April 25, 2016
by Ariel Adams
Occasionally, I like to mix up our format of watch reviews, so allow me once again to present you with a combo car and watch review. The goal is to look at each of these items independently, as well as to examine how appropriately they go together. For me, this review of a Bentley automobile and a Breitling for Bentley watch is a long time coming. The two luxury brands continue to have one of the few successful watch+car partnerships – which is sort of funny thing in the watch world since there is so much overlap when it comes to the reasons why people like automobiles and why they like timepieces. Specifically, I’m looking at the Bentley Mulsanne Speed car, and the Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S watch. What these two items have in common is the Bentley branding, even though one is an “ultra luxury” sports sedan produced by Bentley and the other is a luxury watch produced by Breitling in collaboration with Bentley.
Given the complexity of producing a dual-branded timepiece with a watch maker’s name and a car maker’s name, it should not be a surprise that not everyone thinks Breitling and Bentley make good bedfellows. I’d like to talk for a brief moment on this element of the watch world because I think it does merit some discussion. Most traditional watch collectors who like pieces meant for driving or the world of racing don’t seem to like watches that are actually co-branded with a car company. The question is why? I believe this is because of a deeper desire to see watches made by watch makers and cars made by car makers. Combining the two might seem like an artificial attempt to make products that appeal to both audiences while not really adding anything to the equation.
While I agree that this is often true, more conservative minds might easily neglect to consider that the best “car watches” are really about celebrating two worlds that someone might equally enjoy. A properly dual-branded watch of this type should never forget that it is a watch, should not be tacky, but at the same time allow a watch lover to enjoy their passion without drawbacks. While seemingly simple in theory, getting this formula right is hard to do. Even with their overall business success, not a lot of Breitling for Bentley watches have struck a harmonic chord with me. But a few have, and this Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S is among the admittedly few Breitling for Bentley watches that I quite like.
With a price around the same as many of the “options” in a Bentley Mulsanne Speed car, the Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S watch wasn’t designed specifically for this car, but generally to evoke a “Bentley theme” in a relatively robust all-around useful luxury lifestyle sports watch. Compared to a lot of the Breitling for Bentley watches this one is toned down in style, but still has the showiness most Bentley owners are probably looking for.
This particular Bentley Mulsanne Speed has a particular set of options that includes a Bamford Watch Department watch case as well as an overall look I tend to associate with some of Bamford’s tastes. George Bamford is a rather prolific Bentley collector so he gets to do cool stuff like adding something from his company as an option for these higher-end Bentley Mulsanne Speed cars and other Bentley Mulliner products. George himself has been known to be showy, but is more demure in his very British way of evoking luxury through a combination of being a bit avant-garde and a bit restrained. For that reason, you’ll understand why I identify the lack of too many body embellishments on the Bentley Mulsanne Speed exterior as well as the controversial-to-some matte black wheels on the car with Bamford-style design. This comes from a guy who made his name in the watch world by after-market customizing Rolex watches – often coating them in all-black for a look that is similar to the car in theme.
As mentioned above, perhaps the most interesting interior detail for us watch guys is what is located between the two rear passenger seats in a “hidden” storage area also designed for a humidor. Fold down a compartment cover, and there is a specially designed (if not amusingly impractical) storage container for a carbon fiber and metal watch storage cylinder. No one actually told me about this detail, and I was very charmed to find it as part of my usual snooping around of cool details which abound inside of high-end automobiles such as this. You can, of course, buy the watch cylinder individually from Bamford Watch Department for a the tidy sum of £1,500.
You’ll see Mulliner branding in various spots on this Bentley Mulsanne Speed, as that is the name for Bentley’s in-house customization shop. Mulliner cars are those which have bespoke elements made for clients, and that shop is where all the most exclusive Bentley cars are made. What really separates them from most other high-end production cars is the level of hand-craftsmanship as well as personalization options. In addition to the mostly black and polished steel surfaces in the cabin of this Bentley Mulsanne Speed, you’ll find some sky blue color accents on the leather which makes up the plush seating and that wraps the steering wheel.
The Mulsanne collection is currently Bentley’s most exclusive range of models and it also happens to be massive in size, weighing in at just under 6,000 pounds (about three tons). It is also about 18 feet long which perhaps explains why I lovingly refer to this automobile as a “land yacht.” Don’t let its massive heft fool you, though, because this baby can haul with its twin turbocharged 6.8 V8 engine that allows this precious brick of metal and finely made materials to reach 60mph in just 4.9 seconds. Off the line acceleration is impressive (and fun), but in the corners – despite a slew of fancy electronic aids and a sophisticated adjustable air suspension – you know you are basically piloting an ICBM that is most happy going in a linear path.
With that said, it is perhaps a bit ironic that I chose to pair the car with a watch called the “Light Body.” Breitling calls the watch that because of its relatively light titanium case. Breitling recently released an even lighter version of the Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body in an all-carbon case. The watch is 45mm wide and has some really lovely curves and angles along with specially-designed chronograph pushers. It’s a nice combination of strength and sport, mixed with a sort of stately elegance which nevertheless doesn’t fail to loudly announced itself when you enter the room. Both the car and watch are designed to be shown off, but justify their existence by being capable performers.