Breitling Clamshell Chronograph
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Breitling Clamshell Chronograph

Why We Love It

'Clamshell' waterproof chronograph cases house some of our favorite mid-century designs.

This particular example, a Breitling branded piece, came to us first a number of years back and has lived a good life here in New York City with one of our close friends since. Back again (making moves!), we're proud to offer it publicly for the first time.

Featuring a strong multi-piece 36mm steel case with central carriage, barrel pushers, oversized winding crown, and a stunning multi-tonal silver dial with red and blue printed timing scales and heat-blued hands, this non-luminous watch offers a perfect balance between sporty and elegant design language. Showing signs of an older, conservative restoration, this dial quite simply shines.

Clamshell chronographs, regardless of branding, are rare and cool in every iteration, but this lovely Breitling is one of our all-time favorites.

The Story

Leon Breitling had always loved watches. Ever since he was a boy, he was fascinated by them, and in his childhood he and his family would while away the long winter evenings by their fireside making watch parts. So it seemed a natural progression for him to study the craft in his youth, and go into business in 1884.

But at the time Breitling opened up shop, he had competitors—40,000 of them, to be exact.

In order to get a leg up on his competition, Leon quickly learned the necessity of specialization; soon, he found his niche: chronographs.

His ingenuity paid off, and business was booming. Soon the company outgrew the small shop in Saint-Imier. So Breitling relocated to La Chaux-de-Fonds—the crucible of the Swiss watch industry and the location of most of his suppliers.

In 1915, Breitling launched its first chronograph wristwatch, and it immediately drew attention across the world. This was due to the an ingenious solution devised by Gaston Breitling: place the pusher at 2 o’clock, as opposed to the usual 6 o’clock. Due to the comfort of this configuration, this version was quickly adopted as the standard, drawing appreciation from military officers who relied on chronographs to time complex troop maneuvers and artillery strikes.

And a massive development just before World War II would have lasting ramifications, not just for Breitling, but for the watch industry as a whole.

In 1936, Gallet filed a patent for a waterproof chronograph case (the first of its kind): the Clamshell.

The name comes from the way that the upper and lower sections of the watch case compress together over a specially flared crystal, protecting the delicate inner mechanisms from the intrusion of water, dirt, dust, and caustic chemicals. These cases are recognizable by the presence of four screws on the reverse side of the case, located at base of the lugs. Further, by inserting gasket sealed pushbuttons into the side of this unique watch case design, Gallet was able to expand the water resistant characteristics of the concept to the more complex wrist-worn chronograph.

The waterproof Clamshell filled such a critical void in the area of military, industrial, and sports-related timekeeping that its popularity helped Gallet's overall sales of wrist-worn watches and hand-held timers exceed 100,000 units per year for over 15 years.

 

Details

SKU: AS03452

Stainless steel clamshell case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown and pushers).

Overall Condition: Case is in great condition with moderate signs of use and wear consistent with age. Non-luminous multi-tonal dial is in excellent condition with light even patina and indications of older restoration. Non-luminous blued steel handset. Unsigned crown.

Includes leather strap.

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We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.

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