Most of you know at this point that Breitling has been undergoing a big change in identity since Georges Kern came in as CEO last year. Foregoing the super-macho reputation the brand had been saddled with, we’ve seen more vintage-inspired modern pieces that look to Breitling’s past to influence their newer releases. The brand motto “Legendary Future” drives that point home for anyone who hadn’t picked up on it. Now at their first ever “Breitling Summit” in London, the brand has released, among others, their new “Premier” collection which hearkens back to watches from the 1940s that shared the same name. There is a range of models in the B01 chronograph, Valjoux Chronograph, Day-Date and Automatic lines within the Premier collection – so yeah, the Summit was a busy event indeed. A standout piece is the steel Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42, which is being introduced in three varieties: a panda dial; a blue dial model; and a surprisingly attractive green model that is cross-branded with Bentley that we’ll look at in a dedicated article. They all come with the choice of a leather strap or stainless steel bracelet.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 In Context
The redesigned Breitling Chronomat B01 Chronograph 44 presented a toned-down aesthetic for the brand, and this new collection is even more subtle and…vintagey. Breitling and Georges Kern admits that the brand is in an interesting position for it has to major groups of dedicated followers who are Breitling fans for two very different reasons. One group loves the big, somewhat brash, technical-looking Breitling of late, while the other collects and enthuses over vintage achievements of the other “Flying B.” The Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 is an truly cleverly placed model that falls right in between the two – although clearly is on the more vintage-inspired side. There are a lot of vintage-inspired chronographs that check all the boxes out there that can be had for around $8,500, but the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 collection could prove to be a newcomer that presents stiff competition for the usual suspects from Omega, IWC, TAG Heuer, and more.
Let’s take a closer look at the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 collection.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Hands-On Impressions
The Premier B01 Chronograph 42 is a breath of fresh air after a long series of rather bold – and often confusing – Breitling chronographs, like the Chronomat, Navitimer, and Super Avenger. With just two sub-dials, minimal dial text and a 42-millimeter case sizing that, at this day and age, we could call borderline safe or conservative. Any smaller and it would be too far off to vintage, any larger and it’d too modern.
On the wrist or just simply in the hand, the Premier B01 is one of those rare watches that gets better and better looking over time – not the other way around. Its design team was directed by Guy Bove, one of my favorite (and definitely one of the most under-the-radar and consequently most under-appreciated) watch designers of our time. Sadly, he had just left Breitling, but I absolutely see his impact on this watch. It’s almost like having a favorite car designer or painter, even. Once you figure out the key elements to their work, you’ll recognize their strokes wherever they show up.
The watch is beautifully proportionate. The sub-dials are a tiny bit small on the images, but they work rather differently in real life. Everything is large enough to ensure good legibility and utility – hands, indices, tachymeter scale, date, crown and pushers. We had a Transocean Chronograph from a few years ago around and it had idiotically long lugs, another “feature” the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph has scaled back on big time so now those look and feel good once again. Ergonomics are great with the straps installed deep between the lugs with a curved spring bar so that they follow the case line more closely.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Case
The case proportions here are pretty ideal, at 42mm wide and 13.65mm thick. We don’t yet have a lug-t0-lug size right now, but will add that to our review once we get one of these puppies in. Subtle, integrated pushers and the smart, multi-step steel bezel make for an unobtrusive chronograph. The Premier hides its heft and thickness extremely well, thanks to that low case profile and the polished bezel that narrows quickly and in multiple steps. It is only now, that I’m looking at this photo above that I realize how intricate and unique that design is. This is precisely the sort of stuff that one should absolutely expect from watches that cost not $4k but double that – manufacturing and finishing this bezel must be a pain compared an ordinary one. The lugs are cut off at a steep angle, Guy worked his magic at cutting these down to a length that makes the case wearable for those with smaller sized wrists.
The sapphire crystal on both the dial and exhibition case back side have anti-reflective coating – one that turns inexplicably blue from the powerful light of my flash –, while the watch has a 100m water resistance rating. Overall, Breitling got the case proportions right and didn’t make any unforced errors here.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Dial
The dial on the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 gets a lot of the big and the small things right. While some will find tachymeter scales to be vestigial and an aesthetic net-loss – I know our Bilal does –, this one isn’t too glaring or distracting. It certainly is the white panda dial version that will stand out the most, but I have to say that I’m intrigued by the green Bentley model quite a bit – it’s such a dark green, it’s almost black under all but the absolute brightest lighting conditions.
Little details like the play with different textures between hands, indices, dial and sub-dial surface treatments work out great as well. It’s coherent how main time indications are shiny, the sand-blasted(-looking) dial contrasts against the shiny hands the concentric circles on the sub-dials make reading them easier, while the applied B logo is just another nice touch. The date windows match the dials for each of the watches, which always goes a long way. Kudos to Breitling for knocking these brushed dials out of the park. No clutter, three good-looking color options, a handsome two-sub-dial layout, and a wearable size.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Movement
Breitling used their Manufacture Calibre 01 (aka B01) movement for the Premier B01 Chronograph 42. The Caliber 01, a movement that they have started supplying Tudor with, impresses with what I suspect is near the top of the list when it comes to what contemporary watch buyers want from a movement: a long power reserve that doesn’t sacrifice accuracy. Operating at 4Hz with a 70-hour power reserve, spiced up with a column wheel and vertical clutch as well as it should be, renders the B01 a properly modern chronograph caliber.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Final Thoughts
Overall, the Breitling Premier B01 is a damn nice watch that, after first impressions I can report, looks and feels great on the wrist. It’s a much more refined, more tasteful watch that gets a lot of things right – and does so on the wrist more so than on my rushed photographs. Three solid dial options are way more preferable to a bunch more that are mixed in quality and try to please every type of buyer. You can, however, dress it up or down since they’re all available on several strap types as well as on a rather bonkers-looking steel bracelet.
Pricing for the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 is as follows: the panda dial in silver (ref. AB0118221G1P1), and the blue dial (ref. AB0118A61C1A1) start at $7,950 on a leather strap, $8,400 on a crocodile strap, and $8,700 on the Navitimer-style steel bracelet. As for the Bentley green dial (ref. AB0118A11L1X1), it is available on a green leather strap for $8,500 and the steel bracelet for $8,800. Learn more on their website at Breitling.com