The 2017 Breitling for Bentley Supersports B55 Connected (ref. EB552022-BF47-285S) offers you the same list of amenities as their earlier “hybrid” smartwatches that were first revealed about two years ago but in a styling that is so loved by thousands of Bentley fans. Reassuringly overpriced and deliciously archaic, it will probably feature one of the lowest “value for money” ratios in their whole product range, yet it’s not the mythical “value” that allows Breitling to continue being one of the brands for those who love deadly planes and fast cars.
It’s hard to say how successful was the Breitling’s first attempt at offering a “smart luxury watch” to their loyal followers, but it looks like they at least keep trying to get some return on the money invested into creating their own version of a “connected” movement.
Finally expanded to their ultra-luxury Breitling for Bentley sub-brand that, surprisingly, targets not (only) pilots, but also thousands of owners of posh sports cars, the B55 Connected features the same list of functions (and probably the same titanium case, albeit with a different bezel) as their 2015 Exospace B55 Connected “aviator”, while adding the usual amenities, such as a carbon-fiber dial and the familiar bezel.
If the price was not an issue, I would even dare to call this one an interesting timekeeper: it looks like a nice blend of the 20th and 21st centuries that, compared even to the recent bunch of half-baked, fully-digital “smartwatches”, looks solid and doesn’t try to be everything for everyone. Working in combo with an app that, too, is claimed to be written by Swiss software developers, the B55 Connected limits its functionality to something that is expected from a digital watch and lets your smartphone of choice do the bulk of the job. In return, you get an impressive power reserve and the familiar dial with real hands and a pair of signature night goggles-friendly secondary LCD displays.
Yes, the watch isn’t capable of measuring your heart rate and can’t count the number of steps you make during the day, but, let’s be honest here, a Garmin or even Polar chest strap will do a far better job at measuring your HMR and a modern cellphone will do the rest when it comes to tracking your daily activity. Let a watch be a watch, that’s my motto.
The only thing I am not fond of is that there is still no wireless charging for the model: to make electric juices flowing, you still need a proprietary magnetically attached cable that connects to a charging point on the timekeeper’s left side. Forget the cable at home or in a hotel suite or just lose it altogether when the battery is almost depleted and you soon find yourself in a world of pain. This may be not a problem considering the “up to two months” of power reserve claimed by Breitling, but a watch that needs to be charged on a nightly basis at least gets you into a habit of always keeping a charging cable (or a wireless charging pad) handy, while this B55 Connected sometimes can make you feel that it doesn’t need to be recharged at all.
Case, Bezel & Strap
As usual for their Breitling for Bentley brand, the watch is issued in a deliberately oversized case that measures 46 millimeters in width and is also thick thanks to its massive bezel that was designed to be operated by gloved fingers of a jet pilot. The same goes to the crown that, too, is deliberately oversized and is knurled with deep notches with the same purpose of making the gadget easier to operate by gloved hands: just as it was the case with the Breitling Exospace B55, it is the crown that does the job of operating the multitude of functions with the “chronograph” push-pieces serving as “up menu,” “down menu,” and “select item” buttons, like on a TV remote.
The bezel, by the way, too, seems to be crafted from titanium, but, judging by its darker shade of gray, maybe of a so-called “hardened titanium” variety that usually offers more durability against dings and scratches. The usual “Bentley radiator grille” motif is here, too, making the watch look more robust and also more difficult to clean from build-ups of dust and grime.
The ref. EB552022-BF47-285S is surprisingly smaller than your normal Bentley-themed timekeeper, but that has something to do with the fact that this is the same Exospace B55 Connected from the last year. Not that there is anything bad to it, since, thanks to relatively short lugs, it looks a lot better on a wrist of an average person than a 49-millimeter monster powered by a self-winding mechanism. Yes, the case is still larger than I care for, but, again, it’s not ridiculously oversized being one of a precious few Breitling for Bentley models that a fan of both brands can wear without cringing inside.
This limited-edition model is currently offered only with their TwinPro black rubber strap. Judging by what I see on their website, a titanium bracelet is not even an option, so, if you are interested in something different, you’ll probably need to buy an aftermarket part. Compared to the price tag that this watch is going to wear when hitting brick and mortar stores (it is expected to cost around €10,000 or more,) the price of an aftermarket strap or bracelet may be infinitesimally small, yet, for a gadget that costs almost like a compact hatchback, the lack of personalization options is somewhat appalling.
One may argue that this is a limited edition model that is supposed to be rigid when it comes to personalization, but that doesn’t sound like an excuse for a model that is “limited” to whole 500 pieces.
On a bright side, the strap features Breitling’s proprietary micro-adjustment system that allows you to easily compensate for those inevitable fluctuations in your wrist’s diameter as you gain and lose weight as seasons change.
Another thing that you may not like about the gadget is that its water resistance rating is limited to meager 100 meters (10 ATM.) This is progress over the poultry 50 meters of the 2014 Chronospace Military SuperQuartz (now you can even use it for swimming if you are careful enough,) yet, given how expensive it is, I would feel less insecure if the WR value was increased to at least 150 meters.
Dial, Legibility & Smart Functions
In normal light, the LCD sub-dials with their traditional negative layout look readable even without the backlighting being turned on. As it was the case with the Exospace, the backlighting is engaged every time you operate the watch, but the digits on both displays can also light up every time you lift your hand to check time thanks to a tiny accelerometer inside that measures position of the titanium case.
