Watch criticism is awash with cliché, so you’ll have to forgive me for returning to one of many truisms used in the form, which is that watches and cars go together like horse and cart. In my defense, so worn is the path trodden by watch and automotive marques in pursuit of bottom-line swelling synergies, or whatever they call them these days, that it’s hard to avoid returning to common analogies.
But let’s not allow that to distract from the success of the liaison behind Breitling’s laboriously named Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley Centenary Limited Editions. These are a decidedly good-looking pair of watches, marrying some of the British marque’s epicurean gloss to Breitling’s already bonny Premier design.
The first thing of note here is that these bring the Bentley name back into the Breitling garage. Breitling otherwise divorces the two so that ‘Breitling for Bentley’ serves as a sub brand (with its own website), a division the new management headed up by former IWC boss Georges Kern obviously thinks has its limitations.
Dial side up, there’s nothing explicit that pairs the two names. Instead, we get a brown burl elm dial and a brown quilted calfskin strap, both of which owe their provenance to Bentley interior schemes. You have to flip the watch onto its side to find any signage – on the left flank, there’s a Bentley-engraved plate.
The two versions are separated only by their case materials, one in steamy 18-karat red gold and one in stainless steel, limited to 200 and 1,000 pieces respectively. Both are fueled by Breitling’s own B01 automatic chronograph movement, which after a decade in service begins to bear the hallmarks of an industry mainstay.
Vitals aside, these are aesthetically uncomplicated watches and all the better for it. Beyond their wooden façades, the two-tone bi-compax dials are functional as well as easy on the eye. Breitling deserves credit for avoiding the fussy Bentley knurling effect that clogs up the look of so many of its Breitling for Bentley models, and for resisting the temptation to engorge the case size (these are a very wearable 42mm in diameter), or indeed to add hackneyed vintage-style chronograph pushers.
The end result is balanced very nicely and, you’d suspect, would have worked just as well without the Bentley connection, a good yardstick by which to measure the merits of any watch made as part of a collaboration.
The gold version is $28,000, the steel $10,200.