Buying Guide: The Best Breitling Watches From The 2000s
We like to talk about vintage watches a lot within the Fratello team. Though most of what we write about is largely focused on the most recent releases and developments, for many of us, a lot of the fun can be found in the sometimes weird and often wonderful world of vintage watches. It’s a world full of history, remarkable watches, incredible stories, and quirky details. It inspired us to come up with a series of articles focusing on the best watches per decade from a select group of brands. Some of them are priceless, some of them are still affordable. In this installment, we will take a look at the best Breitling watches from the 2000s.
By the turn of the millennium, Switzerland had proudly reclaimed its title as the watchmaking capital of the world. The 2000s, in many ways, formed the blueprint for the watch industry as we know it today. By the time the 2000s came around, mechanical watches were incredibly popular. Instead of just selling instruments that told the time, the major brands became cornerstones in the world of luxury goods, and the watch industry was thriving.
We saw brands being bought by conglomerates that turned into the luxury powerhouses they are today. But the 2000s was also the decade that saw the rise of independent brands alongside the industry’s big players. Small brands made it their goal to push the envelope of watchmaking in terms of design and technological developments. In the early 2000s, we also saw watches increase in size like never before. Panerai, Audemars Piguet, Hublot, and IWC enjoyed a great rise in popularity with their oversized watches. They will all be part of the best watches of the 2000s.
Breitling in the 2000s
In all honesty, the 2000s for me are probably the least exciting out of all the Breitling decades. In the early 2000s, when I became seriously interested in watches, Breitling was known for creating big, bold, and quite often, tacky timepieces. Over here in The Netherlands, the brand had a reputation for being seen on some disreputable characters’ wrists. As I explained in an installment of our Sunday Morning Showdown series, during the ’90s and ’00s, Breitling and the Chronomat, in particular, were shining examples of everything tacky and wrong with luxury watches. After researching and picking the watches for this list of five relevant timepieces, that perspective of mine did change somewhat.
The Breitling collection from the 2000s to the 2010s does have a lot of variation. What stands out immediately is that many of the watches were big, and some even huge. The Breitling for Bentley series, the Super Avenger, and the Chronomat are all big, chunky watches. And it doesn’t end there. Those were the very relevant watches at the time but not necessarily the watches I was interested in. But there are also smaller watches that didn’t fit the description I just gave. This raises the question of what five watches to pick? They must represent the brand and its watches at that moment in time. As always, I could have picked a lot more watches, but let’s start this week’s list of the best Breitling watches of the 2000s.
The Entry Point — Breitling Super Avenger ref. A13370
Let’s kick this list off with one of those oversized behemoths from the 2000s. The Breitling Super Avenger ref. 13370 was the oversized version of the Breitling Avenger introduced in 2001. Officially, it was called the Breitling Chrono Avenger, but it quickly became known as the Avenger line of watches. In 2004, the Avenger line expanded with the introduction of the Super Avenger. Whereas the regular Avenger was already substantial at 44mm in diameter, the Super Avenger really took it to another level. The stainless steel case of this chronograph diver measured a whopping 48.4mm in diameter and a massive 18.6mm in thickness. If ever you needed a watch to use as a weapon, this was the one!
With the oversized dimensions also came a ridiculous weight. On the stainless steel bracelet, the watch weighs in at a massive 271 grams. The watch head alone is still an impressive 153.3 grams. So this is a big and heavy boy. While I do not have anything against big watches per se — I absolutely love the Omega Ploprof that’s even bigger and heavier — this doesn’t seem like a comfortable daily wearer. That’s why it is even more surprising that at one point, the Super Avenger was the best-selling watch in the Breitling collection. While I realized these giant watches were popular, just thinking about that is mind-boggling. In 2008, Breitling also released a Blacksteel version in a limited run of 3,000 pieces. Those are less in-your-face and, therefore, would be my pick.
