Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review of Breitling Aeromarine Colt II Automatic

Model # A17380

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Breitling Aeromarine Colt II Automatic
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP:  $2910 USD


 
Plenty of photos follow the review.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.


Part of the Aeromarine series of watches from Breitling, this Colt II automatic is a superbly crafted piece, which, sadly, has been discontinued by Breitling, but, happily, can still be found brand-new from various retailers if you search hard enough.  As my watch collecting has taken an upswing in price and quality lately, as I was preparing to write this review, I said to myself ‘there’s something about a Breitling.’  Yes, there is, and it could even be an advertising slogan for them.  As Swiss watch prices continue to skyrocket, snagging a Breitling Colt II while you still can will reward you with a beautiful watch that oozes quality and value.

About 12 years ago in the early days of my watch collecting addiction, I purchased a 1990s Breitling Callisto chronograph, a semi-rare model with a manual wind Lemania chrono movement in it.  That watch had a blue face and gold rider tabs on the bezel.  It was fairly small (about 38mm) but was an acceptable introduction to the brand, although a lot has changed since then.  As with so many companies, Breitling has moved up-market and continues to do so today.  Breitlings have cache, an identifiable brand name even among non-WIS personnel and a ‘wow’ factor when the name is mentioned.  An aspirational watch for sure.

But the nice thing about the Colt II is that while, yes, it’s a Breitling, it doesn’t look or feel the part of a snob.  It’s a perfectly sized, functional, well-made timepiece that just happens to have the Breitling name on it.  Do you see where I’m coming from?  Colts can also be had with black or white dials and with third hand GMT functionality as well.

The Colt II is named as such because there was an original Colt series about seven or eight years ago with a slightly smaller case size, different dial layout, etc.  Breitling upgraded and improved the original and as is not always the case, produced a better watch than the original. 


The Colt II is a fully polished watch (case, bracelet, clasp, deployant, caseback, etc.)  The only part of this watch that is not polished is the top of the bezel, which is brushed and looks magnificent against the full polish of the rest of the watch.  Please note, though, that the fully polished nature of this watch does not mean gaudy or ‘look-at-me’ bling.  It is actually rather subdued, partly because of the near-perfect dimensions of 41mm case size without the crown, 20mm lug width and a case thickness of 13mm.  It’s svelte without being small, substantial without being hippy.

The quality of the finish is absolutely superb.  It looks, feels and shines like nothing else.  Details abound on this watch, from the fine screws that are part of the bezel edge, to the small engraved cursive ‘B’ on the bezel side as well.  The signed, polished deployant clasp is an eye-catcher all on its own, not so much because it’s polished and engraved, but because it just looks and feels so nice. 

My Colt II has the Professional II bracelet (which I call the classic Breitling ‘slanty’ bracelet).  Between the bracelet and the rider tabs on the bezel, the Colt II says ‘I’m a Breitling.’  Lately, Breitling’s designs have gotten away from the classic rider tab bezel and other elements that identify a Breitling as such, and it’s a shame, because while I’m sure the quality is still there, the look of some of the new models just don’t seem like Breitlings.

The Professional II bracelet is a nifty design, with small short screws that hold the bracelet’s outer links in place.  To size the bracelet, you remove two screws, take off the outer link and then remove the rest of the link.  It’s kind of like a puzzle, a bit confusing at first, but then kind of fun once you figure it out.  Of course, the bracelet has solid end links, a signed double locking clasp and the fully polished, jewel-like deployant clasp described above.  The bracelet is 20mm at the lugs, tapering to 18mm at the clasp.

The dial is another work of art on this watch.  Many pictures of the blue dial on the Colt II depict this dial as an electric blue, but it is a darker blue, blue-grey or slate blue in actuality and it looks magnificent.  It has circular patterning on the outer edge, with applied polished markers with a lume dot at their ends and relatively simple stick hands with inset lume. 

A point of concern with me was how much the red-tipped second hand would stand out, because I’m not too crazy about watches that look red, white and blue.  Well, the red tip of the second hand is rather subtle and doesn’t stand out too much, so I am fine with it.

Lume quality is outstanding, as any watch that is rated at 500 meters of water resistance should be.  A superbly anti-reflective sapphire crystal covers the dial and it’s the amazing kind of anti-reflective coating that doesn’t have any off-color tint to it, but truly disappears in certain light, as if there is no crystal installed.  Super cool!  And Breitling even takes the extra step of covering the lume dot on the bezel with a small sapphire disc.  Another intriguing detail.

The Breitling ‘wings’ logo is applied under the 12 marker along with a military 13-24 hour inner track and a zero to 100 gradation chapter ring on the dial, used in flight calculations.  A quickset date window is located at the 3 position.

