Breitling Reference Number 101

By Montredo in Watch 101
May 13, 2019
Breitling Reference Number 101


Breitling has long been the adventurer’s watch brand: distress signals, monster water depth, radio capability and so on and so forth. It’d be easy to assume, then, that the long and complex reference numbers are just another facet of the superspy aesthetic – a unique number only decipherable by 007s-in-training. Well, there’s more purpose to the code than you’d think – and it’s a code Montredo has cracked.

The sole purpose is identification: no two Breitling watches will ever boast the same serial number. Handy for insurance, the pre-owned market and the like. The reference number however – a separate figure – tells more about the watch, its functions and what makes it tick.

Over the years, Breitling has tweaked this system internally, which explains some disparity between older models. From 1991 onwards though, the Swiss label has stuck to one overarching method that applies to all modern watches. Any pieces manufactured before this date are very much considered vintage, and that’s a different game entirely when it comes to value and re-sale stakes.

The First Figure – Case Material

For modern pieces, i.e. models that are introduced after 1991, reference and serial numbers usually adopt a six digit figure as part of a larger serial number. For example, the A68362 – the non-SuperQuartz COSC-certified B1- or AB0110 – the in-house movement Chronomat 44. The very first letter refers to case material. Since most Breitlings are crafted in stainless steel, you’ll usually find a letter A, though there are plenty of other variations as below.

  • A: Stainless steel
  • B: Stainless steel with 18k yellow gold rider tabs
  • C: Stainless steel with 18k rose gold bezel
  • D: Stainless steel 18k yellow gold bezel
  • E: Titanium
  • F: Titanium with 18k yellow gold rider tabs
  • H: Solid rose gold
  • J: Solid white gold
  • K: Solid yellow gold
  • L: Platinum
  • M: Black steel
  • P: Stainless steel with platinum bezel
  • R: Solid red gold
  • V: Black titanium
  • W: Stainless steel with tungsten carbide bezel
  • X: Breitlight

Second & Third Digit – Movement

The second and third digit refers to calibre number. Now, this is where it gets a little more complicated. Anything ranked 50 or above signals a quartz movement, while new in-house movements are given an extra B before the caliber number – so B01, for example.

If there’s no sign of a B however, the movement has been sourced from an external supplier, likely Venus, Lemania, ETA, Valjoux or Piguet – just five manufacturers that have long partnered with Breitling. Out-of-house movements don’t mean lesser quality, though. Such watches are often subjected to heavy modification once at Breitling – the Chronomat 01 and the Transocean Chronograph Edition, for example – whether that’s to improve chronometer performance or add further complications (and with it, cost).

Calibre NumberMovement
10ETA 2892A2
11Lemania 1873
12Lemania 1873, with a 24-hour cycle
13ETA 7750 Valjoux
14ETA 2892A2, with a date/12-hour chronograph module; or ETA 2897
15ETA 2892A2
17ETA 2824 / 2824-2
18ETA 2892A2, with a 12-hour chronograph/moonphase/perpetual calendar module
19ETA 2892A2, with a 12-hour chronograph/moonphase/4-year calendar module
20ETA 7750 Valjoux, with second time zone complication
21ETA 7751 Valjoux
22ETA 2892A2, with flyback 12-hour chronograph module and a 24-hour cycle
23ETA 7753 Valjoux
24ETA 7754 Valjoux
26ETA 2892A2
27ETA 2892A2
30ETA 2892A2, with a date/12-hour chronograph module
32ETA 2892A2, with GMT complication
33ETA 2892A2, with 3-hour chronograph/date subdial module
34Frédéric Piguet 1186
34Frédéric Piguet 1186
35ETA 2892A2 (with a 3-hour flyback chronograph module
36ETA 2892A2
37ETA 2895-2
38ETA 2892A2
39ETA 2892A2
40ETA 2892A2
41ETA 2892A2
42ETA 2892A2
43ETA 7758 Valjoux
44ETA 2892A2
45ETA 2834-2
47ETA 2892A2
48ETA 7763 Valjoux
49ETA 2896
51Miyota Y652
52ETA 956.112
53ETA 251.262
55Piguet MecaQuartz 1270
56ETA 988.322
57ETA 955.412
58ETA 955.112
59Miyota C3510
61Ronda 732
64ETA 955.612
65ETA 998.332
67ETA 956.612
68ETA E20.331
69Piguet MecaQuartz 1271
72ETA Thermoline 956.152
73ETA Thermoline 251.232
74ETA Thermoline 956.652
75ETA Thermoline 988.352
76ETA Thermoline 988.352
77ETA Thermoline 956.652
78ETA Thermoline 956.652

