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In-Depth How Heuer, Breitling, And Hamilton Brought The Automatic Chronograph To The World 50 Years Ago

In-Depth How Heuer, Breitling, And Hamilton Brought The Automatic Chronograph To The World 50 Years Ago

It’s a notable story, at any rate in the community of vintage watch gatherers. It’s a tale around quite possibly the main occasions in the historical backdrop of watches. 

And so it has been practically required for bloggers and columnists to distribute stories of the race between three watch companies (or joint endeavors of watch companies) to create the principal programmed chronograph . There were three competitors – Seiko, working alone in Japan; Zenith, around the hour of its procurement of Movado; and the joint endeavor between the Swiss brands Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton-Buren working with development expert Dubois-Depraz. 

Oddly, right up ’til today, there are three victors of the race, contingent upon how the “race” is characterized. In January 1969, Zenith freely presented a model of its programmed chronograph, despite the fact that apparently the principal “El Primero” chronographs were offered to clients just in Fall 1969. Seiko lovers highlight codes on case-backs to propose that the Reference 6139 chronograph was delivered in March 1969, nonetheless, these watches were sold distinctly in Japan and it gives the idea that retail deals outside Japan started in 1970. 

A spread from the program for the 1969 Basel Watch Fair shows a portion of the “Chronomatics” that would be appeared by Heuer, Hamilton and Breitling. 

Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton presented their new “Chronomatic” watches at public interviews hung on March 3, 1969, at the same time at 5:00 PM in Geneva and 11:00 AM in New York City. 

In early April 1969, the three brands showed their watches at the Basel Watch Fair, together having at any rate 100 examples to impart to the media and their retailers. Store receipts from July and August 1969 build up that clients had the option to purchase the new Chronomatic watches by the Summer of 1969. 

The front of the Official Bulletin of the 1969 Basel Watch Fair reported the dispatch of the world’s first self-winding chronographs .

In this posting, instead of recapping the race, we will investigate this part of watch history from an alternate point of view. We will take a gander at the arrangement of 23 programmed chronographs offered by Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton when the watches were most readily accessible in retail channels around the globe, throughout the late spring of 1969. Watch gatherers frequently see history and indexes with a restricted spotlight on their supported image. In this occurrence, a look across the Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton Chronomatic lists shows a rich and shifted choice of watches, with every one of the models best comprehended with regards to the models offered by the other brands.

Additionally, we will investigate the causes of the Chronomatic plans. We will in general think about the Chronomatic group of looks as typifying the style of the 1970s, and truth be told that is when the vast majority of these watches were sold. A nearer audit of the Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton portfolios affirms that the style of these watches was profoundly established in the plan insurgency of the “Swinging Sixties”.

Task 99

To comprehend the programmed chronographs that Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton offered in the late spring of 1969, we start with the jobs of the accomplices in their joint dare to build up the world’s first programmed chronographs (called “Undertaking 99”). At the point when the notoriety of programmed watches being sold by its competitors started to cut into the deals of its chronographs (which were all physically twisted), Heuer set out on the task to build up the programmed chronograph. 

First, Heuer enrolled Buren, a talented creator of watch developments, that had built up the meager miniature rotors that appeared to be encouraging to control the new chronographs. 

Buren’s advancement of slender miniature rotor developments (calibers 1000 and 1001), in 1957, was crucial for the Caliber 11 programmed chronograph developments that the firm fabricated 10 years later. 

Next, Dubois-Depraz joined the group. An accomplished creator and maker of modules giving complications to watches and clocks, Dubois-Depraz would build up the chronograph module that would be mated with the Buren watch development. Hamilton wound up with a seat at the table, when it gained Buren, in 1966.

In his collection of memoirs, Jack Heuer discloses how Breitling came to be an individual from the Project 99 joint endeavor. Confronted with the colossal expense of building up the new development, and shy of capital for its own business, Heuer saw Breitling as a profound pocket that could supply financing for the undertaking. Despite the fact that Heuer and Breitling were rivals, the way that Heuer was more grounded in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, while Breitling was more grounded in France and Italy, would relieve the competitive effect of the cooperation. In any case, we should envision that Heuer was frantic for capital when it welcomed Breitling to join the endeavor.

