The Breitling Premier started it off in 1943. In the 1940s as well as in the 2020s this collection is the embodiment of dress casual. Classy pieces that show that the chronograph is not a sports-only complication, it is “everyday elegance”. As such the Premier perfectly complements the line-up of one of the most chronograph-heavy brands of the last century. You see, not every chronograph is built equally and Breitling always knew how to use that complication.

March 15, 2022

Breitling Premier - The Elegant Original

 


Marcus Siems     Marcus Siems @siemswatches
    Collector, Author, Data Analyst


  

We have come full circle - a few weeks back we started our journey through time with the 2021 Breitling Premier and now we reached the introduction of the first Breitling Premier in 1943. In 1940s as well as in the 2020s this collection is the embodiment of dress casual. Classy pieces that show that the chronograph is not a sports-only complication, it is “everyday elegance”[1].

 

 Design Cluster of all Breitling Watches from 1940-2000 focus on the Premier

Figure 11. Distribution of Breitling vintage watches from 1940-2000 (734 total watches) grouped by design, highlighting the Premier series (25 watches)[2]. The dots are color-coded by every watches’ age.

 

The Premier by its design language perfectly completes the line-up of one of the most chronograph-heavy brands of the last century. You see, not every chronograph is built equally.

 

Vintage 1940s Breitling Chronograph with Syringe HandsGetting intimate with the star of this article - a stunning 1940s Breitling Premier with Syringe hands. Photo @goldammer.me

 

Purpose and style mix and many different shades of this complication emerge. From the military/aeronautical example over the sporty pieces for young professionals all the way to the dressiest executions there is a Breitling chronograph for every niche. It is a versatile complication that an entire brand can built its heritage around to then append other line-ups like a diver collection or some time-only dress watches.

 

Heritage Score of all the Breitling Icons - Premier, Navitimer, SuperOcean, TopTime & ChronomatFigure 12. Design Age of the Big Five Breitling references (Premier, Navitimer, SuperOcean, TopTime & modern Chronomat).

 

Putting the classic Breitling models next to each other we see that almost each one of them is designed for a certain epoch. The Chronomat is the more modern favorite, while the TopTime peaks in the 60s/70s and the famous SuperOcean diver has its time around 1960. But potentially most interestingly, both Premier and Navitimer - two pieces that couldn’t be more different in appearance, concept and vibe - share a very similar design age. So how can that be? Looking at the maximum Heritage Score we see that both peak in the early 1940s, both represent the typical mid-century chronograph watch. Why does that make sense?

 

 Vintage 1950s Breitling ChronographWhat makes these mid-century chronograph watches so versatile? Photo @goldammer.me

 

WWII is ravaging Europe and the world is split in two courses of life - the trenches and the home front. Two sceneries that call for very distinct looks and purposefully designed timepieces. On the one end of the spectrum, the Navitimer precursors were utilized as successful “war-tools” for the Allied Forces[3-4]. On the other end, Willy Breitling introduced the Premier line as a diversion from the battlefield. To counter the horrors of war the Premier was a way to ease people’s minds by putting the focus on the beautiful things in life.

That is the dichotomy of the watch market in the early 1940s - military versus normality. And we can actually capture these trends with our analyses. Navitimer and Premier represent the same time even though conceptualized almost ten years apart and for completely opposite purposes. Moreover, that is also the reason those two models are clustered so close together. It is not a bug, it’s a feature.

 

Design Cluster of all Breitling vintage watches from 1940-2000 Figure 12. Distribution of Breitling vintage watches from 1940-2000 (734 total watches) grouped by design. Plotted along with every cluster are the representative pieces The dots are color-coded by every watches’ age.

 

There we go, we did it! Putting all the pieces together we can clearly see that design and heritage of a brand can definitely be captured with such an analysis. It is a proof-of-principle what we can learn about the world of vintage watches when we apply quantitative methods. And I believe there should be more of it.

 

 VIntage 1940s Golden Breitling PremierWe've come full circle... We started this series with a golden Premier from the modern collection and now we close with a 1940s example. Photo @goldammer.me

 

But what we shall not forget is that heritage might be quantifiable, but the feeling you have when putting your favorite watch to your wrist is not. This is why every dot in each of these plots matters. It has its own story to tell and its own unique experiences to share.

 

 

References

 

[1] Breitling Premier – A new collection with its origins in the 1940s; Paul O’Neil, WorldTempus;

https://en.worldtempus.com/article/watches/trends-and-style/breitling-premier-26633.html

[2] Watches from Chrono24, extracted 2020 Nov. 29th; Karlsruhe, Germany;

https://www.chrono24.com/

[3] From Purpose To Style - Premier; Breitling;

https://www.breitling.com/us-en/heritage/premier/

[4] The History Of Breitling’s Most Famous Timepieces; Esquire;

https://www.esquire.com/uk/style/fashion/a34380215/the-history-of-breitlings-most-famous-timepieces/

 

 

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