Being a “hybrid”, the B55 Connected still has some features that look redundant.
While the analog hour and minute hands make it easier to get the current time in a single glance when you don’t have the luxury to actually read a digital display, and a stopped central seconds hand will immediately betray a mechanism that has stopped, the tachymeter scale looks like it’s not needed here when you can (a) always use a digital chronograph for the same purpose or, (b) given that the device is supposed to work with an iOS or Android-powered smartphone (nope, there is still no app for Windows 10 Mobile,) let a GPS-assisted app do its job of measuring your speed with a lot higher precision and in a safer manner.
Also, getting rid of the tachymeter scale could have made the dial look less cluttered and more convincing. I guess it is like with faux radiator grilles on electric vehicles: we still can’t imagine a car without a grille and we can’t fathom a chronograph without a tachymetric scale.
Like many “sporty” chronographs (even those that are available at 1/20th of the price,) the B55 has its dial finished with black carbon fiber material. The piece of textile not only underlines the sportiness of the watch but also serves as an adequate background for all three hands making them look especially contrast and easy to see even in twilight (and there is enough lume on hour and minute hands, as well as on the applied hour markers for the nighttime readability never to become an issue.)
While the combination of textures looks extremely cool, the choice of colors doesn’t look especially convincing with the hands painted bright red and the digits on the LCD screens glowing electric blue. Replacing the red accents with orange ones would have allowed the analog part of the display to play better with the digital interface, but I am aware that this is part of the review is purely subjective.
As for the app, it looks more or less standard with easy to read data, huge “buttons” of the menu and all the necessary indication that you can expect from a smartwatch, including the status of the lithium-ion cell that powers the electronic module. Connected via Bluetooth, it won’t allow you to read text messages or upload your photos to Instagram, but will at least indicate on its top LCD screen that you got the message or have missed a call: still miles behind a full-fledged smartwatch, but a nice feature to have for a person who can’t make the jump from traditional timekeeper to the smart one.
The watch is animated by Breitling Caliber B55 movement: something that looks like a glorified version of one of their good old SuperQuartz mechanisms.
Sporting a comprehensive list of functions (that include all sorts of chronographs, stopwatches, countdown timers, daily alarms and, of course, the capability to share information with your smartphone,) this is the same cal. B55 that powered the original Breitling B55 Connected that was first shown almost two years ago at Baselworld 2015 and that I have somehow forgotten to write a review about.
Breitling claims the mechanisms to be manufactured “in-house”, yet it is doubtful that a single luxury brand with virtually zero experience in making smartwatches can make a serious mechanism from scratch. Also, according to the information that I was able to gather searching the web, the “in-house” part of the description means that the mechanism is put together at the watchmaker’s production facilities: the base is still one of ETA’s range-topping Thermoline thermo-compensated analog-digital calibers with an added Bluetooth connectivity, a third-party charging module for its lithium-ion battery, and all the necessary software and firmware being outsourced from Swiss-based OEM manufacturers.
As the industry takes baby steps towards making their luxury timekeepers smarter, Breitling tries to create what you may call “mild hybrid” models that expand the functionality of their quartz-powered timekeepers, give them more value.
Of course, the list of functions is still years behind those that you can get from a typical “smartwatch” currently offered by Garmin, Suunto, Samsung, and many others, but it is still more advanced than any Breitling with analog/digital display that was offered during the last decade or so.
Some of the functions -like, say, all those types of chronographs and whole chronograph programs like “chrono rally”, “chrono race” and others- look superfluous. Yet, the ability to synchronize time zones according to the GPS module in your smartphone is a useful function not only for professional pilots but also for frequent travelers who can now adjust their timekeepers’ reading with a push of a proverbial button.
The seven daily alarms, too, may be useful for persons suffering from health conditions that require administering medications several times per day at strictly set intervals.
Pricing & Availability
The Swiss giant hasn’t decided yet how much they want to charge you for this new model. However, back in 2015, the original Breitling Exospace B55 was offered at a recommended price of $8900. Given that this particular model is co-branded with Bentley and factoring in inflation, I would guestimate the new timekeeper’s price closer to at least $10,000.
It’s difficult to calculate the timekeeper’s “value for money” ratio. Yet, watches that were offered under the Breitling for Bentley brand have always been daringly overpriced selling you nothing more than an expensive logo on the dial that was accompanied by a good, but far from being “the best that money can buy” movement. If the price tag and average built quality do not scare you away, you should probably go for one. After all, buying overpriced things is a healthier habit than lighting Cuban cigars with 100 dollar bills.
Photos: Breitling / Bentley
Build quality: 4.5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5
Breitling for Bentley Supersports B55 Connected (ref. EB552022-BF47-285S) specification
Price: $7800 (Retail)
Movement: Breitling caliber B55, in-house, Swiss Made
Power reserve: 60 days (depends on usage patterns)
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, day, month, perpetual calendar, year, chronograph (Flyback, Rattrapante, “chrono rally”, “regularity rally”, “chrono race”), countdown, 7 daily Alarms, chronometer, power reserve indicator
Size: 46.00 mm
Height: Approx. 15.00 mm
Dial: Black carbon fiber, two LCD displays
Numerals: Arabic, applied
Hour markers: Applied, luminous
Hands: Luminous, red
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black rubber TwinPro strap with micro-adjustments
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective on both sides
Back: Solid, screw-in