In launching the Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante Replica (the French term adopted by the industry for split-seconds chronographs, derived from rattraper, meaning “to catch up”, as one seconds hand catches up with the other), Breitling has joined a very elite club.
So few brands currently have a split-seconds in their collections (the likes of IWC, Zenith and Glashutte Original have all made them in recent years, but they’re not available any more). Mostly, they are the preserve of haute de gamme replica watchmakers: Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and A. Lange & Sohne all currently offer at least one rattrapante reference, often combined with other complications.
Blancpain offers a split-seconds flyback (the L-Evolution R Chronograph, which is also a flyback) and Panerai sells the Luminor 1950 Rattrapante 8 Days. If you’re very lucky you might get your hands on a Habring Doppelchrono (Richard Habring developed the movement for IWC) , but that’s about it. And with the exception of the Habring, which is produced in tiny numbers, none of them can match the Breitling for price: £9,910 in steel.
It is a welcome addition for a brand so historically associated with pilot’s chronographs, and doubly so because we have seen relatively little of note under the Breitling Navitimer Replica banner in recent years save for limited editions, dial changes and size changes. Based on Breitling’s in-house B01 calibre, the movement (B03) houses two patent-pending innovations that Breitling claims have a considerable effect on the reliability of the split-seconds mechanism.
To quickly re-cap on what a split-seconds can do, and why it’s no piece of cake to create: the chronograph is equipped with two seconds hands. Start it running as usual and both set off together; upon a press of the split seconds pusher at 3 o’clock, however, one will stop, marking an elapsed time (say, a lap), while one continues timing the total running time. Press the same pusher again (once you’ve recorded this lap measurement, for instance), and the split-seconds hand instantly catches up to the first one, ready to repeat the whole procedure all over again.
It’s an accomplished mechanism that needs to be able to handle more energy going through it (and more often) than a typical chronograph, and involves finer tolerances too. In complexity, it’s only beaten by some pretty rare beasts – A. Lange & Sohne’s double-split, for instance, or Audemars Piguet’s sensational Laptimer.
Breitling has fitted the B03 with an isolating mechanism for the split-seconds hand, aimed at reducing the effect of operating the chronograph on the power reserve and reliability of the replica watch. Furthermore, it has replaced key components within the isolator to effectively neutralise such detrimental effects on the running of the replica watch.