Swiss watch maker Breitling unveils the Superocean Héritage Chronoworks® limited series, a high grade sports wrist chronograph equipped with a reworked Breitling Caliber 01 manufacture movement. For this high performance chronograph, the Chronoworks® specialists at Breitling have incorporated five major innovations serving to increase its power reserve from 70 to 100 hours.
Breitling is a chronograph specialist that has already played a crucial role in the technical development of this type of instruments, thanks to inventions such as the first independent push-piece at 2 o’clock (1915), the second independent push-piece (1934) and the self-winding chronograph (1969). The firm is one of the rare watch companies to own its own mechanical chronograph movements, entirely developed and produced in the ultramodern Breitling Chronométrie complex in La Chaux-de-Fonds. To develop these Manufacture calibers, Breitling has gathered under its roof the finest engineers and watch movement constructors. The result is a range of smart, high-performance ‘engines’ equipped with useful and user friendly functions, all chronometer certified by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute), the ultimate token of reliability and precision.
As the privileged partner of aviation, a field where security and reliability are of vital importance, the firm constantly strives to improve the quality of its movements. It is in this spirit that the Chronoworks® department was created, driven by a determination to keep moving ahead and pushing boundaries in the service of professionals. Regrouping the finest specialists working in one of the best-equipped labs in the entire watch industry, this cutting-edge unit is dedicated to seeking out innovative solutions that will serve to enhance movement performance and to testing avant-garde concepts suitable for introduction into standard production.
Passionately devoted to their mission, the Chronoworks® experts entirely reviewed the brand’s star ‘engine’, Manufacture Breitling Caliber 01, a self-winding chronograph movement featuring a modern structure, column-wheel construction, a vertical coupling-clutch and an over 70-hour power reserve. The aim was to increase its efficiency wherever possible. The engineers and watchmakers re examined all the movement organs, seeking to pinpoint the slightest loss of energy, the tiniest pointless friction, the smallest “excess” weight increasing inertia. They went on to develop five technical advancements serving to reduce friction as well as dynamic efforts at all stages: all with a view to achieving enhanced “energy efficiency”.
1. Ceramic Base-Plate and Gear-Train Bridges: The first optimization involved the movement chassis (baseplate and gear-train bridges). To reduce friction due to the pivoting of the arbors, these components were made from a high-tech ceramic (hexagonal boron nitride) already used as a solid adjuvant in high-performance engine lubricants, but applied here for the first time to mechanical horology.
Thanks to an extremely low friction coefficient, the arbors can pivot directly in the baseplate and bridge holes without any wear or energy loss – and also without any lubricant, thereby eliminating 11 out of 47 jewels.
2. Silicon Wheels: Contrary to what one might think, a watch movement is actually at a halt 95% of the time and each “restart” results in a certain loss of energy. To counteract this inertia, the caliber has been fitted with three wheels (center wheel, third wheel, fourth wheel) in silicon, a material twice as light as normal and that thus makes it easier to set in motion again.
As for the geometry of these wheels, made using deep-reactive iron etching (DRIE), it has been revised to make the structure more rigid and to thus avoid any distortion of the spokes.
3. Silicon Escapement: Attention also focused on the “distribution” organ, the escapement – the part of the movement where most of the energy losses take place. The Swiss lever escapement was maintained, but with a wheel and lever made of silicon serving to reduce weight and thus inertia, as well as eliminating the need for pallet jewels – thereby enhancing precision in terms of shapes.
To ensure more efficient transmission of the energy from the barrel, the geometry of the two components was revisited (the profile of the teeth and pallets). The banking free angular limitation of the lever also contributes to increasing reliability. The overall result is a 42% gain in efficiency for this vital organ, thereby ensuring optimal security, an essential aspect of performance.
4. Variable-Inertia Balance: Balance-wheel oscillations are generally adjusted by modifying the active length of the balance-spring using pins, an operation that can disturb chronometry (precision timekeeping). The Chronoworks® specialists have opted for a variable-inertia balance adjustable via four tiny gold weights situated around the rim.
To free this organ from temperature sensitivities and maintain the same rating precision in every circumstances, they have chosen to combine a nickel felly (ring) with a cross (spoke) made of brass, using the metal’s expansion/contraction to modify the inertia. When the temperature rises, the cross expands and “pulls” the felly towards the center, thus reducing inertia. This system reinterprets the principle of bimetallic balance-wheels by leveraging state-of-the-art production technologies(LIGA).
5. Elastic Toothing: Another key nerve center in a vertical coupling-clutch chronograph mechanism is this tiny organ responsible for connecting the base movement and the wheel bearing the sweep-seconds hand (chronograph wheel and pinion). This set of one arbor and two wheels (2 mm in diameter) generally displays a certain play that can lead to jerking, that is eliminated by using a “friction spring” – that causes a 15% energy loss.
Rather than compensating for this play by braking, the Chronoworks® specialists opted to equip the two wheels with elastic toothing molding the shape of the opposite teeth, by means of a nickel phosphorous structure. The result is an end to energy losses, as well as identical autonomy whether or not the chronograph function is activated.
By reducing the friction and the inertia of mobile components, while ensuring optimal running of the base movement and the chronograph, these five measures jointly led to a significant increase in the energy efficiency of Breitling Caliber 01. This made it possible to equip it with a slimmer – and thus longer – spring, in turn increasing the power reserve from 70 to 100 hours: a 45% gain.
This progress not only provides greater convenience for the user, who can leave his watch off the wrist for four days without then needing to rewind it; it also contributes to improving precision. The higher the power reserve, the less the force of the spring dwindles during the first 24 hours, thereby guaranteeing enhanced regularity of the movement rate.
To enable connoisseurs and those with a taste for exclusive privileges to enjoy the benefits of these technical advancements from Chronoworks®, some of which will later be available on standard models, Breitling is launching a 100-piece limited edition. The firm has chosen for this purpose one of its stellar models, the Superocean Héritage, interpreted in an all-black version with a brand-new matt ceramic case ensuring an original, powerful and contemporary look.
The dial is adorned with pointed hour-markers recalling the 1957 Superocean, created for diving enthusiasts and thrill-seekers. A transparent caseback provides a chance to admire the Chronoworks® movement with its revisited mechanism and its black oscillating weight. In another exclusive touch, the watch is equipped with a woven rubber strap inspired by the original woven steel bracelet.
Manufacture Breitling Caliber 01 Chronoworks®, officially chronometer-certified by the COSC, self-winding
High-frequency (28,800 vibrations per hour)
100-hour power reserve
1/4th of a second chronograph, 30-minute and 12-hour totalizers
Black ceramic (100-piece limited series)
Water-resistant to 100 m/330 ft
Unidirectional ratcheted rotating bezel
Cambered sapphire crystal, glare-proofed on both sides
Transparent sapphire caseback
Diameter: 46 mm
Rubber Aero Classic