Breitling for Bentley: combining elegance and excellence (Part 2)
This is the second part of our piece dedicated to the partnership between the Swiss manufacture and the British maker of prestigious cars: Breitling joins Bentley's comeback to endurance racing.
After collaborating with the car maker to create the dashboard clock of the Continental GT coupé, the watchmaking brand accompanied Team Bentley when it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003. Breitling celebrated the feat in its own way by launching the original chronograph Breitling for Bentley 24 H Limited Edition, an early model of the Breitling for Bentley collection.
Of traditions and technical innovation
Since 2004, Breitling has launched several watch series that have laid the ground for complete collections with the aim of establishing a long-term partnership with Bentley. Each collection celebrates either the history of the British car manufacturer or a particular model. For instance, the GT and Motors pieces reaffirmed the sportsmanship of the Continental GT coupé whilst the 6.75 celebrated the legendary Bentley V8 '6 3/4' engine. Further, the Flying B paid tribute to the car brand's famous winged logo and the Mark VI was dedicated to an iconic coupé. There was also the superlative Mulliner Tourbillon, pinnacle of the collection, and the Bentley cars with the mention 'Mulliner'.
The distinguishing features of the Breitling for Bentley collection include the reinterpretation of several stylistic elements of the British maker’s cars on the watches. For example, the famous radiator grill, the engine-turned motif on the dashboard clock, the body colors and the precious wood veneers. All the timepieces in the collection are driven by high-performance movements that were completely designed at Breitling’s Chronométrie workshops in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. They are all COSC-certified and thus reliable and accurate chronometers, which also feature exclusive technical innoviations such as the "variable tachometer". The latter is based on a circular slide rule taken from aviator watches and – combined with the chronograph – it measures average speed, the distance covered or the speed reached. The "30-second chronograph" is yet another exclusive technique that was part of the patent filed in 1926. It displays accurate time measurements to 1/8th of a second with the help of its central hand that makes a complete dial rotation in 30 seconds instead of the usual 60.
The Bentley GT, Motors and 6.75 sports
As the first model of the collection that was launched in 2004, the Motors' chronograph reflected the sports aura that surrounds Bentley cars. The large 48-mm case could be worn over the sleeve of racing suits.
Its distinctive features included three steel-circled chrome-plated counters placed at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock respectively, and a discreet date aperture at 4:30. The latest piece in the range, the Motors T was introduced in 2006 and is equipped with a steel case with satiny and polished finishes. The bezel sports an engine-turned finish which reminds us of Bentley cars' dashboard clocks. The case is engraved with the silhouette of three generations of Bentley coupés – the Speed 6, the Continental Type-R and the Continental GT. Its tri-compax dial displays three totalizers (30 seconds, 15 minutes and 6 hours) as part of the Breitling 25B caliber's chronograph function. Similar to other Bentley-related watches, it comes with a wide selection of straps in Barenia or crocodile leather, buffalo skin and 'Speed' steel, which is the name of the sports version of the Continental GT. To meet collectors’ requirements, a limited edition of 500 pink gold pieces was launched.
The Bentley 6.75 collection pays tribute to the legendary 6.75-litre V8 engine that used to drive Bentley limousines at a time when its engine power, whose real performance was held secret for long, was simply qualified as "satisfactory". Many of the finishing touches in these sports chronographs evoke Bentley's unique universe – aknurled bezel inspired by the control buttons on the dashboard, a fascinating caseback stamped with the design in relief of the wheel rims seen on Bentley cars and a striped dial evoking the traditional radiator grill.
The particularity of the Bentley 6.75 chronographs is that they all display a large date via two apertures at 12 o'clock and have three timers spread out at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. With a 'masculine' 48.7-mm size, the case is available in steel or in yellow gold. The most demanding collectors were also offered either a pink gold version that was produced in 100 pieces or a white gold version in 500 pieces. The watches of this collection are driven by the Breitling 44B caliber that features a chronograph function accurate to a quarter of a second. This model is also available in the “Midnight Carbon” version; a limited edition of 100 black steel pieces.
The Bentley GT chronographs embody the "Grand Tourer" aspect of the splendid Continental GT. They are easily recognized by their layout – the three timers at 6, 9 and 12 o'clock and a double date and day aperture at 3 o'clock. With a size of 'only' 44.8 mm, the 100-meter water resistant pieces are resolutely more casual. Available in steel, golden steel and yellow gold, there is also a limited edition of 50 white gold pieces that exude understated luxury. Behind its domed anti-reflective sapphire glass on both sides of the watch, the dial is a reflection of the prestigious coupé's dashboard clock. It is available in different colors inspired by the color chart Bentley used for the body of its iconic coupé.
This successful car/watch symbiosis was a first in watchmaking and was acclaimed by both Bentley car owners and fans of unique cars. It is driven by the self-winding Breitling 13B caliber that was designed on a Valjoux 7750 base and is accurate to 1⁄4of a second. The highlight of this collection was the Bentley GT Racing. Produced in a limited edition of 500 pieces, the timepiece is easily identifiable by its pink gold case and the engraved silhouette of the Bentley coupé on the back. For the record, in 2011, the GT and the GT Racing were produced in a classy and purely white version named Ice. They sported an Ice White dial, the exclusive Bentley body color, and a rubber strap.