Project 99 brought about the advancement of the Caliber 11 development (alluded to, with its replacement models, as the “Chronomatic” development). The Caliber 11 development utilized measured development, mating Buren’s miniature rotor controlled watch development with a chronograph module created by Dubois Depraz. Watches fueled by the Chronomatic developments are effortlessly perceived – the crown is on the left half of the watch, with the pushers in the typical situations on the correct side. The Caliber 11 has its hour recorder at nine o’clock, its moment recorder at three o’clock, and a date window at six o’clock, with no running seconds register. 

The Caliber 11 development utilizes 17 gems and Incabloc stun security. The development estimates 13.75 ligne, with a distance across of 31mm and a stature of 7.7mm. The recurrence was 19,800 vibrations each hour, with a force hold of 42 hours. In the Caliber 12 development, the recurrence was changed to 21,600 vibrations each hour; the Caliber 15 development utilized a KIF stun security system. 

The Heuer Chronomatics

An early ad from Heuer pronounced that men of activity like pilots, dashing drivers, rallyists and yachtsmen could now wear a programmed watch that was likewise a chronograph.  

In the mid-1960s, Heuer’s line-up of chronographs comprised of its two lead models, the Autavia (presented in 1962) and the Carrera (presented in 1963), just as an assortment of other more affordable models, known simply by their reference numbers. Heuer’s third named model, the Camaro, would be presented in 1968. 

As Heuer started to get ready for the expansion of programmed chronograph models before the decade’s over, the company adopted the strategy of proceeding to advertise its inventory of manual-twisting models, in their present designs. The new Chronomatic models would be added to the inventory as exceptional models, being sold close by the past models. 


18 karat gold Chronomatic Carrera (Reference 1158), with silver dial.

Manual Carreras from the 1960s utilized customary round cases, with unmistakable precise hauls. Dials were either dark or white, yet from that point, the assortment of Carreras increments rapidly. The registers were either coordinating or differentiating; there were tachymeter, decimal minutes and throbs scales; calendar alternatives incorporated a basic date just as triple calendar (day, date and month); and materials included tempered steel and 18 karat and gold-plated models. 

Heuer went to its supported casemaker Piquerez to plan the new case for the Chronomatic Carrera. Instead of drawing a totally new style of case for the Carrera, Piquerez delivered a characteristic augmentation of a case that had been draw by Gerald Genta, for the Omega Constellation, in 1964. In Genta’s progressive “C-Shape” case, the drags, as opposed to being augmentations of the situation, stream in a persistent circular segment from the crown, giving a C-shape from haul to-carry. The C-shape case end up being famous in the last part of the 1960s, being utilized by a few brands for watches and furthermore broadened to house an assortment of manual chronograph developments (for instance, Omega’s Caliber 321 and Eterna’s Valjoux 72). For the new form of the Carrera, Piquerez fabricated a thicker style C-shape case, however the originators practiced limitation in keeping the size (38.5mm) around the base that could house the new movement. 

Early programmed Carreras with 18 karat gold and tempered steel cases.

There were two adaptations of the Chronomatic Carrera – a hardened steel model with a charcoal/blue dial and white registers and a 18 karat gold model with a silver dial. A rendition with a silver dial and differentiating dull registers before long followed, however the dial is checked “Programmed Chronograph”, as opposed to “Chronomatic”. Dials of the new Carreras were generally spotless, with a tachymeter scale set apart on an inward bezel between the dial and the crystal. 


The first programmed Autavias had “Chronomatic” across the highest point of the dial. 

Since its presentation in 1962, characterizing highlights of the Autavia model were dark dials with white registers, with a pivoting bezel that was set apart for various capacities (jumping, travel, tachymeter, and so on), and these highlights were conveyed forward to the new Chronomatic Autavias (Reference 1163 MH). Piquerez had planned a C-shape case for the new Carrera, and would deliver a second form for the Autavia, this bigger case (42mm) fusing the Autavia’s mark turning bezel. 