Fourth Digit – COSC Certification

The fourth digit is related to the movement, too. And yes, it is as complex as it sounds. If the movement was made by a partner of Breitling, as opposed to in the manufacture itself, 0 means it has not received COSC certification. 3 however, means that it has, so expect a more precise watch as a result. This isn’t a blanket rule though, as certain pieces break the rules: a non-COSC Astromat A20405 model boasts a 4. If you’re unsure if your watch has such credentials, it’s worth asking the experts: all good Breitling retailers (and the brains behind them) should be able to tell you exactly how your watch ticks along. Either that, or by taking stock of the production year – since the turn of the millennium, most Breitling pieces have all been COSC certified.

Fifth & Sixth Digit – Model Type

Unlike other sectors of the reference number, the fifth and sixth digit only loosely refer to particular model types – there appears to be no blanket formula. That said, there are some instances in which the same numerals correspond to different models, but this is largely without method.

Seventh & Eighth Digit – Finish & Bezel

There’s much debate about what the seventh and eighth digit directly refer to, though many believe it to be the bezel – and with good reason.

Five codes are used heavily throughout Breitling families in reference to specific finishes. These are as follows:

  • 10: Satin, brushed or titanium finish
  • 11: Standard finish
  • 12: Polished
  • 13: Polished, with satin areas
  • 53: Diamond bezel

So far, so flashy. Other codes however, take the seventh and eighth digit with no real pattern spotted. These include:

  • 06: Superocean
  • 09: Chrono Avenger in titanium
  • 15: Airwolf in steel, blue dial and Skyracer model
  • 16: SOH chronograph with blue dial
  • 18: Avenger Seawolf in titanium
  • 21: Montbrilliant Legende with black and bronze dial
  • 23: Airwolf steel with black dial
  • 24: SOH chronograph with black dial
  • 33: SOH chronograph with bronze dial
  • 34: Airwolf steel with silver dial
  • 38: Airwolf steel with slate grey dial

Since Breitling’s reference numbers are of such a flexible basis, you may find exemptions to the arrangements listed. No bad thing. However, a loose guide can provide insight into your watch serial number, giving you a base understanding of what is in your watch, and where it’s come from. Here are a few of our favourites to clock up your interest.

Breitling Navitimer 01 43 Black Chronograph

One needs not to be a professional race car driver to adorn his or her wrist with a chronograph. Much like Breitling’s Navitimer 01 43, an aviation spin can land even the most functional of watches on the smartest of wrists, with a monochrome palette guaranteed to clinch the cost-per-wear ratio.

Breitling Superocean Heritage 46 Steel Chronometer

Milanese bracelets have long been something of a trend in the watch world. So too have black dials. Consider, then, the Breitling Superocean to be a rare combination of both, pitting two enduring motifs within one versatile, handsome shell.

Breitling Avenger Hurricane 50

If a Himalayan expedition to conquer Everest is unfeasible right now, the Breitling Avenger Hurricane 50 is probably your next best thing. Composed of a durable Breitlight material, this all-black wonder is as robust as it is flexible, boasting enough function and power to last even the mightiest of adventures.

Breitling Super Avenger II 48 Chronograph

Steel resolve can now extend to the wrist courtesy of Breitling. The Super Avenger II 48 Chronograph isn’t just a pretty face though, packing a highly accurate movement inside a highly durable, stylish home.

Breitling Colt 44 Chronometer

For those who sniff at rubber straps, simply dangle the Breitling Colt 44 Chronoemter under their nose. Whilst inherently a sportswatch, the Colt 44 treads into smarter territory thanks to a cool, classic aesthetic that’ll score points outside the locker room, too.