The Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 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 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.
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 Premier B01 Chronograph 42 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 Premier 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.
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 Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 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.
But the Breitling 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.