong.  Regardless, it was a well executed dish.


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As we have reached the end of our meal, the final pairing of watches to food ends with this Breitling for Bentley (or was it Bentley for Breitling).  This was a monster of a watch.



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Here it is on my puny wrist.


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By this point, I had lost count of all the watches that were being presented to us at the table.  It was a strange feeling to be surrounded by so many watches with so many subtle variations.  This particular Bentley for Breitling (or was it Breitling for Bentley) has the most spectacular case back inspired by the wheels of the Bentley.


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It's not too bad from the front either.


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But alas, it was too big for my wrist.  I can only conclude that Bentley owners must have fat wrists.  It must be the rich diet of foie gras, Bordeaux wines and creamy desserts.


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Just to break up the monotonous watches that were being presented, here is a nice diversion.  Its a Goldpfeil, a brand that recently went into liquidation due to the Global Financial Crisis.  This was a bargain at the company's liquidation auction.

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Now back to our regular programming of mind numbing sameness. Another example of Breitling's very nicely designed case backs.  This belongs to a watch called the Airwolf.  Cue keyboard theme to the Airwolf TV-series.


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Rounding out this report is a piece that I thought was well executed by Breitling.


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I hope you enjoyed this snarky report.  Leave a comment, snarky or otherwise. I would love to hear your feedback on this post.



[G Snark]




3 comments:

The Sydney Tarts said...

Ouch! Snarky indeed LOL. I can't say that I like the look of the "salsa soup" but hey, I have a Breitling that I like, and though I acknowledge that there are probably way too many models and most of them are far too big.

Otoh, I'm not keen on the "A380" in your post either ;) and would probably prefer the Longines Legend Diver of the 2 of them. The Goldpfeil is kind of cool though. I'd quite like to see that!


[aptronym]

webmaster said...

I think you're spot on. To me Breitling has almost crossed the line of becoming a mass manufacturer. I generally find little creativity and innovation of any kind in the abundant number of pieces they release (which to an extent I understand given that they are designed to be 'tool' watches) and I feel that a lot of their watches are somewhat overpriced for what they are.

Having said that, it is commendable to see that they have dedicated resources to creating an in-house movement, a practice which has becoming increasingly rare these days. Although, the trend does seem to be catching on again now that the large brands are starting to cotton on to the fact that consumers value high quality craftmanship and are willing to pay a bit extra for it.

Overall a great post with great photos and just the right level of snarkiness for me :)

TWG said...

It's an ugly watch and there's no refinement to it. After hypnotizing it for some time through the loupe it seemed to me that guys from Big B are trying to replace a workhorse of 7750 with their own. I would say they succeeded.

And with the production line capable of 50,000 calibres per annum (as confirmed by the watchmaker from Grenchen - not some PR guy or such, a watchmaker), we're going to see the Breitling becoming a manufacture.

Probably.