Through its initial seven years, Autavias had consistently utilized a dark dial with white registers, yet to check the improvement of the Chronomatic Autavia, Heuer would offer a subsequent shading plan – a white dial with differentiating dark registers and blue accents (Reference 1163T). This white-dialed model was worn by Swiss Formula One saint, Jo Siffert, and right up ’til today the Autavias with the white/dark/blue tones are known as the “Sifferts.” 


Only the most punctual Caliber 11 chronographs were checked “Chronomatic,” with the words “Programmed Chronograph” utilized on all later models.

As portrayed underneath, in 1966 and 1967 Piquerez had planned waterproof watch cases for Hamilton in radical oval and square shapes. Heuer needed something exceptional for its third programmed chronograph model, and apparently Piquerez had saved the most awesome aspect its bleeding edge plans for this reliable client, a plan that – interestingly – would house a chronograph in a square, waterproof case. The way in to the plan of the Monaco case was an exceptional monocoque case and bezel, that were held together by inside clips. 

Freed from the imperatives of having any model archetypes, the Chronomatic Monacos utilized a 12 PM blue dial with differentiating white registers, the paint on the early forms having a brushed metallic completion. A charcoal dark variant of the Monaco with coordinating registers would before long join the Heuer line-up, however the dial would be checked “Programmed Chronograph”, instead of “Chronomatic.”

The early programmed Autavias and Monacos were each offered in two tone schemes.

Early Versus Later Examples

Identifying the primary Heuer chronographs to utilize the Caliber 11 development is simple – the absolute first models all have the name “Chronomatic” across the highest point of the dial, with the model name across the lower part of the dial. At the time Heuer presented the Chronomatics, the United States was the main market for the company, and Heuer realized rapidly that Americans attempted to comprehend that “Chronomatic” signified “programmed chronograph”. Appropriately, very quickly after their dispatch, Heuer eliminated the “Chronomatic” from the dial, and for the following 15 years all Heuer models utilizing the Caliber 11 development (and its descendants) would have the words “Programmed Chronograph” across the lower part of the dial, with the model name across the top.

Two years after the presentation of its programmed Carreras and Autavias, Heuer offered manual-twisting models in a similar style cases.

After dispatching the “Chronomatic” variants of the Autavia, Carrera and Monaco in 1969, around 1971 Heuer created manual-twisting adaptations of these models, housed in a similar style cases as the automatics. 

Heuer essentially extended the line of Caliber 12-fueled chronographs in 1972, with its presentation of the unbelievably styled (and measured) Calculator, Montreal and Silverstone models. The third era of Caliber 12 models came around 1977, with the Cortina, Daytona, Jarama, Kentucky, Monza and Verona models all showing a more controlled, conventional plan.

Three ages of Heuer Caliber 12 chronographs show the style of the 1960s, the over-the-top style of the mid 1970s, and some balance in the last part of the 1970s.  

Heuer kept contribution the Caliber 12 fueled models into the mid-1980s. 

The Breitling Chronomatics

An early promotion for Breitling’s Chronomatics told the brand’s sellers that another demographic would rush to their stores for the enhanced self-winding chronographs.

While Heuer adopted the strategy of proceeding to sell its 1960s manual chronographs close by its new programmed models (around 1969), with new cases for the manual models coming a few years after the fact (around 1971), Breitling adopted an altogether different strategy. When Breitling knew the elements of the new Caliber 11 development (which we can accept that was around 1966), it grew new cases for its arrangement of manual models, with the new cases being planned so they could be effortlessly adjusted to house the new programmed models. Consequently, Breitling took the action from its customary round instances of the 1950s and mid 1960s to the new age of bigger cases that would house the Chronomatic developments, not in 1969, but rather starting in 1966/1967. 

Catalogs and commercials from the time frame affirm that Breitling dispatched its line of programmed chronographs with five unmistakable cases, as follows: 

Traditional round case with a turning bezel and precise lugs

 Pillow-formed case

Tonneau-formed case

  • 18 karat gold case

Breitling’s unmistakable six-sided case, regularly depicted as a “pizza” case, which was utilized for a few diverse references

Round Case – Reference 2110

The Reference 2110 utilized a customary round case (38mm), with a turning bezel and rakish carries. Dials were either dark with white registers or white with dark registers, all set apart with a tachymeter scale. The hour recorders were set apart with every one of the 12 numerals and the moment recorder highlighted brilliant dashing stripes, making it simpler to peruse five moment increments. 

