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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:58 pm 
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Breitling Blackbird is one of the Breitling's models that always attracted my interest. Considering this, I decided to share with you a brief review of the history and development of the Blackbird.

My intention is to gather a variety of information from a variety of sources (Chronologs, the web) in one place but it doesn't mean that this has to be taken for granted or as a definitive reference. I know there are more knowledgeable members of this forum, so feel free to correct me or provide some more info.

Also I hope I'm not violating some forum rules, if this is the case I apologize and will correct this post if necessary. I tried to provide image credits at the end of the post, some of the images are mine, some from the web and I tried to track the source.

OK, so we know what is Breitling but do we know what is the Blackbird?

The SR-71 Blackbird was advanced aircraft designed and built for high-altitude, high-speed (more than 3 Mach) strategic reconnaissance (SR) by Lockheed as the successor to the famous U-2.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_SR-71_Blackbird

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The development of this full titanium aircraft was revolutionary because it was the first such aircraft so special methods and tools had to be developed for production. At such high speeds the heating of metal and thus the change of geometry of the parts was so big that the plane on the ground leaked fuel through the cracks between parts. Initially, it was filled with fuel only to take-off and then, after 7-minutes of flight, parts were warm enough to stretch to close the cracks and plane was fully loaded in flight to fly the mission.

The whole idea of the plane was to fly so fast and high that it was practically impossible to reach the plane by hostile missiles as well as the best Russian fighter planes that couldn't fly so high and fast (the engine and intakes on Blackbird used some new and revolutionary techniques).

The legend even goes that, because of the secrecy of the project, titanium was procured in small amounts on the market, and that the Russian titanium was also used on the plane :).

The aircraft was designed to minimize radar reflection and was painted in black matt color (very dark blue in fact) for better invisibility on the night sky and better heat dissipation. So she was named Blackbird.

Unlike the U-2 and the infamous shot-down of that plane by Russian missile, no Blackbird has ever been lost due to hostile action, and speed records she set for the "breathing" jet aircraft are still unbeaten.

Blackbird cockpit (with the latest technology of that time):

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In the end, however, spy satellites and high costs of exploitation and maintenance resulted in retirement of the Blackbird in 1998 (while U-2 still flies), and the production tools were destroyed. Several Blackbirds can be seen today in museums around the world.

Well, I wanted this part to be brief but couldn't do it :). You can notice my fascination with this really revolutionary aircraft and its technology that was far ahead of the times. It was a great vision and courage to conceive, and then to build such a plane - a masterpiece of Lockheed's Skunk Works and the ingenious engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson.

This fascination was obviously shared by Breitling when in 1995, its Chronomat line (* - see the note at the end of the article) was enriched with a special model (not limited but special edition) called Blackbird.
It carried the reference number A13050.1, which was the standard reference for Chronomat from that time, so Blackbird itself didn't have a specific reference number.

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It was a standard Chronomat with a 39.8 mm diameter powered by Breitling 13 caliber, based on ETA 7750. But, while standard Chronomat had high-polished finish, the Blackbird had a brushed case, and subdials were black on black resulting in somewhat subdued "under the radar" image, just like the Blackbird plane. Hands were all white, with red tipped chrono second hand. Below the applied Breitling wings there was inscription "Breitling Blackbird Automatic" and (in red color) the inscription "SERIE SPECIALE" above the position 6 chrono subdial.

Pushers and screw-in crown were onion like, evoking aviation theme (see end of article) just like on other Chronomats of that time. The watch was not COSC certified, so it was not a chronometer. WR was 100 m. The dial had a variation with numerals or batons. In addition to the black dialed Blackbird there was a limited version of 250 Blackbirds with blue dial - known unofficially as Bluebird.

The next model in Blackbird history was reference A13350. Form the outside it looks practically identical to the ref A13050.1 but has a COSC certificate ie is a chronometer. This feature is not visible on the dial, just in the ref number (3 in the third place) and on the back of the watch were it has "chronometre" inscription. Reference number is still the same as for all other Chronomats from that time i.e. Blackbird still has no own reference number.

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Picture from the Breitling Chronolog 3 (1998):

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The development path of Chronomat Blackbird goes on to reference number A13353 which was introduced in 2002. This is, finally, a reference number reserved only for Blackbird and (in my humble opinion) this is the developmental zenith of Breilting Chronomat 39.8mm and the last model from that Chronomat series that was in production (although this Blackbird was officially part of the Windrider line).

This is a Blackbird model I like the most. It took some time to find and buy one of the nice and preserved examples which is still in my possession (probably until I die, and then it goes to my sons :)).

