Those that even vaguely know me are aware that I have a penchant for chronographs. To be frank, it is not so much about utilising the stopwatch function that turns me on (who does – honestly?), but more the increased mechanics employed and – up to a point, the aesthetics. On the latter, two pushers rather than one please – in order to obtain balance. Well, that was until I first saw this Breitling Transocean 1915 model.
Back in early 2015 I had seen a few articles on the watch and they did pique my interest – due in part to the inspiration of early chronograph development. The history of this is interesting. Back in, er, 1915, Breitling produced the first chronograph wristwatch with the stopwatch controlled via a separate button. Prior to this watches had all such functions passing through the crown – a la pocket watch. This new change not only enhanced actual usage, but also improved reliability as having all actions passing through the crown put a strain on components. In common with similar watches of the day, the model was not large in size. It should be noted at this point that in 1923 the company innovated further, offering a two button chronograph. This offered the facility to stop and restart the stopwatch without resetting – so it was a big deal. Then in the Sixties, Breitling was one of several companies (Seiko, Heuer and Zenith in particular) who pioneered the first automatic chronographs. So, Breitling certainly has many years of expertise in this area.
Anyway, back to 2015. Breitling had decided to mark the 100 year anniversary of their monopusher by reprising with an updated version of it. This was to be on a proper numbered limited edition basis, and yes, oh crystal ball gazers, there would be 1,915 pieces! To satisfy modern trends and facilitate current movement sizes, the case was somewhat larger at 43mm x 14.6mm.
That, to some extent was that – until 2017, when I happened to be poking about in the used section of my local and fairly often frequented branch of a favoured watch retailer. Within their display I noted a 1915 model and enquired about it. Apparently it had fallen through the cracks and, as they had held it for over two years, were selling with a pretty good discount. After having scrutinised closely and tried on, I decided to buy. So, providence was twofold. Firstly I knew something about the watch already, and second, the price reduction was a sweetener on what was a new watch!
So what do we have here. Well, a really nice polished stainless steel case on a Milanese type bracelet. The single pusher is situated north of the crown and is of a most unusual tapered block shape. But it works very well, and to my mind is much neater than the more common mushroom ones. However, the action of this I feel is a little stiff rather than slick, but it does the job. The lugs are nicely shaped and are quite angled down which I feel certainly aids the fit of the fairly large case size on the wrist. The watch sports a domed crystal – emulating bygone times, with the case back of an exhibition type which nicely shows off the movement. Water resistance is to 100m.
Turning to the dial, this is where the retro design shines. The dial has a “mercury” (silvered really) hue, and has large Arabic numbers. “Breitling” is in a vintage style (so in italic script and in black) positioned at 12 o’clock. There are two sub dials – minutes at 3 and seconds at 9. These are slightly recessed and are in a creamy colour – which also matches the lume on the numbers and the broadsword shaped hands. A date window (not quite square) is at 6, but partially obscures this number. Such design will either irritate the hell out of you – or one will just accept as merely a quirk – which I have done! Lastly, there is a minute track on the dial outer edge.
In terms of motivation, this is provided by a manual winding calibre – B14. This is in fact a modification to Breitling’s much used and quality B01 automatic chronograph movement – and so, in simple terms, just has the automatic bits removed and a conversion from twin to single pusher. Power reserve is an impressive and handy 70 hours. 33 rubies are present (but not all used in manual form) and vph is 28,880 (4hz).
Lastly, the bracelet. As mentioned earlier, this is of a Milanese type with a deployant/locking type clasp. It really is very attractive and exudes expensive quality. However, I can be a bit funny with bracelets though, and I felt in this case – the 1915 being a “vintage” watch and all, it would probably look nicer and more in keeping on a leather pin buckle strap. In fact, when new, you could specify either on a bracelet or strap with a small price difference. As such I subsequently bought and fitted a mid tan strap from Brietling. I feel my thoughts have been vindicated as I think it looks great!
In conclusion, I feel that Brietling have done a really good job with this watch. The vintage cues work well and have not been overdone – all in a usable sized case and with modern mechanicals. Lastly, the watch is comfy to wear and all features work fine and data is legible. Incidentally, all that lume at night is impressive! Pricing? Well, the rrp was last listed at £7,130 (2018) and I think that was perhaps pushing things a bit really. However, it was a proper limited edition piece and well, as I did pay somewhat less, overall, I am happy.