The statutory Bentley Flying B pieces
In 2006, Breitling wreaked havoc in its own universe by launching the Flying B, leaving its aficionados completely flummoxed. But the brand took a risk that very few watchmaking manufactures would have dared to. An iconic symbol of both Bentley and Breitling, the "winged B" graces the radiator grill of prestigious limousines as well as the dial of Swiss watches. As a tribute to the brand, the Flying B combined a rectangular case –quite unusual for Breitling –and an original display with jumping hours. A piece well worth exploring, it is still appreciated today for what it is:a prestigious, elegant and well-decorated watch.
The cambered case fits comfortably on the wrist despite its quite large dimensions (38.5 x 57.30 mm). Water resistant to 100 meters, it is available in steel, red gold and white gold with "Flying B" engraved on the caseback. The curvy time display contrasts with the straight lines of the case and the dial. The well-balanced dial stands out thanks to two round-shaped sub-dials that display minutes and seconds. It is enhanced by a knurled rim and mother-of-pearl indexes. The jumping hour appears in an aperture at 12 o'clock and features the same color which is at the center of Bentley's color chart. The Breitling 28B caliber provides a 54-hour power reserve. To match the dial's color, the leather strap is lined with white topstiching. The Flying B collection is completed by the 'No 3', a more compact and discreet version, and a chronograph that features in the 2016 catalogue.
The legendary Bentley Mark VI pieces
The Mark VI range paid tribute to the history of the British carmaker and to the Mark VI coupé, the first model released from Bentley’s famous factory in Crewe. Consisting of the three unique models Mark VI, Mark VI Complications 19 and Mark VI Complications 29, the collection is a reflection of the Swiss brand's traditional and technical skills. Introduced in 2007, the Mark VI Complications 29 is the most prized version of the range since it is the most elegant, complicated and exclusive piece. It is a chronograph equipped with a perpetual calendar and displays no less than twenty-nine complications. Produced in only 250 pink gold and 100 platinum pieces, it is a very rare timepiece.
It is powered by the prestigious self-winding Breitling 29B caliber which is made of more than 500 components and provides a 54-hour power reserve. All the complications were divided under the four display timers, that is, the chronograph accurate to one fourth of a second, a perpetual calendar, seasons and moon phases.
The prestigious Bentley Mulliner Tourbillon
The Mulliner Tourbillon proudly sits at the top of the Breitling for Bentley collection. Issued after the Mulliner Perpetual was introduced in 2005, this unique watch houses an equally unique engine –as the one in prestigious British super limousines –and is embedded with a Tourbillon, the most prestigious watchmaking complication. The hand-wound Breitling 18B caliber beats at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour and provides 42 hours of power reserve. The perfect definition of refinement, it is completely customizable, just like the Mulliner workshops propose to any Bentley buyer. This particularly high-end division of the British carmaker borrowed the name of the famous coachbuilder Mulliner Park Ward that revamped Bentley cars from 1919 to 1991.
Everything is customizable, from the 49-mm case, the dial, the strap, the materials and even down to the colors. Owners can pick either platinum or gold – yellow, pink or white –for the case. They can also choose from six different types of veneers for the caseback. Fifteen colors taken from the color chart of the Bentley range are available for the dial and the crocodile leather strap comes in ten different tones. As a sign of perfect luxury, the owner’s initials are engraved on one of the movement's bridges and can be admired through sapphire glass. Two timers that display chronograph minutes and a hand calendar are placed on top of the tourbillon. Each piece is conferred a unique quality as they have been hand-made in a traditional way. It is thus a rare and all-exclusive piece.
The traditional and exclusive Bentley Masterpiece
In 2004, in parallel to these collections, the manufacture also revealed the Bentley Masterpiece. It was a pocket watch equipped with great complications that referred to the first timepieces ever designed in the specialized workshop opened in 1884 by Léon Breitling in Saint Imier. In 2010, the brand released another one;a new unique piece that paid tribute to Walter Owen Bentley, founder of the British brand. Its "hunting" case comprises two exceptional complications –a perpetual calendar and a minute repeater –as well as a single pusher chronograph accurate to one fifth of a second that are displayed in four sub-dials. Activated by the pusher on the middle, the minute repeater strikes the hours, quarter hours and minutes.
Made of 700 components, the Calibre 117 is based on an ebauche dating back to the late 19th century. The refined finishes are entirely hand-made and can be seen through the sapphire glass of the 18K yellow gold case, which is protected by two covers on each side of the piece. The covers are engraved with Bentley's winged B and a picture of W. O. Bentley at the wheel of one of his racing cars.
Last but not least, every timepiece in the Breitling for Bentley collection is available upon request in a jeweled version called Diamondworkswhich, as the name suggests, is set with diamonds on the case, the dial and/or the strap.
Breitling for Bentley, part 3 coming soon
Photos © Breitling/Bentley