80 years after Breitling first evolved the chronograph from a tool watch to a style statement, the watchmaker adds six new models to its Premier collection. Updated with a new heritage-inspired design and equipped with the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, the launch coincides with a new book chronicling the genesis of Breitling’s most collectable chronograph.
Breitling’s speciality has always been the chronograph, and each of the brand’s three generations of founders – Léon. Gaston and Willy Breitling – had a role in shaping it. From the moment he started his business in 1884, Leon Breitling put his expertise into perfecting the pocket-watch timekeeper. His son Gaston introduced the first wrist-worn models that included an independent pusher at 2 o’clock. And Léon’s grandson Willy added the second pusher at 4 o’clock — establishing the form of the standard modern chronograph.
By 1943, Breitling, under Willy’s leadership, had earned a reputation for itself as a maker of reliable aircraft instrumentation and tool watches. While high-precision instruments only needed to fulfil their functional needs during wartime, Willy knew that a post-war world would demand timepieces that were not only functional and reliable but also aesthetically pleasing. With that future in mind, he designed a series of elegant chronographs and assigned them the best materials, the best finishings and the best calibres. He called his new line Premier.
Reintroduced by Breitling in 2021, the Premier Heritage chronograph collection revived Willy’s dream of seeing the functional chronograph made undeniably elegant and wearable, or as he put it: “the unmistakable stamp of impeccable taste.” This year’s six new additions to the Premier collection are all powered by the self-winding Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01.
“We are committed to preserving Willy Breitling’s bold vision of combining the precision of a professional tool watch with the sophistication of a modern dress watch,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “The Premier embodied the hopeful energy that emerged in the postwar era, and we are proud to continue that tradition with a modern-retro version for our times.”
The six new Premier B01 Chronograph 42 models are powered by the self-winding Breitling Caliber 01, a manufacture movement designed for high precision, reliability, and functionality. First released in 2009, it is one of the most highly regarded chronograph movements in the industry.
As with all of Breitling’s mechanical calibres, each Caliber 01 has undergone the rigorous COSC certification for accuracy within -4 and +6 seconds per day. Just as gruelling is Breitling’s in-house 16-year-ageing equivalent. This includes shock testing (approximately 60,000 shocks at 500 G), crown testing (more than 100,000 crown winds), winding of the oscillating weight (close to 3.5 million weight turns) and chronograph pusher testing (around 5,800 start-stop-reset engagements).
The latest iteration of the Caliber 01, found in the new Premier chronograph, was redesigned in 2022 and features a trimmer profile and more compact oscillating weight. The latter can be admired through the transparent sapphire-crystal caseback. The movement comes with a five-year warranty and provides approximately 70 hours of power reserve. It has a water resistance of 100m (10 bar).
While designing the new Premier models, Breitling’s designers preserved some of the distinctive vintage Premier design details. These include the smooth fixed bezel, twin-register dial, streamlined rectangular pushers, and applied Arabic numerals. At 42mm, the case diameter is slightly larger than the 40mm found on the existing B09 (manual-wind) models.
The tone-on-tone subdials with chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock and running seconds at 9 o’clock lend a polished style. Meanwhile, the new dial shades in salmon, blue, green, black, and cream add a contemporary twist to the stainless-steel models. A further variation in 18K red gold features a classic cream dial. The watches come with a choice of classic alligator leather strap or a sleek 7-row metal bracelet.
The launch of the new Premier Chronographs coincides with the publication of Premier Story, part three of the Watch Stories series that chronicles some of the world’s most celebrated timepieces. The book is authored by Fred Mandelbaum, Breitling’s official brand historian and one of the foremost Premier collectors. His book guides readers through Willy Breitling’s ultimately successful, but often tumultuous, quest to take the humble chronograph out of the aircraft cockpit and onto the wrists of the world’s style-setters- a quest that began 80 years ago.
“As Breitling’s historian, I’ve been living the wildest dreams of any passionate collector,” says author Fred Mandelbaum. “For this book, I was granted unprecedented access to the Breitling company archives and, through Gregory Breitling, son of founding-father Willy Breitling, was privileged to gain access to the family collection of watches, documents, photographs, and a wealth of personal memories.”
Illustrated in exquisite photography, including rarely-before-seen vintage watches, Premier Story not only provides an account of the Premier’s history, but also offers invaluable resources for collectors on how to authenticate vintage models. It also offers suggestions on how to date pieces by hands-shape, logo, and serial number.
A chapter on calibres reveals the evolution of the Premier movements from 1943 to 2023, with content connected by QR code to videos of the intricate mechanisms in action. Premier Story is a fascinating — and highly practical — deep dive into one of history’s great watches.