Breitling revamped its entry-level Colt collection last year with a firm nod to the original series, introduced in the 1980s. Like the Chronomat and the Navitimer, the Colt was conceived as a military watch, with an emphasis on reliability and readability. Its 24-hour scale, aviator-style dial and broad, unidirectional bezel have come to define the unmistakable look of Breitling watches. The new collection is true to the original right down to the movements. Most of the new models contain quartz calibers, which dominated the watch world at the time of the Colt’s debut. We tested the sole mechanical version, with an automatic ETA caliber. An ETA movement was also used in the original series.
The new Colt Automatic resembles the Colt Superocean, which debuted in the mid-1990s and remained in the collection for several years. The new Colt replicates the old model’s screwable crown with protectors on both sides, pilot-style Arabic numerals and a broad, unidirectional bezel with engraved notches and raised cursors at the quarter hours. These cursors improve the grip on the bezel, making it easy to rotate even when you’re wearing gloves. They have become a characteristic feature of Breitling watches.
On the new Colt, the markings are precisely engraved into the satin-finished bezel, which slopes gently downward toward its outer rim. The bezel clicks through 120 steps compared to the 60 notches on the bezel of the Colt Super-ocean, even though the additional steps aren’t necessary for to-the-minute setting of a dive’s start time. The new Colt Automatic also repeats the Superocean’s 24-hour scale and rare 1/100s-hour scale, described as an “aeronautic hundredths scale.”
The Colt Automatic’s 200-meter water resistance falls short of the earlier model’s 1,000-meter depth rating, but still offers plenty of water resistance for a divers’ watch. A sturdy, stainless-steel case with a doubly insulated back helps keep the watch intact in deep dives. The Professional III stainless-steel bracelet is equipped with a safety catch and a folding clasp that hinges open on one side. The bracelet, the Professional III, can be adjusted at the clasp or by removing screwed links at either end of the clasp. The watch can also be worn on a leather strap or on either an Ocean Racer or Diver Pro rubber strap.
Any of these would make the watch lighter than the 194 grams it weighs on a stainless-steel bracelet. (Despite being relatively heavy, the watch is quite comfortable to wear.) The leather strap is pleasantly supple, but its buckle seems a bit rickety.
In its guise as Breitling Caliber 17, the ETA 2824-2 in the new Colt is only moderately adorned, but has earned chronometer certification. The Colt’s average rate was almost entirely free of deviations when tested on our electronic timing machine with the mainspring fully wound and after running for 24 hours. On the wrist, the watch ran 1 second slow. This slight sluggishness persisted day after day, but the 1-second deviation falls within the chronometric tolerance range. Notably, there was a large difference between the rates with dial up and crown down after the watch had run for 24 hours. We also noted a difference in the amplitudes, which in the hanging positions declined by nearly 60 degrees within the span of one day. That is a large dip, but the average rate .
The dial shows everything the ETA Caliber 2824-2 has to offer, including hour, minute, sweep seconds hand and date, but the Colt can perform additional functions. Just inside the hour ring is another scale, calibrated from 13 to 24, recalling Breitling’s heritage as a maker of aviator watches and their standard 24-hour scales. On the flange at the perimeter of the dial there is a scale that divides an hour into 100 units. Each unit, 36 seconds long, is known as an “industrial” minute. This type of time measurement has various industrial applications, including denoting working hours. Three hours and 15 minutes, for example, would be expressed as 3.25 hours rather than as 3:15.
Minutes and seconds are indicated on a railroad-style track. The slim seconds hand, with an arrowhead tip, is the same length as the straight, faceted minutes hand. The tip of the hour hand extends just far enough to reach the inner edges of the hour indexes at 6 and 9 o’clock, which are larger than the rest. The hour and minutes hands, indexes and orientation point on the bezel all glow brightly green in the dark. The arrowhead tip on the seconds hand is skeletonized to allow this green glow to shine through when it sweeps over the luminous hour indexes.
The time is clearly legible thanks to the watch’s clear, minimalist styling and the nonreflective coating on both sides of the crystal. The pale hour markers and hands contrast boldly against the background of the dial, which on our tested model was blue (the watch is also available with a black or silver dial). The dial is decorated with the brand logo, model name and information about water resistance. The date is shown in a window at 3 o’clock. To accommodate this window and its frame, the numeral 15 on the 24-hour scale is shifted toward the center, and there is no hour index at the 3 o’clock position. Neither of these adjustments affects daytime or nighttime legibility. A similar format was used on the Colt Superocean from the 1990s.
The Colt has appealed to a wide audience for the past two decades with its robustness, functionality and excellent legibility. By replicating these features on the new Colt Automatic, Breitling will no doubt perpetuate its popularity.