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Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Watch Review 

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

The Navitimer might be the icon of Breitling’s vintage line-up, with the Chronomat’s recent revival spurring more interest in their retro divers too, but the Premier Chronographs are, without a doubt, the watchmaker’s most collectible. A decent condition one will set you back somewhere in the region of £5,000, with mint going well above that. It’s not hard to see why either; they’re gorgeous, which was pretty unusual for the time. All of which means I leapt at the chance to get hands on with the new Breitling Premier B01 Chronographs.

First, a little bit of history. Back in 1943, chronographs were a distinct tool, long before electronic timekeeping and they generally fell into two categories. On one side you had military pieces, generally built with rugged utilitarianism in mind, ripped straight out of the cockpit and onto pilots’ wrists. Then there were your civilian watches, which were invariably streamlined, gold, and elegant in a classical sense.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

With nothing between those two disparate poles, Breitling saw a yawning gap in the market and so set to the work of filling it with the original Premier. It was the best of both worlds, taking the mechanical movements developed for military timekeeping – ‘for the timing of long duration’, the ads said – and putting them in watches finished to dress watch standards. They did the job, and plenty of watches were built, produced and sold over the years – until the collection went on an extended hiatus.

Then, in 2019, Breitling reintroduced the Premier collection. Admittedly the collection had a bit of a false start to begin with, due to an overtly modern aesthetic, and it wasn’t until 2021’s Premier Heritage Collection that it really felt like the Premier was back. But even then it didn’t feel like a full collection yet, just a capsule, and that wasn’t rectified by the founder-focused trio of Premier Tourbillons last year.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

Now though, to celebrate the Premier’s 80s birthday, Breitling has finally bridged the gap between the modern releases and those heritage pieces with the straightforwardly named Premier B01 Chronograph 42. So, let’s get onto the review proper now that I have two of the new pieces in front of me.

Aesthetically, the new watches are what we’ve come to expect from Breitling’s heritage ranges. The two I have here are the cream and green editions in steel, although in total there are five in steel and two in gold. They’re all available on either a strap or a case-matched seven-link bracelet. I definitely prefer the bracelet, it’s really comfortable but more importantly it adds some serious heft, which feels great on the wrist.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

I should mention the other colour options too: black and blue on the darker side of the spectrum and a vintage salmon on the lighter. However, it’s the green and cream I really wanted to see. When I first picked them up, I thought the green would be my favourite, but now that I’ve spent some time with them, I’m actually leaning towards the cream. If the green was the same pistachio shade as the Premier Heritage, it would be a totally different story but I find the Premier B01 a touch on the dark side. In contrast the cream falls into the goldilocks zone of being just off-white enough to feel vintage while remaining clean.

The 42mm cases are nicely machined as well, with small, discrete chronograph pushers that balance elegance and usability. Perhaps the scales on the dial itself lean a bit too much towards elegance, but not enough to impact its usability too much. Plus, the red tip of the chronograph seconds hand makes it a lot easier to read the display.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

Flipping the pieces over we can see that, as ever with these sorts of releases, the movement is anything but old-fashioned. The Calibre 01 is a solid, column-wheel chronograph with a vertical clutch, COSC-certified and with a 70-hour power reserve. The reserve will be less with the chronograph active of course, but from my experience that difference was negligible. What I can say is that the chronograph is as mechanically satisfying to use as you’d expect from a watchmaker with some serious cache in the field.

Ultimately, my main concern is that they’re perhaps a bit too safely vintage. From a business stand point, that direction does make sense – Breitling have already plumbed the 1970s recently along with all eras of the Navitimer and some distinctly modern pieces on top, so the new Premiers slot in neatly. But I do find myself wishing for the more fun take on this we saw back in 2021.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

But while I might quibble on small margins here or there, it’s equally important to maintain perspective. The Premier B01 Chronograph is a really solid watch and represents yet another celebratory milestone in Breitling’s history. 80 years on the Premier is as casually elegant as a chronograph can get, whether you’re wearing it as a more formal piece or just want to use it ‘for the timing of long duration.’ On top of that, this is just the first wave of watches and – Breitling being as prolific a watchmaker as any working today – you can likely expect a ton of variations on the theme in the future. Maybe another Duograph? I’ll hold out hope.

Price & Specs:

  • Model: Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42
  • Ref: AB0145221B1P1 (black dial with leather strap), AB0145221B1A1 (black dial with bracelet), AB0145171C1P1 (blue dial with leather strap), AB0145171C1A1 (blue dial with bracelet), AB0145331K1P1 (salmon dial with leather strap), AB0145331K1A1 (salmon dial with bracelet), AB0145371L1P1 (green dial with leather strap), AB0145371L1A1 (green dial with bracelet), AB0145211G1P1 (cream dial with leather strap), AB0145211G1A1 (cream dial with bracelet), RB0145371G1P1 (cream dial, 18k rose gold case with leather strap) or RB0145371G1R1 (cream dial, 18k rose gold case with bracelet)
  • Case/dial: 42mm diameter x 13.6mm thickness, stainless steel or 18k rose gold case, black, blue, salmon, green or cream dial with tone-on-tone chronograph counters, Super-LumiNova® luminescent hour and minute hands
  • Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
  • Movement: Breitling Calibre 01, in-house automatic chronograph (column-wheel, vertical clutch, 1/4th second, 30-minute and 12-hour totalizers) with bidirectional with ball bearing, COSC-certified, 334 components
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
  • Power reserve: 70h
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
  • Strap: Black, gold-brown, or brown alligator leather strap with folding stainless steel buckle or stainless steel seven-row bracelet with a butterfly clasp (stainless steel models), brown alligator leather strap with a 18k red gold folding buckle or 18k red gold seven-row bracelet (rose gold)
  • Price/availability: £7,150 (stainless steel with leather strap), £7,400 (stainless steel with bracelet), £16,600 (rose gold with leather strap) and £32,500 (rose gold with bracelet)

About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Junior Content Producer for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. While a relative newcomer to the magazine, he's nonetheless a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better.

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