Pad Case – Reference 2111

If the Reference 2110 was the most manageable of Breitling’s Chronomatics, we start climbing the bend from mellow to wild with the Reference 2111. The 38mm pad case is a delicately adjusted square shape and moderately level across the top surface of the watch, notwithstanding, the sides of the case show profound, sensational bends. The dials are either dark or white, each with a differentiating white or blue “surfboard” set on a level plane across the middle, with the elongated registers arranged inside the surfboard.

Tonneau Case – Reference 2112

Breitling Reference 2112 chronographs with pivoting hours and minutes bezels, and the Reference 2114 model with a tachymeter bezel 

Having gone from a conventional round case and afterward to a symmetrical pad case, with the Reference 2112 Breitling extended the steel – in a real sense – to offer a tonneau-molded case. A dark bezel outlines the dial, with the hour bezel and minutes bezel pivoting. The dials and hands offer a look that is like the Reference 2110 models, with the watches having dark or white dials (both with differentiating registers), and orange hands and accents.

The Reference 2114 was for the most part like the Reference 2112, then again, actually the Reference 2114 had a fixed tachymeter bezel, with the tachymeter scale erased from the dial.

The Pizza Cases

Among the principal Chronomatics housed in Breitling’s “pizza” cases were (left to right) the Navitimer, the Cosmonaute, the Chronomat, and the Reference 7651 “Yachting.”  

Of all the cases to at any point house a Breitling Chronomatic development, the hexagon-formed case utilized for a few of the main models in 1969 is doubtlessly the most particular. In some cases depicted as the “seared egg” or the “pizza”, these 48mm cases had been presented by Breitling in April 1967, at that point being controlled by the manual-winding Venus 178 development. Fully expecting the improvement of the Chronomatic development, with its crown at nine o’clock, the cases were built so the crown could be situated at either three o’clock (for the manual development) or at nine o’clock (for the programmed movement). 

At the dispatch of the Chronomatic development in 1969, Breitling’s hexagon case housed at any rate five distinct adaptations of the Chronomatic, with a 6th model appeared in the 1969 inventory, however never found in the execution appeared in the catalog. 

The white or dark dialed Chronomat (Reference 1808) had its sources in 1940, when Breitling offered its first chronograph joining the logarithmic slide rule scales into the bezel and dial, just as a scale on the dial for decimal minutes computations. Breitling inventories propose that the Chronomat models are unmistakably appropriate for the mathematicians, architects and money managers, just as sports and modern timing. 

Breitling’s first list for the Chronomatic models showed three adaptations of the Navitimer – the new programmed model, a manual-twisting model in a similar case, and the manual-twisting model in the style of case utilized since the 1950s.  

The Navitimer (Reference 1806) was a continuation of the arrangement of avionics chronographs that Breitling had presented in 1954. For the Navitimer, Breitling changed the Chronomat’s logarithmic slide rule to a pilot’s time-speed distance flight computer, and added scales utilized by pilots to calculate fuel utilizations, normal paces and climbing speeds. Breitling proposed that the Navitimer was intended for experts in speed – pilots, yet in addition rally drivers and other athletes.

The Cosmonaute (Reference 1809) joined similar pilot’s instruments as the Navitimer, with the watch having genuine 24 sign, implying that the hour hand made one unrest each day. The Reference 809 Cosmonaute had been presented in 1962 and become the principal Swiss wristwatch in space when it was worn by space traveler Scott Carpenter on May 24, 1962.

The fourth and fifth Chronomatic models to be housed in the “pizza” cases were the Reference 7651 models. The Reference 7651 Co-Pilot model was a continuation of the arrangement of chronographs presented by Breitling in 1953, with the moment recorder set apart to tally the 15 minutes for the pilot’s pre-flight check. While any remaining Chronomatic watches presented in 1969 had recorders for 12 hours, the Reference 7651 had six-hour limit. The “Yachting” adaptation of the Reference 7651 highlighted a  rotating bezel that was set apart in red and white portions, to tally down the 15 minutes to the beginning of a yacht race. 

