Breitling announced its partnership with British motorcycle maker Norton in 2018 and the fruit of this collaboration is a double whammy treat for bikers and watch lovers alike. Released in tandem during Baselworld 2019, Breitling unveiled its Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton Edition watch while Norton revved up the 961cc engine of its Norton Commando 961 Café Racer MKII Breitling Limited Edition Motorcycle. We were lucky enough to have some hands-on time with the watch seriously hoping this might lead to a seats-on session with the bike!
Since he took over Breitling in 2017, Georges Kern has been keen on stretching the confines of the brand beyond the traditional aviation associations. He also realised the potential of dipping into archive material (the controversial Navitimer 8 based on the long-extinct Bretiling Huit Department of Aviation Instruments), reinterpreting classics (Navitimer 1 – without a chronograph!) and tapping into the current rage for retro with faithful re-editions of classics (Navitimer Ref. 806 1959). The Premier Collection of 2018 draws on the ‘everday elegance’ of the 1940s Breitling Premier models in contemporary codes with watches designed for landlubbers.
The Norton Connection
Cars, planes and motorbikes are perfect partners for sporty chronograph watches, and co-branding can work miracles for a watch brand – if you choose the right partner, of course. Without falling head over heels into branding overkill, Breitling’s new chronograph manages to evoke Norton’s Commando 961 Café Racer motorbike with its vintage charisma and handsome black, silver and golden colour scheme. With no mention of Norton on the dial, the British motorcycle maker is acknowledged on an engraved plate on the left side of the case and on the caseback with the Norton logo and motorcycle printed on the sapphire crystal.
The 42mm case size (height 13.65mm) is a perfect size for this style of watch. It is a sports watch after all but steers clear of the XXL territory that Breitling was renowned for. The steel case with its screwed-in caseback offers a more than respectable water-resistance of 100m. For a chronograph it is restrained (no protruding pushers) and comfortable to wear thanks to the smooth, integrated chronograph buttons and short, curved, tapered lugs.
However, the real personality of the watch can be appreciated on the dial, which pays homage to the Norton partnership with its smart black, silver and golden colour scheme. Basically a reversed panda-style dial with a black background and two silver snailed counters (30-minutes at 3 o’clock, small seconds at 9 o’clock), the design is legible with just the right dose of vintage. One of the most salient differences between this Norton chronograph and other members of the Premier B01 Chronograph family is the use of Arabic numerals instead of indices. The large golden numerals are applied and hollowed out in the centre – a great design touch that imbues the watch with its distinctive personality and visually lightens the load.
The two horizontally aligned sub-dials create an overall impression of harmony and balance that is further enhanced with design details like the truncated markers at 3 and 9 o’clock to accommodate the sub-dials and the date window that appears above a truncated index at 6 o’clock and features the same background colour as the dial (yeah!). If you look closely, you’ll see how even the rectangular hour markers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 are hollowed out like the Arabic numerals. The hour and minute hands are treated with a strip of lume while the central seconds chrono hand has a red tip. A customary tachymetre scale completes the scenery with the same colour scheme as the sub-dials.
Breitling Calibre 01
Breitling has equipped its Premier B01 Chronographs with its manufacture Calibre 01, the same movement it shares with Tudor. Operating at 28,800vph, this ¼ second column-wheel chronograph with vertical clutch offers a very satisfying power reserve of 70 hours and is COSC-certified. Although the Norton bike and logo somewhat obstruct the view of the movement, you can get a peek of the bidirectional rotor and other elements of the automatic calibre.
The Ultimate Accessory
If you can shell out an addition EUR 20,000, you too will be able to complement your handsome chronograph with 1 of the 77 limited-edition Norton Commando 961 Café Racer MKII Breitling Motorcycles. Recalling the classic appearance and style of the great old café racers with state-of-the-art components and engineering, this black two-wheeler has a 961cc engine and good looks to turn any head. Acknowledging the partnership, the Norton bike has a vintage Breitling ‘B’ engraved on the clutch box, bespoke Breitling-designed speedometer and tachometer, and a ‘B’ stitched into the saddle.
This is my favourite model from the line-up of Premier B01 Chronographs. It is a breeze to read and has heaps of character and style. The design details are thoughtful and well executed and the colour scheme so evocative, that even without the motorbike I would be very happy to wear this on my wrist. The watch we had at MONOCHROME came with the slightly distressed brown leather strap with white stitching. I know that it is available on a steel bracelet, but it kind of loses its vintage vibe on steel.
Unlike the motorbike, the Premier B01 Chronograph Norton is not a limited edition and retails for EUR 7,800 on the leather strap with folding clasp, EUR 7,500 on leather strap with pin buckle and EUR 8,100 on the steel bracelet. Please visit www.breitling.com for more details of pricing in your country.