A familiar movement
Inside the case, Breitling equipped the watch with the Breitling Caliber 13 that powered a large number of Breitling watches at the time. The automatic chronograph movement is based on the Valjoux 7750 and operates at 28,800vph and has 25 jewels with a 42-hour power reserve. As you can see in the pictures, the dial features the typical Valjoux 7750 layout with the three registers at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock. The winged Breitling logo is placed at 3 o’clock next to the date window. Upon its introduction, the Super Avenger came with the choice of a blue, black, or white dial featuring Arabic numerals. In 2009, the brand added a dial variant with double baton markers. It’s also when the word “Automatic” changed position to just above the 6 o’clock subdial and was executed in red.
You could opt for a leather strap which makes the watch easier to wear. On top of that, it makes it less menacing to look at. But let’s be real — it’s “go big or go home” with this one. So the only way to make this work is on the Breitling Pro2 bracelet that it came on. The Breitling Super Avenger is the perfect representation of the era in which it was released. The trend of oversized watches was very much alive, and the Super Avenger was one of the perfect examples of their success. Finding a Super Avenger is not that hard. Expect to pay roughly between €2.5K and €5K for one. It buys you a huge watch that was the most popular out of all of them at one point. It made the huge Super Avenger one of the brand’s biggest icons of that era.
My pick — Breitling Transocean Chronograph Limited AB0151
My pick for this week’s list is the Breitling Transocean Chronograph Limited AB0151. It was actually released in 2010, so I will be flexible here if you allow me. But as this is the last decade that we will cover for the series, I took the liberty of including it in this list. The Transocean name dates all the way back to the late 1950s when Breitling introduced the first models with that name. Those first Transocean watches debuted in 1957, one year after Breitling introduced the Superocean divers’ watches. During those days, the Transocean name referred to transatlantic travel, essentially making it a watch for jet-setters crossing the globe. Whereas the Navitimer was the watch for pilots, the Transocean line was aimed at the passengers of the flights.
At Baselworld 2010, Breitling decided to reintroduce some of that romance with the limited-edition Transocean Chronograph AB0151. It was produced in a limited run of 2,000 pieces. The watch featured a 43mm stainless steel case that is 14.35mm thick and that came with a beautiful mesh bracelet. The watch looks amazing, and Breitling enthusiasts have praised this Transocean as one of the best-looking modern Breitlings. The limited-edition version is easy to set apart from the regular model that followed a year after because of the gold B on the dial. On top of that, the brilliant reverse panda dial also reminds me of the brilliant Breitling Top Time ref. 810 from the 1960s.
More than brilliant style
The Transocean Chronograph Limited AB0151 was also the first Breitling watch with a display case back that was powered by the in-house B01 movement. The caliber was introduced a year earlier and slowly found its way to more models. One of them is the Chronomat that we’ll get to in a bit. But this Transocean was the first Breitling watch that actually let you see the movement in action. The self-winding chronograph movement operates at 28,800vph and has 47 jewels with a 70-hour power reserve. The column-wheel chronograph features a vertical clutch and is COSC-certified. The movement was a massive achievement for Breitling and gained a lot of praise from enthusiasts.
Three years after Breitling introduced this Transocean Chronograph Limited Edition, the brand introduced a smaller 38mm version that was more in line with the size of the Transocean models from the 1950s. While that might have been a more historically correct watch, it did not feature the B01 movement that made this such a special watch. For me, this Transocean Chronograph Limited Edition perfectly connects the brilliance of vintage Breitling models with modern technique. That is why it is my pick for this week’s list. Finding one, however, is not that simple. With only 2,000 pieces produced, they only show up for sale once in a while. And a quick check reveals that prices range from roughly €4K to €7K. So it’s worth waiting for a well-priced one.
Money is no object #1 — Breitling Navitimer ref. A23322
Next up on the list is the iconic Navitimer. Any Breitling list covering a decade is incomplete without a Navitimer. For this decade specifically, it is the question of which of the Navitimer models to pick. Breitling released several great limited-edition versions like the Navitimer 125th Anniversary Limited Edition ref. A26322 that came with the unique Air Racer bracelet. Or the exceptional Navitimer Quatre ref. K33340 that was produced for the Japanese market. Or even the Navitimer Heritage Left Crown ref. A35360. Please do check them out as well. And there are so many more. In the end, I decided to go for the regular-production model, the Navitimer ref. A23322. It perfectly represents what made the Navitimer an icon.