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This Blackbird is recognizable by the "meaty" and more imposing shape of the case, while keeping the same diameter as previous Blackbirds. Pushers are no longer "onion" shaped but octogonal, and the bezel is noticeably thicker, more elaborately brushed with characteristic deep incisions at positions 1,2,4,5,7,8,9,10 and with 120 clicks. The main hands got a different, more prominent shape.

The first specimens of this model had the inscription "SERIE SPECIALE" above the subdial at 6, while later had "EDITION SPECIALE".

With its imposing shape this Blackbird announces the development of the Chronomats to Evolution version with 43.7 mm case and end of production of the 39.8 mm size model.

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Picture from Chronolog 03 (2003):

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Picture from Chronolog 04 (2004):

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Under the Breitling wings, dial now has a "Chronometre Automatic" inscription, which highlights the fact that the watch complies with COSC standards.

You can compare difference in the pushers, bezel height and case form from these two pictures - A13350:

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and A13353

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A13353 also appears with numerals or batons and in Bluebird variation with blue dial.

Because of its appearance, Blackbird was a nice platform for special squadron, commemorative, anniversary etc. editions. For instance there is Alfa Romeo Edition of 30 pieces, Lancaster edition (English World War II bomber) of 60 pieces, a special version for the Canadian producer Bombardier of 200 pieces etc etc. An example of anniversary edition for the USAF:

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A13353 was in production until 2004.

Blackbird is back in 2007 in a new, more striking form and in the size of 43.7 mm under the reference number A44359.

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This is visually perhaps the most attractive Blackbird due to its dimensions, a combination of brushed and polished surfaces and a big date. The lug width increased from 20 to 22mm, and the watch now features the Breitling 44 caliber, which is, in fact, a modular chronograph based on the ETA2892 with a DD module. Some say that servicing modular chronograph can be a problem. From my own experience - it isn't :).

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If you can get away with 44mm, heavy, watch on the wrist (I do not :)) I think it's the best Blackbird you can get because of its striking appearance. This is maybe the most attractive classic Breitling model in general.
Dial is dominated by big date, Breitling's applied bold white gold wings and Chronometer Automatic inscription. Back of the watch has a nice big engraved inscription "Blackbird" so nobody can mistake it for anything else :).

The WR raised to 300m, and the pushers now have a lock mechanism to keep them from underwater activation, which could endanger the waterproofness of the watch. I personally don't really like that feature because I like to fiddle with chronograph all the time :).

Another nice feature of this model is that all hands (and that includes the chrono hands) are luminova coated for night visibility.

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Maybe the love-hate moment of this watch is a "navigational" bezel that displays 360 degrees for geographical orientation. Despite the questionable practicality of that bezel, on the positive side it gives the watch an uncommon note and distinguishes it from other watches with a classic diving bezel, making it a special one. The bezel is bidirectional (like pilot's watch bezel should be) and has 72 clicks, so every click is a 5 degrees of the circle - nice touch!

Basically, this watch has TOOL! written all over it and it sends the message that the owner is a testosterone filled macho pilot guy with bold mustaches :).

It remained in production until 2011.

Example of Bluebird with black subdials:

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2010 saw a release of limited Blacksteel edition of this watch with case coated in black DLC and reference number M4435911 in a batch of 2000 pieces. The special feature of this Blackbird is that it's all polished.

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In 2012 after Blackbird production already ended, a limited batch of 2000 pieces - the Blackbird Red Strike version was released in a classic brushed and polished steel case with many red details on the dial. The red/black combination is also associated with Blackbird plane because some parts of the plane where the titanium was thin were marked in red. The reference is the same as for the standard Blackbird - A44359.

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Blackbird appears again in 2014, now in the Breitling Avenger line, with Breitling 17 caliber (based on ETA2824-2) ticking inside and the reference number V17310. The size is now gargantuan 48 mm but the case is finally made of matte black titanium. Lug size is 24mm.

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It has a stunningly beautiful black dial and luminous material on markers and hands is made with so called "aged radium look" color to it that is controversial to some, but I think it suits it very well. It comes on Breitling military canvas strap and WR is 300m. Bezel features military style stencil numerals that look very "toolish" and modern to me.

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Unfortunately, the B17 mechanism means that this model is not a chronograph. Sigh.

Like all newer Breitlings, there are more editions of this watch. This model is still in production at the time of the writing.

Soon, a smaller Blackbird brother (or sister :)) in more wearable 44mm size and with WR of 200m was introduced, bearing the reference number V17311.

