Breitling for Bentley: combining elegance and excellence (Part 3)
The third and final piece: the 10th anniversary of the partnership between Breitling and Bentley welcomed chronographs equipped with in-house calibers.
We are in 2009. Bentley has just launched the most powerful model in its history – the Continental WP Supersports coupé, named after the first Bentley to have exceeded 100 miles per hour in 1925.
A unique chronograph for the most powerful Bentley
To pay tribute to this Bentley, Breitling revealed the Bentley Supersports, a high-performance chronograph. Limited to 1,000 pieces, this edition was driven by the self-winding Breitling 26B caliber with a 42-hour power reserve. Its optimized performance and the 630 hp of its W12 engine allowed the Grand Tourer coupé to reach 330 km/h.
To mirror the expanded body of the coupé, the quite large 48.7-mm steel case made a strong impression on the wrist. The caseback was in titanium, the unmissable turning bezel with a rack motif was equipped with a "variable tachometer" function, and the strap was available in either Speed steel or rubber. The black dial was inspired by the car’s carbon dashboard and sported three ring-shaped counters. The central counter measured the hours and the minutes to the nearest hundredth and was surrounded by two small counters with a white back and there were red hands displaying small seconds. It also featured a well thought-out totalizer with two hands indicating the chronograph's hours and minutes at a glance.
In February 2011, a Continental GTC Superports beat the world Ice speed record with a top speed of 330,695 km/h in northern Finland. The driver, Juha Kankkunen, wore the Bentley Supersports Light Body chronograph equipped with an extra-light titanium chassis. The special edition featured the same black and red as the car's body.
Since both pieces had great success, they were both developed into two different models and produced in limited editions featuring several colored versions. The Midnight Carbon version was equipped with a chassis enhanced with a high-resistant carbon-based coating.
Special editions for the new Continental GT
Still in 2011, Breitling celebrated the launch of the second generation of the Continental GT coupé by introducing an exclusive version of its Bentley GMT chronograph, which was the collection's first watch to be armed with a GMT function. It was equipped with a 24-hour second time zone indicated by a hand with a triangular red tip.
Produced in a limited edition of 1,000 pieces, the range was recognizable thanks to the British Racing Green color on the flange, which featured the 24-hour time zones, and to its rubber strap (for the record, British Racing Green traditionally featured on British racing cars in the early 20th century). The watch’s asymmetrical lugs fitted wrist curves perfectly and made one forget about the oversized 49-mm steel case. The self-winding Breitling 47B caliber featured the same "30-second chronograph" function, accurate to 1/8th of a second. The following year, the Bentley GMT V8 limited edition celebrated the new Continental GT V8. The 250 parts were recognized thanks to the red metallized flange that echoed the specific Bentley V8 logo.
A tribute to the Bentley Boys
The Breitling for Bentley collection also pays tribute to Bentley’s long sports history as well as to the renowned Bentley Boys, the drivers who brought success to the British carmaker in the early 1900s. Woolf Barnato, a wealthy South-African diamond dealer, marked the history of sports cars by becoming the first driver to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in a row with a Speed 6.
While it features the signature codes of the collection such as a 49-mm case, a knurled motif bezel, a 30-second chronograph and a wheel-shaped rotor, the Barnato series also innovated with its disk counter system. If the Barnato chronograph featured hand counters that reminded us of the tachometers in vintage Bentleys, the Barnato Racing version displayed three steering wheel-shaped disk counters. Available in steel, each model was launched in a red gold limited edition of 500 pieces – watches whose case housed the self-winding 25B caliber. The third model to complete the series was the smaller 42-mm Barnato 42, which is still available in the brand’s catalogue.
Unique calibers for the 10th anniversary
It wasn't until 2013 that the Breitling for Bentley collection produced a revolution on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the famous partnership. Breitling celebrated it with several in-house calibers entirely designed, developed and produced in the Breitling Chronométrie workshops. It symbolized a step forward in unique and high-end products. The Bentley B04 GMT, Bentley B05 Unitime and Bentley B06 combined sportsmanship, performance and prestige; traits that are also found in British limousines.
The self-winding B04, B05 and B06 calibers oscillate at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and are, of course, COSC-certified chronometers. With a power reserve of over 70 hours, they were equipped with a column-wheel chronograph, a vertical coupling, and rubies (47 for the B04 and B06 and 56 for the B05). Their refined finish and circular oscillating mass – shaped like the wheel rims of the Continental GT – were visible through sapphire glass.
Their impressive 49-mm case is water resistant to 100m and featured the famous bezel with a knurled relief. Available in steel and 18K red gold, the pieces could be enhanced with a selection of straps such as Barenia leather, crocodile leather, rubber or steel.
