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While the Navitimer, with its storied connection to aviation and spaceflight, is perhaps the most notable of Breitling's chronographs, the brand's earlier examples are not to be ignored. With functional, legible dials and simple case designs, they're an exercise in understated elegance; indeed, one could almost say they're dress watches, particularly those with cases constructed from precious metals.
Breitling have been producing technical timepieces more or less since the brand's inception in 1885. The brand developed the first ever monopusher chronograph wristwatch in 1915, and further innovated chronograph design by adding a second pusher at 4 o'clock in 1933. Breitling's perfection of the chronograph blossomed in the 1940s, when it developed chronograph calibres with further complications, such as rattrapante (split second), day and date, and moon-phase functions.
The brand began applying the name "Datora" to chronographs with date windows in the 1940s, but the name is perhaps best associated with a triple calendar version (which was also produced by Heuer). While Breitling relied mainly on èbauche manufacturer Venus for its chronograph movements, the brand also employed the king of chronograph calibers, Valjoux 72, in some of its designs. The example that we have here, a Reference 785 dating from the 1940s, is driven by a Valjoux 72c ('c' for calendar) drivetrain and represents what some believe was the pinnacle of Breitling's achievements in complex chronograph production.
Outwardly, the watch is drenched with design; the cascading bevels along the lugs of the 18k gold case and the faceted domed crown vibrate with a timeless Art Deco styling. The flashes of red in the tachymeter track and the arrow-shaped date indicator hand sing playfully in the simple silver-tone dial with its classic dart markers and prominent applied '12.'
As handsome as it is elegant, this expression of the oft-praised Datora design is arguably the most striking Breitling chrono you've ever laid eyes on.
18k gold case is approximately 35.5mm (excluding crown and pushers). Breitling Reference 785. Manually-Wound Valjoux 72c Chronograph Movement. Circa 1940s.
Overall Condition: 18k gold case is in very good condition with sharp lines throughout and no signs of over-polishing. Case does show some very light signs of use and wear consistent with age. Dial is in very good condition with no signs of major discoloration or hand drag. German day/month wheels. Gold-toned handset is in very good condition with no signs of oxidation. Rare faceted crown; snap case back has some minor wear marks but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 19mm brown suede strap.