For quick identification of 48/44 mm models in images, notice that the date on 44mm is framed in red and WR on the dial is 200m.

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Nice video for the end:



This closes my presentation of the Blackbird history and I congratulate to anyone reading this far :).

If Blackbird intrigued you, it's time to start hunting for one, because I'm predicting that it will soon disappear from production.

Also, if you have a Blackbird watch or a plane, feel free to share your photos below :lingsrock: !

(*) Chronomat originally emerged in the 40's looking closer to what we know today as the Navitimer. It was the first chronograph combined with the circular slide rule computer, so its name was ChronoMat ie CHRONOgraph for MAThematicians.

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After the company's bankruptcy and Schneider's acquisition of Breitling, Chronomat experienced its new birth as a pilot chronograph, designed in collaboration with the Italian aerobatic group Frecce Tricolori.

Original sketch of legendary tab-riders on the bezel, that protects the crystal and helps turning the bezel while wearing gloves:

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When you look at that first pilot Chronomat from the side, you can notice that it has the shape of an airfoil, and the forms of the pusher and the crown are reminiscent of the propeller spinners - talking about the aviation theme here :)

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Image credit: altro@WUS, bilewaz@uhrforum, gogator@tzone, Eric Kilby, Breitling S.A., Bernardwatch, Watches UK, Uhren-fan, Topperjewelers, H.Q.Milton, Hunterfate



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:43 am 
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That was a fabulous writeup / recent history article, thanks

Sent from my SM-N910F using Tapatalk



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:57 am 
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Fantastic write up. I would like to add my 2014 LE #1012 of 2000 Blackbird model A4463010 as a example of its versatility. It does everything well and looks as good on a oem rubber dive strap as it does on its pilot bracelet.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:56 pm 
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Great write up. FWIW It is amazing that the blackbird is still officially the fastest jet in the world...



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2018 1:20 pm 
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@themystro
Thanks for great pictures of this perfect classic Breitling I see you enjoy it in full :lingsrock:

When I see that perfect watch, question arises - do we need more than one :D ?

And thank you for adding a new Blackbird that wasn't on my list above. I see ref is A4436010


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:54 pm 
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Excellent post OP, thank you for taking the time.
I learned a couple of things today!

As much as I love my M44 Blackbird, I wish I also had the A44..... The perfect Breitling : it combines impressive WR with ruggedness and useful movement features.

The SR-71 is indeed a legend and one of my all time favorite aircraft. The mystery just adds to its allure!

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:58 pm 
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Excellent post and a great read, thanks for taking your time!
I have questions though - to you and to others in the know:
Help needed regarding serial numbers and production dates:
I'd like to buy (within the next two years but possibly today :) ) graduate presents for my daughters and those should be (beginning their Breitling fanatism) Blackbirds ref. A13350 (on steel bracelet), produced (better say ready-made and delivered to the importeurs/dealers during the time my wife was pregnant with them. So the 2x9 months are: 1-9/2000 and 1-9/2002. Unfortunately watch cases - according to my informations - were not stamped regarding production weeks back then and bracelet engravings are not sure that came with the very watch and/or produced during the same time. So the only good source can be knowing cases serial numbers of the chronographs produced between January and September 2000 and between January and September 2002. Can anyone let me know verified chronograph case serial numbers of these two time intervals?
If cases were already stamped around this time please let me know since when! If 01/2000 cases were already PW-stamped no case serial number data needed!
The other question is regarding Luminova treatment: I wonder when Breitling switched from Tritium to Luminova (regarding specifically the Blackbirds). I hope 01/2000 already found Breitling delivering th AD-s only Luminova-treated Blackbirds...
Breitling Factory data is also highly welcome! Please PM me with these - until I won't close this post data inputs are still needed! Thanks in advance!
Best,
Robert

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:54 am 
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Here is the article on BSC:

http://www.breitlingsource.com/articles_dating.shtml

Regarding production dates on the case, my Blackbird A13353 carries production date between lugs - 45 week of 2001 and serial is 509116 .

So I think that A13353 model (2002) caries production date while A13350 doesn't. I'm afraid that the only way would be to try and Google check the pictures for Blackbirds on sale with serial number on the back and to try guess the period-serial relationship.

For instance, this one:
https://relojesexclusivos.com/en/watche ... rd-a13350/
is serial 251030 and was sold first time on 22-12-1999

This one is 282110 but was first sold in 2003
https://www.zeitauktion.com/en/breitlin ... 750-150856

So this method can give some approx results but I think there is no Breitling serial-production date database anywhere for Schneiders era Breitlings.

Happy hunting :lingsrock:


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