As statements go, it was certainly a bold one. Just a year into his tenure as CEO of Breitling Georges Kern launched the most un-Breitling Breitling ever by resurrecting the Premier from the brand’s archives. Suddenly a name more associated with oversized pilots’ watches is now on a dial of a watch that would be best described as ‘elegant’.
However, this diversification isn’t limited to Breitling; over the last year brands such as Vacheron Constantin with its FiftySix and Jaeger LeCoultre with its Polaris collection have made a very deliberate bid for the new young and style-conscious watch buyer, which is exactly where the Premier is positioning itself.
It’s a range that is robust but refined, vintage but with modern touches and at a price point that doesn’t make your eyes water. And, after reading the rest of this article, it will most definitely be going to the top of your watch wish list.
The Breitling Premier’s Design
The new Premier is not so much a reissue as a reimagining. Elements of the old watch are still to be found in the typeface, the style of the hands and its overall appearance, but things have been updated for the 21st century.
“The new Premier models allow us to reflect on that impressive past, but of course, they tell their own new story: their elegance, performance, and quality are everything you would expect from a contemporary Breitling watch,” says Kern.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42
In practice that means a larger case – 40mm or 42mm – as opposed to the original 35mm, which is just too small for contemporary tastes and, rather than a fully convex dial there is a convex area in the centre in homage.
The 1940s Premier collection was solely chronographs, which makes sense given Breitling’s prowess with that particular complication, however the design team made a decision to expand the range this time around to include a time only and a day-date, which allowed them to offer options at a lower price point.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Caseback
Giving people the chance to cherry pick how much they invest in their Premier was the decision to include a variety of movements from the ETA modifications B37 and B45 – for the time only and day/date respectively – through a Valjoux 7750 chronograph (one of the most well-known and well-respected chronograph base calibres in the industry).
And then there’s the Manufacture Breitling Calibre 01. This is the brand’s first in-house movement, which it has developed and produced in partnership with Tudor in what might be one of the first examples of cross-brand collaboration of recent years.
Also added to the range is the first example of the new way in which the brand is going to utilise its relationship with British car brand Bentley. Rather than a separate Breitling for Bentley line, there will be special editions in core collections such as the gorgeous green iteration of the Premier B01 Chronograph 42.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley British Racing Green
How To Wear It
As well as differing dial colours to choose from there are various strap options too, including a more formal take on Breitling’s signature Pilot bracelet, with longer narrower links to emphasise the dress rather than sport nature of the collection.
As for how to wear them, Kern would like you to take inspiration from brand ambassadors Adam Driver and Brad Pitt, though that just means looking brooding in white tees and jeans. If you’d like to pair your Premier with something slightly more on-trend then think Off-White’s take on business casual – tailored trousers with a more relaxed jumper or, if you’re feeling brave, a tracksuit under a tailored coat.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley British Racing Green
This is a watch that straddles sporty and dress, so play with that. Just make sure you retire it for evening wear; chronographs and cocktails don’t match.
Three Of The Best Breitling Premiers
Breitling Premier Automatic 40 (Anthracite Dial)
While this also comes on a blue dial and steel bracelet or with a silver dial and black leather strap, this cool anthracite grey and brown croc combination is the one that feels like the original Premier’s natural successor.
Powering it is Breitling’s take on an ETA 2895-2, the B37, and it is good to 100m. The 40mm case is large enough for modern wrists but still has vintage appeal, while the outer seconds ring is a lovely nod to the tachymeter scale that was on the original and also reminds you that, for all its elegance, this is still a robust everyday wearer.
Premier B01 Chronograph 42 (Panda Dial)
Without a doubt, this is the star of the show. Everything is perfectly proportioned, from the 42mm case with its multi-step bezel and integrated pushers to the steeply angled lugs that allow the watch to sit low on the wrist, underplaying the cases thickness. There’s also the beautifully laid-out dial that, despite featuring chronograph sub dials and a tachymeter scale, is remarkably legible.
And the insides are just as impressive because the movement is the in-house Manufacture Breitling Calibre 01, on which the brand has a partnership with Tudor. Add to that, the fact that everyone loves a panda and you’ve got a watch that, for £6,600, is an absolute steal.
Premier Automatic Day & Date 40
Apparently it was the Rolex Day-Date President that first had the day of the week written in full at 12 o’clock and since then it has definitely remained a bit of a Marmite design feature. However, this Breitling does make a convincing argument in its favour. Thanks to the prominent indices, the day window doesn’t make the dial feel top heavy, while the date window is legible but not obtrusive. In its black dial and steel bracelet iteration, it has a sophisticated masculinity that makes it feel a touch more edgy than your usual sports watch. Pair with one of this season’s shearling jackets for the perfect mix of retro and modern.
History Of The Breitling Premier
When most people think of the Breitling of the 1940s, it is the technical visage of Chronomat, which launched in 1942 and was the first to feature a rotating slide rule, that comes to mind. However, just a year later, Breitling decided to go completely against type and introduced an elegant, almost dress-style watch complete with a chronograph to its portfolio.
It still had a case that was anti-magnetic, anti-shock and waterproof, but if the Chronomat was intended to be worn by pilots then this was definitely aimed at those who were keeping their feet firmly on the ground.
1945 Breitling Premier Ref.777
“The Chronomat of the 1940s was a tool watch whose clear purpose was to facilitate mathematical operations, while the Premier models were elegant and stylish dress watches,” explains Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “I would also point out that for the last decades of its [recent] history, Breitling was essentially positioned as a pilots’ watch brand, so a large part of its rich history has been overlooked.”
Because the Premier was overshadowed by the pilot narrative, it is hard to know exactly why Breitling thought it was a good idea to launch a dress watch when World War II was keeping most men occupied. Although, given Swiss neutrality, maybe it was a watch intended solely for the domestic market.
1946 Breitling Premier Ref.734
However, its relatively unknown status within the Breitling canon makes it a watch for real vintage aficionados and a style that was ripe for reintroduction. “It was a logical move to introduce a watch line inspired by the elegant and highly-regarded Premier models of the 1940s,” says Kern. “In those days, they made an uncompromising style statement that [reflected] an important part of our heritage.”