Finding anything built in 1940 but still in operation today is a rarity. Finding a wristwatch built in 1940 that is functioning perfectly demonstrates a level of dedication to longevity and quality that shames my iPhone. A large part of the charm in mechanical wristwatches, in my view, is their attempts toward permanence. Breitling today is turning around their whole lineup to be more in line with their traditional sport offerings. Breitling of the mid 2000s was something more akin to my iPhone. I’m glad to see dedication to longevity and quality watchmaking returning everywhere. While that’s fantastic, I think it’s worth coveting this vintage Breitling that has already served its time (many times over) and is still utterly beautiful.
Wristwatches were not for the vain in the 40s, they were for people with jobs to do. Multi-scale chronographs proliferated after the second World War. Pilots, Naval navigators, and heads of state all saw the useful side of the complication in hard circumstance. When peace was found, the chronograph wristwatch was already a staple.
This Breitling chronograph took practicality up a level in two ways; first, it features a Schmitz Freres clamshell case. The design was patented in 1937 by S.F in an attempt to create a more water resistant case back. Gallet acquired the patent and produced cases for a few manufacturers, one of which was Breitling. Breitling clamshells are far rarer than most. Secondly, this beautiful gilt dial features a telemeter scale which was often used by military to measure distance to artillery fire. The watch is powered by the relatively common, manual 18000 vph Venus 175 column wheel chronograph.
While clamshell Breitlings are already quite rare, finding one with a dial like this is a unicorn sighting. The original gilt is perfect. I mean perfect. Its case has seen polish but not offensively. Watches of this caliber were cherished in their period. The concept of ‘unpolished’ as it relates to watches today did not exist. A polish in 1950 was sign of care. The watch was recently serviced and came to this private seller by way of Shuck the Oyster.
Find this Breitling Clamshell Multiscale here on Chrono24 for 8270 USD.