The Navitimer ref. A23322 was available from 2003 until it was replaced with the Navitimer 01 models with the in-house B01 movement that I just talked about. The Navitimer is the icon of the brand. But at the time, it also represented modestly sized watches in a collection rife with oversized models. The Navitimer measured a familiar 41.5mm in diameter and 15.5mm in height. It came with the familiar reverse panda dial with three registers, a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock, and the famous slide rule bezel. The black leather strap with the contrasting white stitching perfectly matches the dial design and makes it a stylish watch that you can wear both in formal and informal situations.
Familiar movement with familiar specs
Inside the case, Breitling used its Caliber 23 that is based on the familiar Valjoux 7753 movement. As I mentioned before, in the ’90s and ’00s, Breitling used the Valjoux 7750 family for many of its watches. The biggest difference between the 7753 and the 7750 is the layout. The 7753 sports the classic triple-register layout with sub-dials at 3, 6, and 12 o’clock. It’s the layout that I prefer for my chronographs as it retains the classic look that I love very much. Technically, the movement is practically the same. The Caliber 23 operates at 28,800vph, has 27 jewels — two more than the Caliber 13 — and a 42-hour power reserve.
What more is there to say about one of the industry’s biggest icons? Breitling’s famous pilot’s watch is one of the best-looking watches out there and comes with a great deal of history. Why should you opt for this Navitimer ref. A23322 above its successor with the in-house developed B01 movement? The answer to that is simple — the price difference. You can get this Navitimer ref. A23322 between roughly €3.5K and €4.5K. If you want the B01 version, prices start a little over €4.5K and move up rapidly between €5K and €6K. So if you have a limited budget, this is the perfect modern Navitimer for your collection. On top of that, it was a perfectly modest and steady icon in a collection of giants.
Money is no object #2 — Breitling for Bentley Motors ref. A25362
Speaking of giants, let’s talk about one of the most iconic from the 2000s. The Breitling for Bentley Motors ref. A25362 marked the first wristwatch out of Breitling’s many releases in its partnership with Bentley. It’s a partnership that ended only a couple of months ago after the brands worked together for 19 years. I have to be honest here; I’m not too fond of the series of watches the two brands produced. They’re ridiculously big watches with movements that are way too small for their cases. They lack an overall refinement, especially in the bracelets. And in general, it’s a series of watches that are simply not pleasing to the eye. But somehow, both brands managed to work together for almost two decades, creating one of the most well-known partnerships between a watch and a car brand. Was it commercially successful? Who knows? But it’s hard to forget what came out of it.
The Breitling for Bentley Motors ref. A25362 is a 48.7mm giant that measures 15.2mm in height. It features the famous case of the big Navitimers of the late ’60s and early ’70s. While these Navitimers were just as big, they were a lot better to look at. Besides the big case, the watch features the iconic bezel modeled after the famous Bentley diamond-plate knurling. You can find this pattern on vintage and modern Bentleys, and it gave the line of watches its recognizable identity. While it definitely fits the watch and is a great reference to Bentley cars, it also creates something bold and flashy, especially with the polished finish of the case and the bracelet.
A special chronograph module
Technically speaking, the watch is interesting because it is a 30-second chronograph. That means the central seconds hand travels around the dial twice in one minute for the chronograph feature. The proprietary 30-second mechanism was developed in-house by Breitling Chronometrie in the 1920s. Additionally, it features an inner slide rule that one could use to calculate fuel consumption, for instance, rather than the regular aviation calculations of the iconic Navitimers. Inside the case, Breitling used its Caliber 25B to power the watch. It is based on the ETA 2892-A2 to which the special Breitling chronograph module has been added. The movement operates at 28,800vph, has 21 jewels, and comes with a 42-hour power reserve.
