First launched in 1943—during World War II—Breitling’s Premier collection was commissioned at a time when timepieces were mostly designed as ‘tool’ watches used by pilots and navigators. They were more of a necessity than a luxury and were usually designed according to a certain template that did not factor in excesses of any kind. Brainchild of Willy Breitling, one of the three founders of the brand, the Premier collection was his expression of creative freedom and also an antidote for austerity.
Since Breitling was already one of the pioneers in producing high-precision chronographs for aviators, the brand knew only too well that it was the right time to introduce a certain sophistication to these ‘professional instruments’ used for timekeeping, also to convey a certain optimism despite the tumultuous period of war. Crafted as premium products, these wristwatches stood out for their classic design codes that conveyed a dress watch vibe. But the collection soon went out of production and was only revived almost eight decades later in 2018, when the brand decided to include this as a collection for ‘everyday elegance’. Recently the brand unveiled the Premier B21 Chronograph Tourbillon 42—a trio of ultra-premium timekeepers in precious metals that combine the accuracy of a tourbillon coupled with the precision offered by a chronograph. Available in red gold, white gold and platinum; each of the three variations is inspired by one of the Breitling founders— Léon, Gaston and Willy Breitling.
These new offerings also mark the return of the ‘Founders Squad’. The three generations left their legacy on the brand and their imprint can still be felt in every aspect of these watches. Léon is the craftsman, whose work set a new standard for precision. Gaston is the innovator, whose design became what we know as the modern chronograph, and Willy is the man of impeccable taste, who ushered the wristwatch from purpose to style. Let’s take a closer look at these watches.
Crafted using only precious metals, this trio is probably among the most expensive watches created by the brand in recent times. The highlight is the tourbillon, positioned at 12 o’clock, and was a challenging task to execute. “The Premier B21 Chronograph Tourbillon 42 is the perfect expression of Breitling’s design and expertise. In the tourbillon, you see the mechanism living at every second. It is the beating heart of the watch,” says CEO Georges Kern in an official brand statement.
A tourbillon houses the balance wheel, balance spring and escapement in a rotating cage, setting the entire assembly in perpetual motion. This action corrects for—and effectively cancels—the negative impact caused due to gravity, which affects a watch’s accuracy when worn in different positions. Breitling worked closely with the specialty movement maker Manufacture La Joux-Perret to develop the B21 movement that takes the uncommon step of combining a tourbillon with a chronograph to create this trio of watches that perfectly embody the Breitling DNA. The Léon Breitling features a solid 18K red-gold case with a silver dial and brown, semi-shiny alligator strap. The Gaston Breitling pairs a solid 18K white-gold case matched with an anthracite dial and black alligator strap. The Willy Breitling piece is a delight in solid platinum with a deep blue dial and black alligator strap. Each watch features the stylised square pushers and Arabic numerals that are hallmarks of the Premier line. Their symmetrical dial design, harmonious interplay of numerals and tone-on-tone colourways perfectly balance the undisputed star of the show—the tourbillon—that takes premium real estate on the dial.
On turning the watch over, the exhibition caseback provides a glimpse of this proprietary Calibre B21 with an oscillating weight in 18K gold. This automatic, COSC-certified movement beats at a frequency of 28,800vph and can function for at least 55 hours. All three variants are water-resistant to 100m.
The Premier B21 Chronograph Tourbillon 42 is for people who enjoy the mechanics of fine watchmaking along with the sophistication offered by ultra-luxurious timekeepers crafted in precious metals—a modern-day rendition of the dress-watch-meets-sports-watch aesthetic.