Revisiting past icons has proven to be one of the biggest strategies for storied firms today not only because it’s hard to deny the appeal its archives still have, but also because nostalgia has always been one of the biggest drivers for collectors — both old and new.
In Breitling’s case, this sentimentality goes way back to more than half a century ago when the world was first introduced to the Top Time. First launched in the 1960s, the Breitling Top Time had its moment on the wrists of many young professionals who wanted a watch that was respectable but also had personality. Willy Breitling, grandson to the company’s founder Léon, had envisaged a chronograph for a younger audience, one that the discerning men of the Sixties youth movement could identify with. Most notably, the watch was also made famous by Sean Connery’s James Bond in ‘Thunderball’, so this watch already has some serious street cred going for it.
Even so, it’s easy to see why the Top Time has one of the most recognisable dials in all of watchmaking, and that’s quite the accomplishment considering the number of note-worthy classics out there. Taking on the same playful two-toned aesthetic — nicknamed the “Zorro” dial after a certain TV hero — the 41mm chronograph is just as distinctive as ever and reminds us of why the ’60s are still associated as one of the most collectable eras of vintage watches.
Besides the panda treatment, the creamy silver dial and registers are also marked by red accents throughout and authentic Top Time branding (same font, all caps) at six o’clock. In keeping the dial clean and legible, Breitling kept the date window out of the picture for visual cleanliness, and everything is sealed in with anti-reflective domed sapphire crystal.
Round beige Super-Luminova plots sit just outside the hour markers, and further beyond that lies a decimal scale. While less common in contemporary watchmaking as opposed to the tachymeter scale, the decimal scale breaks down the dial into 10th of a minute rather than 60ths, giving more precise readings and translatable data (i.e. “1.2 minutes” instead of “one minute and twenty seconds”).
Housed within a fully polished and modern stainless steel case is the Breitling COSC-certified Caliber 23, a workhorse chronograph movement with running autonomy up to 48 hours. Just like how the Top Time captured the shift in consumer habits back in its day, Breitling wants to continue the revolution by giving this 2,000-example limited edition its own blockchain-based digital passport in place of a hard copy. This passport not only confirms the ownership and authenticity of the timepiece but also easily allows its owner to access documents like the e-warranty card and to communicate with the brand anonymously.