“We want to fish in a bigger pond,” Breitling CEO Georges Kern announced to the assembled audience of international media at the first Breitling Summit, held October 22 at Spring Studios in London. It was a reference to Breitling’s initiative under the leadership of Kern, now in its second year, to embrace other product segments and categories beyond the aviation-centric styles for which the Swiss brand has long been renowned.
Hence the centerpiece announcement of the Summit, the launch of the new Premier collection of timepieces, which takes its place alongside the venerable Chronomat family in the “Land” segment of Breitling’s four-pronged marketing strategy, with “Air” represented by the classic Navitimer and recently introduced Navitimer 8; “Sea” by the Superocean and Superocean Heritage; and the non-environment-themed “Professional” pillar by high-tech tool watches like the Emergency and the ExoSpace connected watch.
The Premier collection is actually a revival of an elegant gents’ model introduced by founding-family scion Willy Breitling in 1943, and represents, according to Kern, the most sublime example of Breitling watches’ evolution “from purpose to style.” Design elements that define the new collection include the grooved lines in the sides of the cases, which Breitling says were “inspired by speed” and also a clever variation on the sportier notched bezel design of the Navitimer 8 models; and the beveled, speedometer-style hour and minute hands. The collection comprises five new models — the most prominent of which answers a nagging question that I, and perhaps many Breitling enthusiasts, have harbored since last year about the brand’s longstanding partnership with British luxury automaker Bentley.
Two of the Premier watches are chronographs. The Premier B01 Chronograph 42 contains Breitling’s in-house caliber B01, a self-winding, column-wheel-controlled chronograph movement with a 70-hour power reserve; the other, called Premier Chronograph 42, is equipped with a movement that Breitling refers to as Caliber 13, a modified and COSC chronometer-certified version of the rugged and reliable ETA Valjoux 7750. Both watches have 42-mm stainless steel cases; the B01 models feature sapphire casebacks with a view of the movement. The B01 offers dials in blue and silver-and-black “panda” colors, along with either nubuck or alligator leather straps or steel bracelets.
In keeping with the recently revamped Breitling design codes, the B01 models with in-house movements are distinguishable from the others by their two-register chronograph dial design, with subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock. The Chronograph 42 with sourced movements, on the other hand, have three-register dials with chronograph counters at 12 and 6 o’clock, small seconds at 9 o’clock, and date window at 3 o’clock. Dial options are blue or black; the watches are mounted on leather straps or steel bracelets.
Simpler complications round out the other two “mainline” Premier models — the Premier Automatic 40, with small seconds at 6 o’clock, powered by the self-winding Breitling Caliber 37 (based on the ETA 2895-2), in a 40-mm steel case and available with a blue, silver, or anthracite dial; and the Premier Automatic 40 Day & Date, which features the day of the week at 12 o’clock and the date at 6 o’clock, and whose 40-mm steel case contains a Breitling Caliber 45 (a modified ETA 2834-2). Both watches are available on nubuck or alligator leather straps and stainless steel bracelets; both movements are chronometer-certified.
Getting back to my earlier reference to Bentley, it was revealed at the Summit that the partnership between Breitling and Bentley Motors, initiated in 2003, will continue, albeit with some changes. Breitling for Bentley, which had been developed as a sub-brand with its own design DNA, will be phased out in favor of special Bentley-branded editions incorporated into Breitling’s existing product families. The first of these is the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley British Racing Green.
The watch, like its brethren in the new Premier B01 family, is equipped with the B01 Caliber and features a two-register dial layout and a date at 6 o’clock. The striking dial in British racing green is complememted by either a matching leather strap or a sporty steel bracelet. Bentley branding appears in the form of the classic winged logo on the clear sapphire caseback and in a badge on the left side of the 42-mm stainless steel case inscribed with “Bentley,” which was inspired by the dashboard of the 1929 supercharged “Blower” Bentley model.
Kern says that the Premier collection will serve as the stage for much of Breitling’s vintage-look designs going forward, and that Bentley editions will fit into other Breitling families based on whether the cars that inspire them are historical or modern. It’s difficult to picture, for example, how Bentley branding would work in, say, a Superocean model, but needless to say, the concept is an intriguing one. U.S. retail prices on the new models, which will debut at retail in early 2019, were not available but will range from approximately $4,000 for the Automatic 40 to around $8,000 for models in the Chronograph B01 series.