The Bentley B04 GMT combined a self-winding chronograph with a particularly simple and user-friendly second time zone, as well as a variable tachometer function. The skeletonized tri-compax dial was similar to the radiator grill motif of the Bentleys, and played peekaboo with the in-house caliber.
The Bentley B05 Unitime was a worldtime chronograph – a complication heightened by a magnificent openworked world map that offered a sneak peek of the movement. It was a nice invitation to travel, as owing to its double disk system, the 24-hour time zones could be read at a glance. This timepiece now is indispensable to businessmen who travel all over the world.
The Bentley B06 sported the exclusive 30-second and variable tachometer functions, as indicated on the skeletonized dial.
In 2015, the more polyvalent B04 S and B06 S models completed the series started by the other three high-quality timepieces. Measuring at 45 mm and 44 mm respectively, the two new pieces conformed to the "downsizing" trend in vogue at the time. Available in steel or red gold, they were, of course, equipped with the same calibers as the other three pieces of the range. The Light Body versions of the B04 and B04 S GMT stood out thanks to their titanium case.
Black is back in 2016! The collection welcomed this year new limited editions of elegant and ultra-sporty full-black pieces. They house either a DLC-coated blackened steel case (for the Midnight Carbon versions of the B04, B05 and B06 pieces) or a carbon fiber case (for the Carbon Body version of the B04 S). This material is widely used in car racing due to its lightness and ultra-resistance to scratches and shocks. The pieces also feature a carbon dial, a blackened oscillating mass and a black matt crocodile leather strap with rubber lining. The B06 Midnight Carbon chronograph features a precious dimension with a fascinating black mother-of-pearl dial that features stunning grey-blue tints.
Back to competition
Eleven years after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Bentley has made a great comeback to the circuits all around the world with the Continental GT3 by participating in the European Blancpain GT series and the American GT championship. To celebrate the arrival of the new thoroughbred, Breitling launched the (appropriately named) Bentley GT3. Produced in a 500-piece limited edition, it was inspired by the carbon aerodynamic appendices of the racing GT. With a 49-mm black titanium case, a carbon fiber dial, a special black rubber strap and the self-winding Breitling 27B caliber, it was decidedly a sports chronograph, something that was highlighted by the white and green colors of the Continental GT3 the watch also featured. In parallel to this, and as a tribute to the road version of the GT3, Breitling launched the Bentley GT3-R, a 300-piece limited edition of the B06 chronograph.
When the British carmaker celebrates Swiss excellence
While Breitling for Bentley is the most representative collection of the partnership between the two avant-garde manufacturers, Bentley has also had the opportunity to celebrate Swiss excellence. And it did it in style too! It was a win-win partnership for lucky owners of Bentleys.
It is a known fact that Breitling is famous in the aeronautic field. But many may not know is that it is also the only watchmaking manufacture to have an aerobatic air patrol with its name; that is, the Breitling Jet Team. On the occasion of an American grand tour in July 2015, Bentley introduced an exclusive range of seven coupés that featured the same colors of the seven patrol airplanes. Constructed by Mulliner, these Continental GT Speed Breitling Jet Team Series sported the black, grey and yellow of the L-39C Albatros. Each owner was given the car keys in front of each corresponding airplane, as well as the special Chronomat 44 Breitling Jet Team chronograph.
In the same year, Bentley created a buzz introducing the Bentayga, its first SUV. The impressive high-end all-terrain vehicle came as a surprise in the line of production of the prestigious carmaker but nevertheless exuded the whole DNA that made up the brand's reputation. With a top speed that reaches over 300 km/h, the 4x4 has an ultra-luxurious interior that equals that of a limousine. In the midst of high tech equipment such as touchscreens, tablets and so on, Bentley asked Breitling to design an even more exclusive mechanical dashboard clock than the one in the Continental GT.
Just like an anachronism that symbolized tradition, the Mulliner Tourbillon by Breitling was a mechanical watch equipped with a hand-crafted flying tourbillon. And it is still the most expensive piece in the catalogue. The dial is available in either natural or black mother-of-pearl enhanced by diamond-set indexes. The pink or white gold case has a transparent back that reveals the whole pink gold oscillating mass as well as the refined finish of the Breitling movement. An embedded winding stem helps to hold the power reserve. Bentley’s Mulliner Tourbillon embodies the Breitling for Bentley collection's motto: "The greatest luxury in life is time. Savour every second".
To conclude (but only for now, as this partnership still has a long way to go), we can only revel in the symbiosis between watchmaker and carmaker. It is quite unusual in the watchmaking world to see a long-lasting partnership between a manufacture and a carmaker, and theirs is a success that many other manufactures can only dream of. The next step is to refocus the Breitling for Bentley collection on its three in-house calibers that stand for tradition, high performance and prestige.
Photos © Breitling/Bentley