Breitling has had a stellar run the last few years. It has reinvented its core collections, transformed its shops into loft-style showrooms and cherry picked classic pieces from its back catalogue, reissuing them in fastidious detail. In 2020 it has already released two noteworthy new watches, the Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition, part of its long-running collaboration with the luxury car company, and the Breitling Avenger Automatic GMT 45 Red Arrows, a tribute to the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.
The latest release is arguably the most exciting, certainly for fan boys – the new Breitling Top Time. A limited edition chronograph of 2,000 pieces it takes elements from the Sixties Top Time collection and adds new design details and proportions.
That original collection was instigated by Willy Breitling, grandson to the company founder Léon, who envisaged a chronograph for a younger audience. He announced that his brand’s new watches were “particularly suited to the needs of the young and active professionals. We are designing a superb range of ultramodern chronographs, led by a completely new model, the Top Time.”
The sports watch was a hit with the professional, style-conscious men of the swelling Sixties youth movement, a demographic for whom a smartly designed wristwatch had become a must-have. The Top Time subsequently became a vintage collectors’ favourite, on account of its distinctive dial. Its mirrored black and white triangles are known as a ‘Zorro’ dial, an affectionate tribute to the disguise worn by acrobatic, rapier-wielding hero of the pulp books.
It is also distinctive for being a James Bond watch – and the first modified Bond watch, kitted out by Q branch to include a Geiger counter in 1965’s Thunderball.
“Here we have a Geiger counter, useful and unobtrusive. The sweep hand takes the radioactivity count,” says Q, played by Desmond Llewleyn. “It’s waterproof, of course.”
“Of course,” replies Sean Connery’s Bond, sarcastically.
That watch, the same one worn by Connery, sold at Christie’s in 2013 for £103,875. Its seller
had found it in a car boot sale for £25.
Breitling’s re-edition after 55 years does not come with a Geiger counter. Instead it has a 41mm stainless steel case, a power reserve of 48 hours and water resistance to 30 meters. Each of the edition of 2,000 is numbered.
It is also the first watch offered with a blockchain-based digital passport which means owners will be able to “confirm the authenticity and ownership of the watch with a single click… and transfer ownership with a simple blockchain transaction.” In other words it acts as a virtual “box and papers”.
A youthful concession the like of which you imagine Willy Breitling would have wholeheartedly approved.
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