Breitling Introduces The New Top Time Classic Car Editions With A Trio Of Familiar Faces And One Newcomer
It’s been roughly 18 months since Breitling introduced the first Top Time Classic Cars Editions. During a big event in Geneva in 2021, the brand proudly presented three new Top Time models connected to American sports cars from the ’60s. The colorful Top Time watches celebrated the iconic style of both the chronographs and the cars from that decade. And they did so with great success. Breitling now introduces the new Top Time Classic Cars Editions as a next step. Three of them are updated versions of the models we saw in 2021, but there is also one great-looking new addition to the lineup. Time to find out more about the new Breitling Top Time Classic Cars Editions for 2023.
The Breitling Top Time has a special place in my heart. In my opinion, the Top Time ref. 810 is not only one of the best chronographs in Breitling’s history but also one of the best-looking chronographs ever produced period. Our own Mike Stockton owns the vintage Top Time ref. 810 and wrote a great article about it back in 2016. And I wrote a lengthy article about the first-generation ref. 810 model that is among my favorite vintage pieces of all time. Combining the 38mm Mark 1 case with its chamfered lugs and 21mm lug spacing, the three-register layout, and the colors, it’s just an awesome chronograph that I hold in higher regard than many of its contemporaries. Add the famous hand-wound Venus 178 column-wheel chronograph movement, and what you get is the perfect vintage classic.
Introducing the updated Top Time Classic Cars Editions
Up until now, Breitling hasn’t given us a modern version of the Top Time ref. 810. But we have seen a string of modern Top Time models since the line made a comeback in 2020. It started with the instantly recognizable “Zorro” edition with a bowtie/Zorro-mask dial. Another Top Time model was the popular collaboration model with Deus Ex Machina that sold out in no time. That collaboration continued in late 2022 with the second Top Time Deus Ex Machina model.
Another collaboration came in the form of the brilliant release with Triumph motorcycles. That model reminds me most of the classic ref. 810, although it is still markedly different with its ice-blue dial. And of course, there were the Classic Cars Editions that debuted in August of 2021. The lineup consisted of three models in two sizes, and they were based on three different iconic cars from the 1960s — the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang, and Shelby Cobra. For 2023, these three models have been updated, and a fourth model has been added to the fleet. The new Ford Thunderbird edition introduces an exciting new aesthetic that might be just the best one yet.
Let’s start with the overall details
Before diving into the different models, let’s look at the overall updates that Breitling has made. The first is the introduction of the brand’s in-house B01 movement for all four models. As a result, all four come with a 41mm stainless steel case that is 13.8mm thick and has a lug-to-lug of just over 50mm. For the previous Classic Cars models, Breitling used 42mm cases for the green-dialed Ford Mustang and red-dialed Chevrolet Corvette models. Those two watches featured three sub-dials and housed the ETA 2892-A2-based Caliber 25. For the two-register Shelby Cobra model, Breitling used a 40mm case with the similarly ETA-based Caliber 41.
But those movements have now made way for the COSC-certified B01 caliber! This highly praised Breitling manufacture movement powers many of the brand’s modern chronographs. The movement is visible through the sapphire display case back of all four new Top Time models. It operates at 28,800vph and provides 70 hours of power reserve. For those wondering, the Shelby Cobra still features a two-register layout, while the other three models have a three-register layout, despite using the same movement. Upgrading to the B01 is a great, logical choice that we’ll hopefully see throughout the entire Top Time collection. Not only is the B01 movement a great addition to the Top Time range, but it could potentially allow for a unified range of 41mm models.
The new Ford Thunderbird model
Let’s take a closer look at the new kid on the block. The Top Time Ford Thunderbird is a beautiful new addition to the lineup with a white dial and some great colorful accents. As you probably will know, we have seen the integration of bright colors on multiple new Top Time models. Not everyone is a big fan of this, but I have to say that I like the colors on some of the Top Time releases we’ve seen. For me, it depends on the overall design, and the Ford Thunderbird model proves that it can be done really tastefully.
The white dial features red and orange accents on the tachymeter scale that stand out immediately. On top of that, the light blue Thunderbird logo is placed directly under the Breitling logo. In a funky next step, we see the orange, red, and light blue return for the hands of the three sub-registers.
