The Premier Returns, 80 Years After It First Took The Chronograph From Tool Watch To Style Statement
By 1943, Willy Breitling had built a name for himself as a maker of aircraft instrumentation and tool watches that met the functional needs of wartime. But the third-generation Breitling founder also dreamt of a time after the war, when utility would give way to unbridled optimism. With that future in mind, he designed a series of elegant chronographs and assigned them the best materials, the best finishings and the best calibers. He called his new line the Premier.
Reintroduced by Breitling in 2021, the Premier Heritage chronograph collection revived Willy’s dream of seeing the functional chronograph made undeniably elegant and infinitely wearable — in his words, “the unmistakable stamp of impeccable taste.” Today, the Swiss watchmaker adds six new references to the Premier assortment, all of them powered by the self-winding Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01.
“We are committed to preserving Willy Breitling’s bold vision of combining the precision of a professional tool watch with the sophistication of a modern dress watch,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “The Premier embodied the hopeful energy that emerged in the postwar era, and we are proud to continue that tradition with a modern-retro version for our times.”
The Height of Precision, Innovation, and Style
Breitling’s specialty has always been the chronograph, and each of the brand’s three founding fathers had a role in shaping it. From the moment he started his business in 1884, Leon Breitling put his expertise into perfecting the pocket-watch timekeeper. His son Gaston introduced the first wrist-worn models that included an independent pusher at 2 o’clock. And his grandson Willy added the second pusher at 4 o’clock — establishing the form of the modern chronograph that is used across all of watchmaking today. Willy would then go on to take the family vision one step further, giving the chronograph style as well as function.
The new Premier B01 Chronograph 42 assortment also lives up to Willy Breitling’s uncompromising technical standards. The six models are powered by the self-winding Breitling Caliber 01, a manufacture movement designed for maximum precision, reliability, and functionality. First released in 2009, it is one of the most highly regarded chronograph movements in the industry. As with all of Breitling’s mechanical calibers, each one has achieved the rigorous COSC certification for accuracy within -4 and +6 seconds per day.
Just as grueling is Breitling’s own in-house 16-year-aging equivalent that includes shock testing (approx. 60,000 shocks at 500 G), crown testing (more than 100,000 crown winds), winding of the oscillating weight (3,456,000 weight turns) and chronograph pusher testing (approx. 5,840 start-stop-reset engagements).
The latest iteration of the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01 found in the new Premier chronograph was redesigned in 2022 and features a trimmer profile and more compact oscillating weight that can be admired through the transparent sapphire-crystal caseback. The movement comes with a five-year warranty and provides an approximate 70-hour power reserve. In keeping with Willy’s desire to marry usability with elegance, the Premier now comes with a 100 m (10 bar) water resistance.
To create the design of the new Premier, Breitling preserved distinctive vintage-Premier design details, including the smooth fixed bezel, twin-register dial, streamlined rectangular pushers, and applied Arabic numerals. At 42 mm, the case diameter is slightly larger than the 40 mm found on the existing B09 (manual-wind) models. The tone-on-tone subdials with chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock and running seconds at 9 o’clock lend a polished style, while new dial shades in salmon, blue, green, black, and cream add a contemporary twist to the stainless-steel models.
A further variation in 18K red gold features a classic cream dial. The watches come on a choice of classic alligator leather strap or sleek 7-row metal bracelet.
The Premier’s Journey Revealed In A New Book
The launch of the new Premier B01 Chronograph 42 coincides with the publication of Premier Story, part three of the Watch Stories series that chronicles some of the world’s most celebrated timepieces. Author Fred Mandelbaum, Breitling’s official brand historian and the world’s foremost Premier collector, guides readers through Willy Breitling’s ultimately successful (but often tumultuous) quest to take the humble chronograph out of the aircraft cockpit and onto the wrists of the world’s style-setters — a journey that began 80 years ago.
“As Breitling’s historian, I’ve been living the wildest dreams of any passionate collector,” says author Fred Mandelbaum. “For this book, I was granted unprecedented access to the Breitling company archives and, through Gregory Breitling, son of founding-father Willy Breitling, was privileged to gain access to the family collection of watches, documents, photographs, and a wealth of personal memories.”
Illustrated in exquisite photography, including rarely-before-seen vintage watches, Premier Story not only provides an account of the Premier’s history, but also offers invaluable resources for collectors on how to authenticate vintage models, along with how to date pieces by hands shape, logo, and serial number. A chapter on calibers reveals the evolution of the Premier movements from 1943 to 2023, with content connected by QR code to videos of the intricate mechanisms in action. Premier Story is a fascinating — and exceptionally practical — deep dive into one of history’s great watches.