Breitling’s 1969 list additionally showed a Reference 2115 GMT model in the “pizza” case, however this model appears to have just been presented later, in an alternate tone scheme. 

18K Gold Case – Reference 2116

The last of Breitling’s original of Chronomatics was the Reference 2116, a restricted run of 100 watches housed in a customarily molded 18 karat gold case. The champagne dial had differentiating dark registers and tachymeter and throb scales. 

Early Versus Later Examples

As depicted above, recognizing the absolute first Heuers to utilize the Caliber 11 development is simple – we essentially search for “Chronomatic” on the dial or certain different telltales, after Heuer changed to the “Programmed Chronograph” dials. Perceiving the most punctual Breitling Chronomatics ends up being seriously testing. In the first place, though Heuer utilized the name “Chronomatic” just on the soonest of its Caliber 11 watches, Breitling kept on utilizing “Chronomatic” all through the creation of the vast majority of the models. So it requires some cautious examination, and the utilization of chronic numbers, to recognize Breitling’s most punctual programmed chronographs. Second, the Breitling index of Chronomatic models offered an impressively more extensive determination of watches than the Heuer inventory, so the sheer assortment of early models can make it hard to follow the models. 

After the dispatch of the main Chronomatics, Breitling directed its concentration toward completely building up its line-up of these programmed chronographs. Vivid new models to possess the “pizza” case incorporated the Chrono-Matic GMT (Reference 2115), which was presented in 1970, and the SuperOcean (Reference 2105), a jump watch with a 20 ATM waterproof rating, from 1971 (shown above). 

New cases incorporated the Pult “Bullhead” (Reference 2117, above focus), and the TransOcean (Reference 2119, above left), a nearly round case with a coordinated arm band. The presentation of the Caliber 15 development in 1972 prompted a progression of out of control, asymmetrical dials (above right), while Breitling offered its appreciation to more moderate styles with new forms of the Navitimers and Chronomats in customary round cases. 

The last model dispatched by Breitling, in 1977, was the Reference 2130, from the start like the main Reference 2110 models, however with rich lyre-molded (wound) lugs. 

The Hamilton Chronomatics

In its first ad for the Chronomatics, Hamilton expresses that its super thin self-twisting development with a depressed planetary rotor made oneself winding chronograph possible.

As troublesome as it could be to index the assortment of Caliber 11 watches offered by Heuer and Breitling, the line-up of Hamilton Chronomatics was generally straightforward. Commercials from Spring 1969 recommend that Hamilton offered a decision of three programmed chronographs, utilizing two distinct cases. These models were created by Heuer, for Hamilton, maybe part of the joint endeavor arrangement for Project 99. 


Just as Heuer and Breitling offered a scope of Chronomatic models going from tranquil, conventional instances of the Heuer Carrera and the Breitling Reference 2110 to the preposterous shapes and sizes of the Heuer Monaco and Breitling’s “pizza” cases, Hamilton offered the client looking for the cutting edge style its Fountainbleau watch. Hamilton had presented its line of Fontainebleau watches in 1966, with a line-up of a la mode looks for the two people. The principal variant of the Fontainbleau (from 1966) was a novel elliptical shape that resists depiction (yet we will check it out underneath). The subsequent variant (from 1967) was a square, waterproof case, that could be seen as an archetype of the Heuer Monaco. 

With the Fontainebleau chronograph, Hamilton stacked a Caliber 11 development into the first of these two cases. Depicting the state of the Fontainebleau case is troublesome (or as a designing companion of mine said, “I can give you the mathematical equation, however the words are more troublesome”). Be that as it may, we should give it a try.

Start with a huge round treated steel case (47mm across the dial). Cut off the top and base regions of the circle with even harmonies (which will give a spot to the tie to join). Drop a round dial with a brushed dim completion into the focal point of the watch, at that point add differentiating dark registers that imitate the state of the case, with a comparatively formed date window at the lower part of the dial. As a last accolade for this overabundance of mathematical structures, occupy the space between the dial and the case with a dark rib, to give a stage to 10 applied hour markers. Analyze the rear of the case, and the bizarreness proceeds – monocoque development, with the development got to by turning a bayonet fitting 90 degrees. 


