Over the decades, Breitling has burned a wide variety of evocative names into the minds of watch enthusiasts everywhere. The Navitimer, the Superocean, the Aerospace, Breitling for Bentley, and more have all left marks on the industry, but one of Breitling’s most famous mid-century product lines has been absent from its current lineup for far too long. The Top Time was one of Breitling’s sportiest, most youth-oriented models in the 1960s, helping to shape the sports watch landscape during a time of monumental design shifts. After years of dormancy Breitling has now revived one of the Top Time’s most iconic references, the Ref. 2003, for the new Breitling Top Time Limited Edition.
While upsized to a more modern 41 mm, the stainless steel case is solidly faithful in form to the ‘60s original. The unadorned narrow bezel, simple straight lugs and tall piston pushers are all here, keeping the ethos of the Top Time Limited Edition firmly rooted to the original. While the case is true to the ‘60s in form, one drawback is that it’s also extremely faithful to the time period in terms of water resistance. Breitling rates this case at only 30 meters, ensuring this sports watch should be dry weather only.
Where Breitling’s classic style is really allowed to run free is the dial. The Top Time Limited Edition revives the classic Ref. 2003, known among collectors as the “Zorro dial” for the mask-like appearance, or the “bow tie” for obvious reasons. This stark, dramatic splash of black on white is a refreshing alternative to the traditional panda dial format and serves to make the subdials stand out immediately at first glance. Another ‘60s throwback is the use of an outer decimal scale, rather than the more typical tachymeter or pulsations scale. While not as dramatic or situationally useful as some of those others, the decision to keep with a decimal track maintains the handsome visual symmetry of an already well balanced dial. One way this new revival sets itself apart from the original, however, is the vibrant use of red as an accent color. While the Ref. 2003 also shares the red accents on the central chronograph seconds and the 30-minute chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock, the Top Time Limited Edition takes things a step further with vibrant red on the central hours and minutes. It’s an intense color, but in just the right quantity to make the dial pop on the wrist without becoming overwhelming.
Breitling powers the Top Time Limited Edition with the Valjoux 7753-based Caliber 23 automatic chronograph movement. In addition to a small seconds and 30 minute chronograph, this movement offers COSC certified chronometer accuracy along with 48 hours of power reserve and a smooth 28,800 bph sweep.
The Breitling Top Time Limited Edition comes paired with a textured brown nubuck strap in cocoa brown. The softness and textured finish play well off the vintage feel of the case and dial, but a black rally strap would also be an ideal combination.
While the Top Time Limited Edition is an impressive sporty revival for Breitling, this watch also serves as a test for Breitling’s new blockchain-based digital verification system. Each Top Time Limited Edition will be paired with a unique blockchain “digital passport,” which can be used for everything from scheduling warranty service online to digitally authenticating each watch. Owners can even sell their Top Time Limited Editions through a one-click blockchain transaction system. It’s an interesting concept, and time will tell if Breitling chooses to roll it out on a larger scale.
Only 2,000 examples of the Breitling Top Time Limited Edition will be made, currently available exclusively online through Breitling’s e-commerce platform with availability from authorized dealers upon request later this year. MSRP for the Top Time Limited Edition stands at $4,990. For more information, visit the Breitling website.