Breitling Welcomes The Ford Thunderbird To Its Top Time Classic Cars Collection
The 1960s was a decade of experimentation, fun, freedom, and energy. Whether cruising on a motorcycle or revving up a sports car, living life at full speed was the order of the day. Third-generation founder Willy Breitling felt this change of pace and set out to design an unconventional chronograph that captured the verve of the era. He called it the Top Time.
“The Top Time represented a break from traditional watch design for a generation that was breaking with convention in every way,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “We are going after that sense of freedom and fun with the 1960s-inspired Top Time Classic Cars collection, and are thrilled to once again partner with Ford to introduce the new Thunderbird model, along with updated versions of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, and Shelby Cobra chronographs.”
A best-selling collection in 2021, Top Time Classic Cars proved such a success, Breitling had no choice but to bring it back – this time with even more throttle.
Style and speed, with a powerful new engine
From the start, the Top Time was all about action, and it became a fast favorite among motor enthusiasts and the fashion set. One of the first chronographs that was equally sought after by both men and women, its bold, graphic designs took over magazines and the silver screen (the world’s favorite spy, James Bond, even wore an iteration in the 1965 movie Thunderball). That spirited tradition continues today with Breitling partnering with some of the coolest names in wheels to create its Top Time designs – brands like Deus Ex Machina and Triumph Motorcycles for bikes, Ford Thunderbird and Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, and Shelby Cobra for cars.
The updated Classic Cars collection now includes the Ford Thunderbird model with a red strap and clean white dial that draws the eye to the teal Thunderbird logo and red chronograph hands. The four watches feature the colors and emblems of their 1950s and 1960s sports car counterparts, and now all come with a brag-worthy new engine under the hood: the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01.
This exceptional manufacture movement, whose refined mechanics are visible through the open sapphire-crystal caseback, provides an approximately 70-hour power reserve and a 5-year warranty. First released in 2009, the Breitling 01 Caliber is one of the most highly regarded chronograph movements in the industry, designed for maximum precision, reliability, and functionality. As with all of Breitling’s mechanical calibers, each one has achieved the rigorous COSC certification. And as a manufacture movement, it must also pass a gruelling series of in-house shock, winding, and pusher tests. To house the caliber, the Top Time case has been enhanced and now provides an increased water resistance of 100 m (10 bar).
Design elements include the perforated leather racing strap, speed-measuring tachymeter scale, and contrasting “squircle” (not quite square, not quite round) subdials that are evocative of vintage dashboard gauges. And just like its style-driven 1960s predecessor, the Top Time’s 41-mm stainless-steel case is a comfortable size for car and watch lovers of all stripes.
The timeless cars behind the top time collection
The Ford Thunderbird was unveiled in 1954 at the first post-war Detroit auto show. It was touted as a fun-to-drive cabriolet that made its presence felt through its luxurious design, solid build, and dramatic tail fin. The Thunderbird was not so much about living life in the fast lane, as it was about cruising in comfort and style. The two first generations remain the most collectable models, nicknamed the “Classic Bird” (1955–1957) for early two-seaters and the “Square Bird” (1958–1960) for the later four-seat iterations.
The first-generation Ford Mustang, produced from 1964 to 1974, was compact and sleek. With some models suited to families and others ideal for speed-loving sportsters, it became the car of choice for hitting the road in hip 1960s America. It also featured in some of the era’s most popular movies. This living legend is still in production, but car buffs know that the coolest of all were those very first models that captured the freewheeling spirit of the sixties.
The second-generation Chevrolet Corvette, from the 1963 to 1967 model years, is the most sought-after version of the American legend. The “Sting Ray”, as it was known, took inspiration from a 1959 racing-model prototype. For 60 years, it has captured the imagination of car lovers around the world with its perfect combination of a low-profile body and a powerful engine that delivers performance whether on the road or on the track. It remains a classic to this day.
In the early 1960s, Le Mans winner Carrol Shelby imagined a car that combined British design with American racing engineering. He created the Shelby Cobra, a sports car that ingeniously matched a small, light chassis to a strong, reliable big-block engine. When it was introduced in 1962, the Cobra met with instant success and became the only American sports car to win the European FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship race series. The original Shelby Cobra remains blisteringly fast and is cherished by collectors to this day.
Introducing six new Premier models, updated with a heritage-inspired design and equipped with the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01. Their launch coincides with a new book chronicling the genesis of Breitling’s most collectible chronograph.