Breitling’s horological journey through three generations of the founding family was “very much the history of the chronograph,” notes the brand’s historian Fred Mandelbaum. When Breitling revived the historic Premier line in 2019 after a 50-plus-year hiatus, the brand aimed to capture that vintage flair in a modern interpretation. Today, the Swiss heritage watchmaker is adding six new Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 models, each in a 42mm case. Five are made of stainless steel and one of 18K rose gold, and all feature a COSC-certified manufacture caliber B01.
Breitling is synonymous with the chronograph. Through the early 20th century, the brand progressively developed its form and function with multiple patents as a utility timekeeper for the masses. But it was the third-generation leader Willy Breitling who elevated the family specialty, strategically turning the tool-watch chronograph into a style icon that we know today. Willy drew upon his business savvy to carve out a new category in the market for his dual-pusher chronograph as an everyday dress watch. Then came the Premier collection in 1943, which touted top-of-the-line quality and elegance for the fashionable set. These watches featured simple, clean designs inspired by the Art Deco style that was popular at the time. They were designed to be more refined and understated than Breitling’s other collections, which were primarily geared toward pilots and aviation enthusiasts.
The Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 collection was also notable for its use of chronograph complications, which allowed wearers to measure elapsed time with a high degree of accuracy. This made the watches popular with athletes, scientists, and other professionals who needed to measure time precisely. Over the years, the Breitling Premier collection continued to evolve and improve. The watches were updated with modern materials and technology while still maintaining their classic and timeless design.
Fast forward to 2019. Under the new management of Georges Kern, Breitling revived the Premier line to pay homage to the brand’s glorious past. Mike did a detailed review of the Premier B01 Chronograph here. Staying true to the original “Premier” spirit, the remake boasted “the best caliber, best material, and best design.” In 2021, the brand brought back the full 1940s lineup with four new styles in the Premier Heritage collection, which Ben delved into in a showdown here. Breitling has also collaborated with several notable figures and organizations to produce limited-edition Premier watches. Among them are Bentley Motors and the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows aerobatic display team.
The freshly unveiled Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 model we see today is essentially the 2019 execution with a cosmetic makeover in line with the 2021 Heritage releases. The design details of the new Premier are more faithful to the distinctive features of the ancestral models. The signature grooves on the sides of the predominantly brushed case are here to stay, as are the slender fixed bezel and the rectangular pushers. On the twin-register dial, the applied Arabic numerals and the lumed syringe hands recall the vintage touches. A running small seconds sub-dial sits at 9 o’clock with a 30-minute totalizer mirroring it at 3 o’clock. The central chronograph seconds hand has a red tip, just like its 2019 predecessor. The date window also remains at 6 o’clock under the model name. Up close, all the contrasting textures are mesmerizing, and the detail work and finishing are impeccable.
Size-wise, the new Premier measures 42mm in diameter and 13.6mm in thickness. From lug to lug, it measures 50mm, and the lugs’ curvature works wonders to help wrap the watch around the wrist. On the side, its non-screw-down crown is fitted with two gaskets to ensure a water resistance rating of 100 meters. The case is further sealed by sapphire crystals on both sides, and the top cover is treated with a double-sided antireflective coating. Visible through the exhibition case back is the in-house automatic caliber B01. This latest iteration of the Breitling manufacture caliber 01 that powers the new Premier chronographs was redesigned in 2022 with a more compact oscillating weight.
Having first debuted in 2009, the B01 is one of Breitling’s most significant achievements in its long history of watchmaking. Needless to say, it has become one of the company’s signature features. It boasts a 334-part construction, including a column wheel and a vertical clutch. The latter controls the engagement of the chronograph function. It eliminates the “jumpy” start that can occur in chronographs with a lateral clutch, while the column wheel allows for smoother and more precise operation of the chronograph functions.
This chronograph caliber has been tested to superior technical standards and COSC-certified for accuracy within +6/-4 seconds per day. Breitling also subjects the movement to rigorous tests that emulate 16 years of regular use. These include shock (approximately 60,000 shocks at 500 G), the crown (more than 100,000 winds), rotor winding (3,456,000 turns), and the chronograph pushers (approximately 5,840 start-stop-reset engagements). The movement beats at a frequency of 28,000vph (4Hz) and provides a power reserve of 70 hours.
The B01 movement is used in several Breitling watch collections, including the Navitimer, Chronomat, and, of course, the Premier. It has become one of the brand’s most significant selling points as it demonstrates Breitling’s commitment to precision engineering and quality craftsmanship.
The six new Premier B01 Chronograph 42 models take after the classy tone-on-tone dial aesthetics of the Heritage collection. The stainless steel model offers five dial variations in salmon, blue, green, black, and cream. Rounding out the new lineup, the last version in 18K rose gold comes with a cream dial. All models are available with either a classic brown alligator strap or a seven-row metal bracelet with a folding buckle.
These new additions to the Breitling Premier collection offer a dressier character compared to the slightly sportier versions from 2019. That said, the bracelet ensures that they’re not a one-trick pony and remain versatile. The question is, though, which color do you choose? Do you go for classic black or blue? Or perhaps the salmon is proving to be too irresistible? Make sure to let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to say which strap option you’d go for as well!