The central chronograph hand is executed in bright red, and it contrasts extremely well against the white background. The hour markers and the hands are treated with white Super-LumiNova to be fully in line with the white dial. The tone-on-tone registers are slightly recessed and create some depth in an otherwise crispy white dial with some nice hints of color. The watch comes with the choice of a red leather strap or a mesh bracelet.
The Ford Mustang model
For those who are familiar with the previous collection, you’ll find that the colorways of the other three models have remained. But the dial design has slightly changed with an updated tachymeter design and some extra hints of color on the registers. The Ford Mustang model still features a dark green dial with a black tachymeter scale on the periphery and three black sub-dials. It creates a very classy aesthetic with some fun details.
The tachymeter scale has hints of orange and yellow that come back in the hands of the sub-dials and the orange central chronograph hand. The watch comes with the choice of a brown leather strap or a mesh stainless steel bracelet.
The Chevrolet Corvette model
The Chevrolet Corvette edition also features the same combination of red and black as the 2021 model. Once again, the dial design is slightly updated and features orange and yellow details in the tachymeter scale. The 30-minute and 12-hour counters feature orange and yellow hands that stand out against the black background of the registers.
The central chronograph hand is executed in orange to contrast against the red main portion of the dial. While definitely less contrasting than the other models, it does create quite a uniform palette of colors. Having said that, the combination of orange, red, and yellow is not my favorite. But the good thing is that there are three other models to choose from. The red-dialed Corvette model comes with the choice of a black leather racing strap or the previously mentioned mesh bracelet.
The Shelby Cobra model
This brings us to the last of the four models, the Shelby Cobra. As I mentioned before, this is the only model with two registers and the Cobra logo at 6 o’clock, whereas the other models have the logos placed right under the Breitling signature. The Top Time Shelby Cobra features a blue dial with a white tachymeter scale that features red and orange details. The central chronograph hand is executed in red, and the hands of the sub-dials mirror the blue and red theme.
While I prefer the dial layout with three registers, the two-register layout of this Shelby Cobra model feels balanced. The logo at 6 o’clock in combination with the Breitling logo and the “Top Time” wording on the top half feels more logical than the other models with the “Top Time” wording tucked away between the center pinion and the register at 6 ‘clock.
In that sense, the layout of the Shelby Cobra has more room to breathe. Combined with the classic blue and white color scheme with red details, it makes for a very handsome watch that will likely have many fans. The watch comes on a brown leather strap or the same mesh bracelet as all the other models.
What the movement upgrade means for the line
The new Breitling Top Time Classic Cars collection makes for a colorful quartet of watches with nice upgrades in both the movement and the design. While you can discuss the design changes as a matter of personal taste, the upgrade in movement is hard to criticize. I very much appreciate that Breitling has equipped these four new 41mm chronographs with its in-house B01 caliber. It is a step forward in many ways.
Breitling’s B01 column-wheel chronograph movement is a beautiful piece of machinery that is a definite step up from the ETA-based movements in the previous models. Secondly, in using the B01 movement, the path lies open to creating a new family of 41mm Top Time references. While most people would love to see a 40mm model or even a return to the 38mm of the original Top Time ref. 810, unifying the size is a welcome step in creating clarity for the Top Time collection.
Initial impressions of the new Breitling Top Time Classic Cars Editions
Overall, I think these four new models will be popular with people who love cars and watches. As Mike brought up in his article about the 2021 collection, this series might not be a favorite for people who are not fans of cars or the co-branding on the dials. But overall, it’s hard to deny the appeal of these Top Time models. They perfectly show the relevance and beauty of the Top Time, even six decades after it debuted. All four watches will be available for €7,550 on the leather strap and €7,950 on the bracelet. It is a significant step up in price compared to previous models that were €5,500. But you get a significant step up in movement and an updated design.
Though I am a fan of classic cars but not a fan of co-branding for watches, the new Top Time Ford Thunderbird is probably my favorite of the modern Breitling Top Time models. Of course, a reissue of the original ref. 810 could easily take its place, but I’ll have to keep waiting for that one. Nevertheless, I greatly respect what Breitling has done with this new Top Time Classic Cars collection.
For more information, please visit the official Breitling website.