The bezel is a 120-click unidirectional design with good, tight action and no backlash or play.  The rider tabs make it very easy to grasp and rotate the bezel as needed.  The bezel also features the same size numbers all the way around, with only the 15, 30 and 45 in the rider tabs being a bit larger in size.  There’s a great symmetry about this watch that makes is look and feel balanced.

The Colt II, like all Breitlings, is a COSC chronometer, using the Breitling Caliber 17 automatic movement, which starts life as an ETA 2824-2 (25 jewels, hacking, manual wind capability).  I was a bit surprised at how loudly this movement winds, but timekeeping is outstanding, running +1 over 24 hours with a power reserve of 42 hours.  Excellent!  The signed crown also screws down with authority and with at least four full turns, which inspires confidence.

This watch wears extremely well, with its stylish size and great looks.  Hopefully, the full polished beauty of this watch won’t be a scratch or scuff magnet as time goes by.

Presentation is in keeping with the overall quality of this watch.  A large, patterned stiff cardboard outer box with an inner Bakelite-style box with raised lettering and another padded box inside that actually holds the watch.  The overall look reeks of quality (and $$$)!

I am thoroughly impressed with the Breitling Colt II automatic and would recommend this model to anyone looking for an appropriately sized, superbly constructed and super accurate watch with a level of panache that only a fully polished watch with ‘Breitling’ on it can impart.  Bravo!


Pros:  quality all the way through, details galore, COSC accuracy, fully polished delight, superb blue dial

Cons:  bracelet can be a bit tricky to size at first, a pushbutton mechanism on the clasp would be nice

Verdict:  if Breitling is not on your list of ‘must haves’ or on your wish list of ‘hope to have’, please put it on, as this Colt II deserves all the attention it can get, an outstanding watch in virtually every respect


Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.

Excelsior!

-Marc


12 comments:

  1. Besides the great pictures, I love the fact that you are willing to say something negative. Read too many blogs where they love everything, and never feel like I get a balanced review.
    Where did you get that marvelous timepiece?

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  2. Thanks for the great review and pictures. I just purchased the same watch with the blue face. It wasn't easy to locate one in blue, but I'm glad I was able to find one. I agree with everything you said as this is a fantastic addition to my watch collection. I paid a little extra to also get the Ocean Racer strap with the folding clasp, and it was worth the extra money. As good as this watch is with the Professional II bracelet it's just as good with the Ocean Racer strap, but it gives it a very different look and feel. The Ocean Racer strap looks great and is very comfortable, and is a bit more adjustable for warmer weather conditions. Sort of like having two different watches.
    Dave.

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  3. Thanks for the review. Do you still have the watch and if you do, how has it held up. I am about to bid/purchase the same watch and needed the extra push.

    Kelly.

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    1. Hi Kelly,

      Yes, I still own the Breitling and it's held up great. Mind you, I don't wear it that often, maybe once a month, but it looks great and still keeps chronometer time. Breitling makes a solid product, so pull the trigger on one, you won't be disappointed.

      -Marc

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  4. Hello Marc,

    Thanks for the review on the Breitling. I have a question regarding polished indices vs numerals. Another question on steel bracelet vs leather band on divers. What is your take on both of these questions?

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    1. Arabics vs. markers are a personal choice, some people prefer the numbers while others like simple markers. I go either way on my watches, depending on model.

      Pretty much the same with bracelets vs. straps. On the Breitling Colt, the bracelet is fully polished and may be a bit too blingy, but it is done with such care that it looks great. And as regular readers here know, I love leather straps on divers and since I never get my watches wet, having a leather strap on a diver is no problem for me.

      -Marc

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    3. Can I ask you a question about a certain model that you have not reviewed?

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  5. Yes you can, I will do my best to answer it.

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  7. On the Breitling Avenger Seawolf, I have the Arabic numerals stainless steel model. But in comparing the model with the baton markers, I have come to the conclusion that the colors are as follows for the Arabic numerals : the classic black matte with the model I own, a blue, a yellow , and a new slate grey.

    So my question is how would you compare the colors with the baton markers dials : a volcano black , an airforce blue, and a stratus silver?

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  8. Dial colors are individual, some people might like one color over another. You can hardly ever go wrong with a black dial. Blue can vary in shade depending on whether it's a dark blue, which can look indigo or purple sometimes vs. a lighter blue. Silver dials are hard to read if the hands are also silver, unless there is enough contrast between the hands (ie: black outline hands or lots of lume on the hands).

    Buy what you want and like. If you like silver, buy silver. If you want blue, go blue.

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