As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Chronomatic movement, by Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton, we offer this brief version of the Chronomatic story, along with a reading list, for those who want to learn more.

The Chronomatic Story

1969 saw the introduction of the world’s first automatic chronographs. Three groups competed to offer the first automatic chronographs – (1) a joint venture between Heuer and Breitling, with Hamilton-Buren and Dubios-Depraz working on technical aspects of the new movement, (2) Zenith, with its Movado subsidiary, and (3) Seiko. Each of the three groups had worked to develop the automatic chronograph since the mid-1960s.

On March 3, 1969, Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton introduced their new “Chronomatic” (Caliber 11) watches at simultaneous press conferences held at 5:00 PM in Geneva and 11:00 AM in New York City.  In April 1969, Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton showed 100 samples of their new “Chronomatic” chronographs, at the Basle Watch Fair, and the new watches were available in retail stores during the Summer of 1969.  In the early 1970s, Heuer and Breitling offered dozens of different chronographs that used the new Chronomatic movements.  The brands developed specific models for motorsports, aviation, yachting, diving, and mathematics and engineering, in a broad variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

After being introduced as the “Caliber 11” movement, the Chronomatic series of movements was further developed over the years.  To address some initial performance issues, the Caliber 11-i soon followed, and then the Caliber 12 movement.  The first GMT models used the Caliber 11 GMT, which was replaced by the Caliber 14.  In 1972, in order to offer less expensive automatic chronographs, Heuer and Breitling introduced the Caliber 15 movement, which deleted the hour recorder and incorporated other cost-saving approaches.

Heuer used the Chronomatic movements from their introduction in 1969 through the mid-1980s; Breitling used them until it shut-down its operations in 1978.  In addition to Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton, the Caliber 12 and Caliber 15 movements were used in chronograph marketed by numerous other companies, including Bulova, Dugena, Elgin, Kelek, Phillip, Stowa, Vetta and Zodiac.  In recent years, some “left-over” movements have been used for re-issues by Eberhard and Guinand.

The Chronomatic Bibliography

History of the Chronomatic Movement and Watches

Postings About Specific Watches