According to horological legend the first luxury watch made of steel – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak caused great consternation when it launched in 1972. Up until then there were timekeepers – small, cheap watches like Timex and Seiko – and expensive pieces that you handed out at retirements from brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe. To build a luxury watch in steel was an outrage but eventually steel surpassed watches made of precious metals.
Just wait until those steel naysayers hear about a luxury watch made of plastic.
The ultralight Avenger Hurricane 45 chronograph is the latest watch to use Breitling’s Breitlight polymer, essentially a scratch-proof amalgam that is lighter than titanium and stronger than steel. The watch itself contains a manufacture (read “custom”) chronograph movement and comes on a rubberized canvas strap. All of this means that this is one of the strongest and lightest watches you’ll ever wear.
The 45mm piece feels almost evanescent, especially when compared to similarly sized steel chronographs. While I didn’t run this thing over with a truck the polymer was scratch resistant and very comfortable and, because its made of plastic, it’s nice for folks with allergies to metal on the skin. It was a comfortable wear – not heavy at all – and the 45mm face was comfortable to wear and looked smaller than it was.
Why would you want a plastic watch? Breitling has taken pains to explain that this isn’t just a hunk of plastic squeezed into a mold and filled with a movement. This is a specialty material, one made to order by Breitling and produced in very small quantities. There are two other models that use the material, a 24-hour chronograph and the Colt Skyracer, a three hand model. Considering the last big material change in watches came when Chanel and others started using ceramic, plastic isn’t that much of a stretch.
How much is the pleasure of owning a one-of-a-kind plastic watch? Try $8,390, a price that reflects the manufacture movement, the chronograph certification (each Breitling is officially certified for accuracy, a fairly meaningless thing in a world of smartwatches but is still important when it comes to mechanicals), and the ultra light case. It just goes to show you that the definition of luxury changes every few years – or decades – and that todays timekeeper is tomorrows luxury item.