The watch was offered in various dial colors, including white, black, blue, and the bronze/brown version pictured previously. Additionally, there was also a green-dialed limited edition. I have to say, the green and brown/bronze dial colors are very nice. But what sticks out the most is not the dial color; it is mostly the flashy style combined with its big size. While it suited the era and is well-executed in all its details, I think that we can agree it’s not Breitling’s best-looking watch. However, if you are interested in one, expect to see prices between €3.5K and €6K. And maybe a bit more if you like your bezel set with diamonds. Nothing is impossible with Breitling and Bentley.
Money is no object #3 — Breitling Chronomat B01 ref. AB0110
The last watch on the list is the Breitling Chronomat B01 ref. AB0110. Introduced in 2009, it was the first Chronomat to feature the in-house-produced B01 movement. It was first known as the Chronomat B01 and quickly renamed the Chronomat 01. It was only in production for two years when in 2011, it was renamed the Chronomat 44 while technically remaining the same watch. Over time, I have grown to appreciate Breitling’s flagship watch, not least of all because I really like the current Chronomat. As some of you will know, Fratello’s own Ben owns the Frecce Tricolore version of the latest Chronomat, and it is a stunner of a watch. The Chronomat B01, however, is not as refined as the current model and is very much part of the big and bulky Breitlings of the ’00s.
The watch features a 43.5mm stainless steel case that is just under 17mm thick. It’s a chunky case that is water-resistant to an impressive 500 meters. On top of that, Breitling made sure the watch sits very well on your wrist, balanced out by the famous Breitling Pilot bracelet. Obviously, you could also opt for a leather strap as you see pictured. I also like the Chronomat on the thick rubber straps that Breitling produced. But overall, I like the bold presence of this Chronomat. When it comes to dial variations, you have quite a few options. You can choose from different colors, but there is also a dial variation with cut-off Roman numerals. That was not a winner. No, the winner for me was the one you see pictured.
Taking steps towards normal sizes
Inside the case, Breitling equipped the Chronomat B01 with the in-house produced B01 caliber that we already discussed. By powering its flagship model with an in-house movement, Breiling made a huge step in taking the Chronomat from a predominantly flashy piece to a serious watch for a wider audience. The in-house movement is an impressive power source with a 70-hour power reserve that’s quite hard to scoff at. In 2011, the brand also introduced the 41mm model with the same B01 movement, making the Chronomat more attractive to an even bigger audience.
As I said earlier, I have grown to respect and like the Chronomat over the course of this series of articles. Not just because of the current Chronomat but also because it has been such a relevant timepiece in saving the Breitling brand. It’s also why this 43.5mm chunky slab of steel has found a place in my heart. Would I buy it if I were looking for a Chronomat? I would probably opt for either the current version or the Chronomat ref. 81950 from the 1980s. That is the watch that saved the brand and also featured the iconic great rouleaux bracelet. But if you are looking for a proud and bulky statement of the late 2000s, this is the way forward. Expect to see prices between €3K and €5.5K for one. It’s money that will buy you a Breitling icon with the modern chops to be your daily wearer.
Five Breitling models are obviously not enough. I could have added many different models that are all relevant for their own reasons. As I only have five picks, unfortunately, it’s impossible to cover them all. When it comes to Breitling, the key is to get to know the history of the different models. You will find a lot of similar executions of the same watch. The most common differences are the dial layout and the logo that was used. On top of that, you have to remember that many vintage pieces were serviced over the decades, and parts have been replaced. And lastly, you have to be aware of many fake/Franken pieces out there.
A lot of this crucial historical information has been well documented and made available by collectors and makes for some rather interesting reading. Breitling: The Book by Hervé Genoud is a great source of information, as is Benno Richter’s Breitling: The History of a Great Brand of Watches 1884 to the Present. On top of that, contacting vintage experts can also help out greatly. You will find a lot of info on breitlingsource.com, and you can visit the Timezone forum for Breitling here. On both, you will find a great number of knowledgeable Breitling collectors that would be happy to help you out.
In next week’s installment of Buying Guide, we’ll be looking at some of the best Casio G-Shock watches from the 2000s. In the meantime, did I leave anything out? Did I not include your favorite Breitling from that era? Let us know what your favorite Breitling from the 2000s is in the comments section below!