James Bond’s “Thunderball” Watch Returns: The Breitling Top Time Limited Edition (Updated with Live Photos)

British super-spy James Bond is known for wearing both Rolexes and Omegas in his long series of cinematic adventures, but one of the most famous and fondly remembered timepieces in the Bond film canon comes from Breitling. In 1965’s Thunderball, Bond uses a Breitling Top Time model equipped with a Geiger counter to track down a cadre of stolen nuclear missiles hidden underwater. Today, following up its other recent, successful re-editions of historical favorites like the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 and AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition, Breitling has announced the release of the Top Time Limited Edition — and no, it doesn’t have a Geiger counter, but it will appeal to most anyone seeking to emulate that distinctive 1960s Bond style.

Breitling Top Time Limited Edition - flat
The Breitling Top Time Limited Edition resurrects the classic “Zorro” dial.

Fans of the original Top Time — launched more than 50 years ago and described by its originator, Willy Breitling, as “ultramodern” and “suited to the needs of the young and active professionals” — will appreciate the distinctive “Zorro” dial layout, with its two parallel white subdials framed by a black domino-mask-like motif. The stainless steel case measures 41 mm in diameter, with a convex sapphire crystal, a non-screwed, single-gasket crown, and plunger-style chronograph pushers.

Breitling Top Time Limited Edition - reclining
Red details highlight the vintage-look dial.

Adding a splash of color to the predominantly black-and-white dial are red details such as the hour, minute and central chronograph seconds hand, as well as a red sector of the 3 o’clock subdial. Elapsed chronograph minutes are tallied on that subdial, while running seconds are displayed on the other subdial at 9 o’clock. Super-LumiNova coats the hour and minute hands as well as the dot hour markers, and a decimal scale occupies the dial’s flange.

Breitling Top Time Limited Edition - angle
The steel case is mounted on a nubuck leather strap.

Inside the 30-meter water resistant case beats Breitling Caliber 23, a self-winding chronograph movement based on the ETA 7753 and storing a power reserve around 48 hours. Like all Breitling calibers, and attesting to the “CHRONOMETER” designation on the Top Time’s dial, it has met the stringent chronometric criteria of the official Swiss testing agency, COSC. The Top Time Limited Edition completes its vintage look with a brown nubuck leather strap. Limited to 2,000 pieces and priced at $4,990, it’s available in March via Breitling’s e-commerce site and, according to Breitling, “upon request from the brand’s global retail network at a later date.”

Breitling Top Time Limited Edition - wrist
The Top Time Limited Edition will be the first Breitling watch with a blockchain-based digital passport.

Breitling has also announced that the Top Time Limited Edition will be its first-ever watch offered with a blockchain-based digital passport, which confirms the authenticity and ownership of the watch with a single click. Owners can access the digital passport at any time and can transfer ownership, if they choose, with a simple blockchain transaction. Along with Breitling’s innovative digital warranty program, the passport provides a high level security and makes it possible for customers to engage with the brand anonymously while allowing Breitling to add new online services. Consider this cutting-edge security system the replacement for 007’s built-in Geiger counter.

“The Top Time is an important but often-overlooked part of our heritage, and we know it’s going to resonate with men and women who love this blend of history, design, and great performance.”

Georges Kern

Hands-On Pictures:

Manufacturer:BREITLING SA

Reference number:A23310121G1X1
Functions:Hours, minutes, seconds, 30-minute chronograph
Movement:Breitling Caliber 23, self-winding mechanical, 48-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph, COSC certified chronometer
Case:Stainless steel with domed sapphire crystal, non-screwed gasket crown, and plunger-style chronograph pushers, solid caseback is engraved
Bracelet and cla­­sp:Textured nubuck leather strap and stainless-steel pin buckle
Dimensions:Diameter = 41 mm, height = 14.27 mm, weight = 92.90 g.
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  1. I own this. I actually bought it without knowing its history. While it doesn’t exactly mimic 007’s chunky aftermarket specialized case, or have the same black dial with white sub dials, it does look incredibly unique and point to a very cool 60’s model. As a huge Zorro fan, Breitling fan, and James’ Bond fan..this watch really ticks all the boxes. It is perfect; slightly sporty, but is mostly a dress watch with an amazing chronometer. It is light, thin, but without being a flimsy or poorly built watch, the quality is unlike anything I’ve worn. For around 5 grand though, it better be.

    I am a perfect example of a new Breitling customer who would buy this – 28 years old professional working in Palo Alto, bold enough to like the design, with a small wrist and not some macho dude who needs a Super Avenger. I can see it being a controversial/bold design not for everyone (think…panda, or owl), as well too dainty for a man’s man. But it is PERFECT for a unique, every day quality, good looking piece with a chronograph.

  2. Not even reminiscent of the Top Time from Thunderball. That was a ref 2002, all black dial with 2 white sub register dials.

    • Mike Bergan

      You are correct. It was heavily modified to serve as a geiger counter.

  3. Jerry Hom

    Loved the first Bond movies, diversion from the grim reality of everyday life, bought my first Breitling watches 21 years later, intrigued by this latest re-issue from a brand that I really respect but still waiting for a watch from them that I desire enough to buy in this time of Covid-19!

    • Anne Griffin

      Which Breitling watch did you purchase 21 years ago Jerry? I have purchased a Top Time watch that I am picking up this Sunday. My very first Breitling. Anne

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