Breitling: The Premier returns, 80 years later

Breitling: The Premier returns, 80 years later

Introducing six new Premier models, updated with a heritage-inspired design and equipped with the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01. Their launch coincides with a new book chronicling the genesis of Breitling’s most collectible chronograph.

By 1943, Willy Breitling had built a name for himself as a maker of aircraft instrumentation and tool watches that met the functional needs of wartime. But the third-generation Breitling founder also dreamt of a time after the war, when utility would give way to unbridled optimism. With that future in mind, he designed a series of elegant chronographs and assigned them the best materials, the best finishings and the best calibers. He called his new line the Premier.

Reintroduced by Breitling in 2021, the Premier Heritage chronograph collection revived Willy’s dream of seeing the functional chronograph made undeniably elegant and infinitely wearable — in his words, “the unmistakable stamp of impeccable taste.” Today, the Swiss watchmaker adds six new references to the Premier assortment, all of them powered by the self-winding Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01.

“We are committed to preserving Willy Breitling’s bold vision of combining the precision of a professional tool watch with the sophistication of a modern dress watch,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “The Premier embodied the hopeful energy that emerged in the postwar era, and we are proud to continue that tradition with a modern-retro version for our times.”

breitling new premier 1

The height of precision, innovation, and style

Breitling’s specialty has always been the chronograph, and each of the brand’s three founding fathers had a role in shaping it. From the moment he started his business in 1884, Leon Breitling put his expertise into perfecting the pocket-watch timekeeper. His son Gaston introduced the first wrist-worn models that included an independent pusher at 2 o’clock. And his grandson Willy added the second pusher at 4 o’clock — establishing the form of the modern chronograph that is used across all of watchmaking today. Willy would then go on to take the family vision one step further, giving the chronograph style as well as function.

The new Premier B01 Chronograph 42 assortment also lives up to Willy Breitling’s uncompromising technical standards. The six models are powered by the self-winding Breitling Caliber 01, a manufacture movement designed for maximum precision, reliability, and functionality. First released in 2009, it is one of the most highly regarded chronograph movements in the industry. As with all of Breitling’s mechanical calibers, each one has achieved the rigorous COSC certification for accuracy within -4 and +6 seconds per day.

Just as grueling is Breitling’s own in-house 16-year-aging equivalent that includes shock testing (approx. 60,000 shocks at 500 G), crown testing (more than 100,000 crown winds), winding of the oscillating weight (3,456,000 weight turns) and chronograph pusher testing (approx. 5,840 start-stop-reset engagements).

breitling new premier 2

The latest iteration of the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01 found in the new Premier chronograph was redesigned in 2022 and features a trimmer profile and more compact oscillating weight that can be admired through the transparent sapphire-crystal caseback. The movement comes with a five-year warranty and provides an approximate 70-hour power reserve. In keeping with Willy’s desire to marry usability with elegance, the Premier now comes with a 100 m (10 bar) water resistance.

To create the design of the new Premier, Breitling preserved distinctive vintage-Premier design details, including the smooth fixed bezel, twin-register dial, streamlined rectangular pushers, and applied Arabic numerals. At 42 mm, the case diameter is slightly larger than the 40 mm found on the existing B09 (manual-wind) models. The tone-on-tone subdials with chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock and running seconds at 9 o’clock lend a polished style, while new dial shades in salmon, blue, green, black, and cream add a contemporary twist to the stainless-steel models. A further variation in 18K red gold features a classic cream dial. The watches come on a choice of classic alligator leather strap or sleek 7-row metal bracelet.

breitling new premier 3

The Premier’s journey revealed in a new book

The launch of the new Premier B01 Chronograph 42 coincides with the publication of Premier Story, part three of the Watch Stories series that chronicles some of the world’s most celebrated timepieces. Author Fred Mandelbaum, Breitling’s official brand historian and the world’s foremost Premier collector, guides readers through Willy Breitling’s ultimately successful (but often tumultuous) quest to take the humble chronograph out of the aircraft cockpit and onto the wrists of the world’s style-setters — a journey that began 80 years ago.

“As Breitling’s historian, I’ve been living the wildest dreams of any passionate collector,” says author Fred Mandelbaum. “For this book, I was granted unprecedented access to the Breitling company archives and, through Gregory Breitling, son of founding-father Willy Breitling, was privileged to gain access to the family collection of watches, documents, photographs, and a wealth of personal memories.”

Illustrated in exquisite photography, including rarely-before-seen vintage watches, Premier Story not only provides an account of the Premier’s history, but also offers invaluable resources for collectors on how to authenticate vintage models, along with how to date pieces by hands-shape, logo, and serial number. A chapter on calibers reveals the evolution of the Premier movements from 1943 to 2023, with content connected by QR code to videos of the intricate mechanisms in action. Premier Story is a fascinating — and exceptionally practical — deep dive into one of history’s great watches.

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