The new Premier series launched by Breitling features models that are characterised by a more subtle design. The new look also demonstrates the new direction of the company under CEO Georges Kern – a much-discussed topic in the watchmaking world that has given many the impression that people don’t wish to join the company on their new journey.
New Breitling collection and new values?
It has been said that the new collection lacks the familiar design and the very attributes that once made Breitling watches so popular. Many of the critics fear that the image of the brand is being diluted. So, is this criticism justified? Or has Kern recognised the signs of the times and pushed for an overhaul of traditional ideas in order not to stay in touch with emerging customer demands?
BREITLING NAVITIMER 01 B01 CHRONOGRAPH 43AB0121211B1P1
The Breitling Premier collection in detailLet's first take a look at the new Premier collection that set this all off. Strictly speaking, the new direction of the Premier series is not actually so new. Rather, it relates back to its beginnings in the 1940s. Unlike pilot's watches, such as the Navitimer or the diver’s watches from the Superocean family, the design was not geared towards the military, but instead for civilian use. The company describes the models in the new Premier collection as watches with “urban elegance”. There are a total of ten new models, which in turn are split among the following Premier model types: Chronograph 42, Chronograph 42 Norton and Chronograph 42 Bentley Centenary. The new chronographs were created in collaboration with Bentley and are all limited editions.
A common feature of the Breitling Bentley models is the unusual burl elm dial, which is a material that was also used in the dashboards of Bentley's legendary racing cars. Two sub-dials are on hand to track the minutes and hours, while there is also a date display at 6 o'clock. A tachymeter scale adds to the look on the black internal bezel, while the “Bentley” lettering is engraved on the left side of the case. The in-house manufactory Calibre 01 provides a powerful and reliable driving force and can be admired through the glass case back. The models are available in steel and red gold with a steel bracelet or calf leather strap. The prices of these watches range from €9,350 (Ref. AB01181A1Q1X2, steel/brown) to €26,350 (Ref. RB01181A1Q1X1, red gold/brown).
BREITLING PREMIER B01 CHRONOGRAPH 42 NORTON (Photo: Breitling)
The Premier B01 Chronograph 42 is somewhat simpler, but no less elegant. It is also powered by Breitling’s Calibre 01 and has an exceptional power reserve of 70 hours. Here the dial is crafted from anthracite, which allows the black sub-dials to elegantly stand out against it. The 42 mm case can be combined with a steel, nubuck or crocodile leather strap. Depending on which version you choose, the watch costs between €7,470 and €7,700.
In 2018 Breitling announced its cooperation with the English motorbike manufacturer Norton. This exciting partnership is now bearing its first fruits with the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton (Ref. AB0118A21B1X1). In contrast to the Bentley x Breitling chronograph models, there are Arabic numerals on the dial, with a gold outline that matches the colour of the hands. The internal bezel is white and has a tachymeter scale. The bracelet made of untanned leather is an exciting contrast to the classy steel case of the watch. Breitling has set the price for this watch at €7,800. As on the Bentley models, you will find the “Norton” logo and the silhouette of one of their iconic motorcycles on the back of the case.
However, there is a feeling of discontent among some watch enthusiasts about the new offerings. It is assumed that some feel that the company lack ideas somewhat when it comes to creating genuinely new models. The decision to sell these models as limited editions may cover this up slightly and have a financial benefit as well.
Georges Kern brings a breath of fresh air to Breitling
Born in Düsseldorf in 1965, Georges Kern was introduced as Breitling's shareholder and CEO in 2017, which was a slight surprise as Kern was previously responsible for all of the specialist watch brands within the Richemont luxury goods group.
However, the one-time business administration graduate was looking for a new challenge and found it in the fact that he was able to take on his first entrepreneurial venture at Breitling. Often this type of change in the boardroom of big corporations are followed by significant changes or a new brand direction. The Breitling logo was changed which was met with criticism. But as Kern correctly pointed out, the new design is based on the original logo of the watch manufacturer.
The new CEO has set himself the task of opening up new markets to boost sales and is focusing his attention on the Chinese market based on his experience at IWC. In the context of this market, people prefer elegant, fashionable watches rather than sporty models. However, the image of people who wear Breitling watches has also changed in Europe. Status symbols, which naturally stand out, are no longer the concept that convinces the majority of male customers to buy a certain watch. Instead, it is an understatement that is the order of the day and Kern's considerations seem to be taking things in the right direction. After all, while there are critics, there are also a large number of watch enthusiasts who have taken a liking to the new look of the Breitling Premier – precisely because they are more low-key.
Since there is still no doubt about the outstanding quality of the watches, perhaps fans of the brand who feel unsatisfied with the recent changes can be won over again. In any case, we are convinced that Breitling have are on the right course for the future.