Well, not “finally” because this new limited edition is based on the last year’s Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley British Racing Green. The correct title would sound like “That’s Why This New Breitling Premier Bentley Centenary Limited Edition Chronograph is One More Chance to Get Yourself a Bentley Watch You Can Wear,” yet it would be too long (and too clickbaity,) so, please, forgive me this attempt at sensationalism.
I am happy that someone at Breitling has finally realized that there is a lot of wealthy people with good taste and there is a strong demand for classy ultra-luxury watches.
Like with the last year’s Navitimer Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Limited Edition model, Breitling’s designers sought their inspiration in watches that were offered by the brand back in the 1940s-1950s when their products were mainly associated with elegance and refinement, not with arrogance and brutality. The new batch of vintage-styled models is still significantly physically larger than the classic pieces from half a century ago, but not in that defiantly vulgar way as the luxury timekeepers offered ten -or even five- years ago by Breitling itself, as well as its many competitors.
Case, Ergonomics & Strap
At 42 millimeters in diameter, the Centenary is still larger than a classic dressy chronograph and the lugs could have been a trifle shorter to make the limited edition more suitable to a wider audience, but it doesn’t look as arrogant as, say, the 2015 GT3 collection with its huge 49mm body. Also, at less than 14 millimeters from top to bottom, it is slim enough to be used with formal attire (and you can wear it with shirts with normal sleeves, too.)
The case looks even slimmer than it is thanks to the ultra-low-profile bezel that houses a convex sapphire crystal. For persons with a more active lifestyle that could be a problem since the crystal is poorly protected from occasional bumps, but it is that rare occasion where I would be willing to sacrifice some security in favor of aesthetics.
There is one little detail that I despise about this new timekeeper: the side plaque. Featuring so-called “circular graining” finish -the usual decor that the British car manufacturer employs for aluminum interior parts- and a seemingly inevitable “BENTLEY” inscription, the huge plaque is attached to the left side of the case and is the single vulgar part of this otherwise flawlessly beautiful timekeeper.
Quilted leather strap with prominent high-contrast stitching is another reference to the way that Bentley likes to decorate their cars. The obvious decor may, too, raise eyebrows, but at least it doesn’t look as brazen. Also, if you still think that the leather strap looks too gimmicky, you can always opt for a version with a stainless-steel bracelet.
As far as ergonomics is concerned, there are no visible issues here: all controls are well-calculated both for aesthetics and for ease of use. Some persons may not like the way the chronograph push-pieces don’t feel premium enough when used, but that’s the only issue that I foresee here.
The in-house Breitling caliber B01 automatic movement was introduced about ten years ago.
Designed by Breitling to replace the legendary -but not exclusive enough- ETA Valjoux 7750 in their chronographs, the Caliber B01 features a more advanced column-wheel chronograph design with a vertical clutch. The design is not only more efficient than the archaic cam-and-lever layout but is also a good display of Breitling’s capabilities as a Manufacture: you need a lot more expensive tools and far superior quality control to make such mechanisms on an industrial scale.
The initial bunch of owners experienced their share of mechanical problems with the movements. Some connoisseurs don’t like the “rough” feel of the chronograph push-pieces. Yet, in general, it’s a good movement that can keep a good time as long as it is properly serviced by qualified personnel.
Unlike Sellita movements that were designed as direct replacements for ETA calibers, the Caliber B01 boasts many features that make it superior to the legendary workhorse movement, both in terms of ergonomics (it, for example, allows changing the date close at 0:00 without damaging the mechanism) and usability.
Beating at the same frequency of 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour, the B01 features a power reserve of at least 70 hours thanks to better efficiency and a longer mainspring. Together they give you extra thirty hours -or so- more than your normal ETA Valjoux 7750 making the watch more useful if you don’t plan to wear it daily and don’t want to use a winder to keep it going between days of inactivity.
The fact that it is an officially COSC-certified chronometer shouldn’t get you too enthusiastic, though. It’s not that the certification authority carefully examines each mechanism to see whether its performance is good enough to get the certificate: Breitling makes way too many calibers to justify such an expensive procedure. Yet, it’s nice to have a respective inscription on the timekeeper’s sapphire back.
The B01’s exterior finish may look Spartan for a product that bears the Bentley logo, one of the few symbols of opulence. Yet, all in all, it is good enough. They even decided to replace the original oscillating weight with a personalized one that features a red gold insert for better winding efficiency and, you know, to make the Centenary look even more expensive.
Dial & Legibility
It is the dial that makes the Premier Bentley Centenary so interesting.
Breitling is not the first brand to use wood veneer to decorate a timekeeper’s face. Yet the choice of material is one of those rare occasions where it not only perfectly complements the overall look and feel of a product, but also builds a solid bridge between products of two legendary brands.
Bentley uses real wood veneer to make their vehicles look even more exclusive. The California Walnut Burl looks great when applied to door panels, steering wheels or, basically, any other interior surface that is not covered with precious leather, but its prominent texture is way too large when it comes to a timekeeper’s dial opening that is normally less than 40 millimeters in diameter.
Breitling managed to find a piece of wood that looks just as good as walnut but can be used to decorate a watch: Elm Burl. Known for its extremely dense patterns, it is used in woodworking starting with things as small as chess pieces and going all the way to custom guitars and even furniture. Like many other “organic” materials, Elm Burl is becoming scarcer every year, and it’s getting more expensive, too.
The Elm Burl dials look like they were originally chosen for the way they play together with the red gold versions. Yet, somehow, the versions in stainless steel make an even stronger impression thanks to the stark contrast between the cold, gray color of the metal, and the natural, warm look of the Elm Burl pattern.
Legibility is good. Not great, mind you, but good: something that you can expect from a classic bi-compax chronograph from a European brand.
The dial is clean enough not to be called “busy,” although the unavoidable tachymeter scale makes the chronograph’s face not as clean as I would care for. There is some lume in hair-thin “slits” in the hours and minutes hands, but the Superluminova here almost looks like an afterthought: there is just not enough of it for the Centenary to be legible in every imaginable lighting scenario.
The date aperture is as small as usual. I wonder when Breitling finally heeds to our prayers and creates a nice “Big Date” module for the B01 caliber: as Glashutte Original proved countless times, classic chronographs can look extremely sexy when you have enough technical expertise to create a good-looking digital calendar indicator.
Pricing & Availability
This review will be updated when Breitling reveals official information regarding pricing and international availability.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4/5
Value for Money: n/a
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Breitling Premier Bentley Centenary specification
Movement: Breitling caliber B01, in house, COSC-certified chronometer, Swiss Made
Movement finish: Geneva stripes, beveled bridges, polished screw heads
Number of Jewels: 47
Cadence of Balance: 28,800 vph
Power Reserve: Approx. 70 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph, date
Case: 18-karat red gold (ref. RB01181A1Q1X1) / Surgical-grade Stainless steel (refs. AB01181A1Q1A1, AB01181A1Q1X1, and AB01181A1Q1X2)
Size: 42.00 mm
Height: 13.65 mm
Lug width: 22.00 mm
Dial: Brown elm burl
Hour markers: Applied
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: 22mm Brown “Bentley” leather strap with contrasting stitching or red gold pin buckle / Folding buckle / Stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp
Crystal: Sapphire, double anti-reflective coating, convex
Back: Sapphire, screwed, Bentley logo etched on the crystal