Hamilton’s Chrono-Matic was the littlest of the Caliber 11 chronographs, at 36.5mm across.

Hamilton more likely than not depleted its stock of mathematical stunts with the Fontainebleau, and the plan of its Chrono-Matic models could barely have been any simpler. 

The Chrono-Matics utilized a conventional round case with rakish hauls, in a moderately little size (36.5mm), making it the littlest of the watches fueled by the Caliber 11 development. Shading combinations incorporated a white dial with differentiating dark registers (and a coordinating inward bezel) or a model with a blue dial and registers. Both these models have an internal bezel (pressure ring) with a tachymeter scale, with the bezel appearing differently in relation to the shade of the dial. 

After The Early Ones

Hamilton presented its Chronomatic models with just three models, however before long added to this line-up. The Pan-Europ 703 chronograph had a turning bezel, in the style of the Heuer Autavia, and was likewise created in a GMT model, with a 24-hour bezel and an extra GMT hand. Hamilton’s gigantic Chrono-Matic Count-Down offered both GMT and world time complications, with three crowns on the correct side of the case (the extra two being for turning inward bezels) and two pushers, for the chronograph, on the left half of the case.

The Chronosport handout (from 1969) shows how a main expert in looks for motorsports offered the new Heuer and Breitling models. 

Getting Them – 1969

Considered together, the programmed chronographs being sold by Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton throughout the Summer of 1969 offered watch aficionados a rich choice of decisions. Those needing “mellow” programmed chronographs may have inclined toward the Heuer Carrera or the Hamilton Chrono-Matic, while those looking for “wild” could have an assortment of garnishes on their Breitling “pizzas”, the mathematical riddle called the Fontainebleau or the challenging shape and shades of Heuer’s Monaco. 

Considered together, Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton delighted in overall dispersion, so these models were accessible in a wide scope of retail locations, just as subject matter experts (for instance, index companies that took into account racers, pilots or specialists). In thinking about which companies “dominated the race” to offer the principal programmed chronographs, if the measure is accessibility of a wide determination of chronographs in retail channels around the globe, at that point there is no uncertainty that the Project 99 group completed first.

Gathering Them – 2019

Just as Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton offered a shifted choice of programmed chronographs in 1969, after fifty years the vintage watch fan looking for one of these “first cluster” models is given a scope of decisions, at various value focuses. Section level decisions under $4,000 may incorporate the Heuer Carreras, Hamilton Fontainebleau or Chrono-Matics, or the Breitling Reference 2110/2111/2112 models. The center of the pack ($4,000 to $12,000) might incorporate both of the Breitling Reference 7651s (co-pilot or yachting) or a Reference 1163 Autavia with either a dark or white dial (and “Programmed Chronograph” on the dial). The authority perusing at the highest point of the Caliber 11 pyramid (more than $12,000) – and who is honored with tolerance for a long hunt – could focus on the Heuers with the name “Chronomatic” on the dial or the 18 karat gold models from Heuer or Breitling. 

A Chronosport inventory (from 1969/1970) shows the line-up of Heuer and Breitling models.

The Revolution

Watch fans have praised the upheaval that the programmed chronograph brought to the universe of watches and, right up ’til the present time, most extravagance chronographs keep on being fueled via programmed developments. In any case, in these equivalent years that the Project 99 group was working on the technical parts of the new development, the three brands – Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton – were arranging an upheaval in the plan of their new programmed chronographs. 

Faced with quartz watches, the 1970s would bring gigantic difficulties and set-backs for these brands, and for all producers of mechanical watches. All things considered, with the dispatch of the Chronomatics in the late spring of 1969, Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton praised the best style of the Swinging Sixties.

Visit OnTheDash for a comprehensive list of sources about the Chronomatics and make sure to look at #Chronomatic50 on Instagram to see many instances of mind boggling Chronomatic watches too!

Writer’s Note: Thanks to @WatchFred for giving images and data to this posting, just as motivation to Breitling and its vintage enthusiasts. 

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