The Premier collection stands out and apart from Breitling’s classic pilot and dive watches, while still leaving all its distinctive Breitling features intact. We review the flagship model of this recently launched line, with original photos by Olaf Köster. In marked contrast to the Navitimer 1 with its instrument-like tracks around the dial, or the Chronomat with its structural unidirectional rotating bezel, the timepieces in Breitling’s Premier collection embody understatement. But if we look to the past, we can see they’re clearly identifiable as Breitling watches. Most people who choose a Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 today weren’t even born when the original Premier watches were launched in the 1940s. During that time of turmoil and new beginnings, watches in the Premier line were intended to convey reliability, value and a touch of elegance. These merits are welcome today as well and give us a chance to step away from our fast-paced world for a bit of peace and quiet.
And so the Premier collection not only recalls a different era with its name but also hits the same marks with its design as it did back in the 1940s. It is also “the first modern Breitling collection that stands for elegance in everyday life,” according to Breitling CEO Georges Kern. Our test watch, the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 , is the flagship of the collection. Its name makes it abundantly clear that it is equipped with Breitling manufacture movement 01, available with either a silver or blue dial with black counters. A special Bentley version is available with a British racing green dial and the Bentley Centenary Limited Edition is also available with a brown dial and a red-gold case. Our test watch was housed in stainless steel. For the sake of clarity, let us mention here that the collection also includes chronographs with ETA/Valjoux 7750-based movements and various three-hand watches with a small seconds subdial or weekday/date displays.
Speaking of the date, on the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42, it is easily legible at its location at 6 o’clock. Its prominent placement is made possible thanks to the reduction of displays with the chronograph movement 01, which omits the 12-hour counter and lets the offset position of the date between 4 and 5 o’clock shift to a straight up-and-down position at 6 o’clock. The two black subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock present an attractive and readable “panda” face on a white background. This bicompax arrangement places the chronograph minutes counter at 3 o’clock and a permanent small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. This gives the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 a very balanced appearance and follows the current trend of chronographs with only two counters. Of course this only allows the timing of intervals of up to 30 minutes, but let’s be honest – who among us in these rapid-fire times needs to record extended time spans, especially since the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 was designed for “powering down.” Powering down is no problem with this Breitling manufacture movement. With its power reserve of 70 hours, the timepiece can easily be taken off the wrist and set aside for an extended “time out” without any worry of its stopping, especially since the rate results are shown to be stable despite gradually falling amplitudes. The same is true for the operation of the chronograph. The timepiece runs at an average rate of +2.4 seconds per day with amplitudes around 265 degrees. It provides chronometer-level quality in every situation, a long-standing Breitling standard for all of its timepieces.
But the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 shows the instrumental nature Breitling is known for – more than merely chronometer performance. The center-mounted stopwatch hand has a red tip that travels around a delicate but fully legible tachymeter track, which is expertly printed on the black flange ring around the dial, and glides above the seconds track that is divided in thirds to reflect the 4-Hz rhythm of the Caliber 01 automatic movement. The precision and accuracy Breitling is known for is beautifully staged beneath a domed anti-glare sapphire crystal that reveals a certain retro charm. It is a nod to the past, just like the Premier logo on the dial: Premier models in the 1940s were the first Breitling watches to bear the product name on the dial. Its understated elegance extends even as far as the minimal application of luminous material on the hour and minutes hands – enough to barely read the time in poor lighting conditions. By contrast, legibility during the day is excellent.
The watch’s sporty stainless-steel case boasts both polished and brushed-finish surfaces and is pressure-resistant and water-resistant to 10 bar (100 meters). Its 42.5-mm diameter meets current tastes – while it’s not nearly as large as other Breitling watches, it’s definitely not small. Its 13.81-mm height is not readily apparent thanks to carefully considered architecture that ensures that the watch doesn’t look overpowering. A narrow, stepped bezel and angular threaded caseback with a sapphire viewing window overlap a smaller midsection with engraved grooves along its body. The crown does not screw down and is easy to grasp and turn for manual winding, and can be pulled out smoothly and firmly into the individual operating positions. The modern-looking, elongated square pusher at 2 o’clock requires some pressure to start the chronograph function. It’s much easier to stop and reset using a similar pusher at 4 o’clock. The lugs are steep and angular; polished top surfaces add to the overall elegance of the Premier B01 Chronograph 42. It also fits well and snugly on a smaller wrist as the lugs bend downward. The leather strap is fastened to the lugs with curved spring bars. But for a larger wrist, the strap almost feels a bit too short – especially if you need to insert the prong into the last hole to fasten it. Otherwise, the solution is comfortable with side buttons to open the elegantly simple, single-sided folding clasp. The Premier B01 Chronograph 42 delivers a timeless elegance that is not typical of other Breitling models. Equipped with a powerful, modern in-house movement that shows superior rate results, it is worth taking a fresh look for anyone who has ever found Breitling watches to be too bold.