The worlds of watchmaking and motoring are inextricably, rivetingly linked. Timepieces have always ticked where engines have thrummed; and this enduring, well-engineered association has led to some seriously cool collaborations during decades past. From Breitling, the last slice of such high-octane horology is this; the Breitling Premier Top Time Triumph Limited Edition.
Earlier this week, Gentleman’s Journal took a flying visit to Triumph Motorcycles’ Hinckley HQ for the unveiling of the icy blue-hued watch. There, among the Tigers and the Tridents, we were introduced to this latest handsome Top Time from Breitling — as well as a new ‘Speed Twin’ motorcycle from Triumph itself. But what, aside from this collaboration, links the two brands — and when did the Top Time become such an icon of the café racer subculture?
Back in the mid-1960s, that’s when. It was the height of the eternally summery, swinging decade, and young enthusiasts were riding their lightweight, powerful motors from café to café. Willy Breitling — ever a champion of the zeitgeist — set out to capture this speed-driven style, and strap it around his wrist. He created the Top Time, a sporty watch designed specifically for ‘young and active professionals’. And, this week, Breitling and Triumph joined forces to roar it back to life.
It’s an exceedingly alluring watch, and one that will share a very special relationship with the motorcycle launched alongside it; the Triumph Speed Twin Breitling Limited Edition. Because, to celebrate 120 years of Triumph, the first ever collaboration between the two brands will see the ‘Zorro-dialled’ Top Time rolled out alongside 270 exclusively co-branded, individually numbered motorcycles.
It’s as much a package deal as a partnership; with the style cues of the watch evident across the Speed Twin’s entire design, and vice versa. And, for those of you lucky enough to lay your hands on one of Triumph’s latest motorcycles, you can also engrave your corresponding watch with the unique number of your Speed Twin; binding both motor and wristwatch forever.
With a price tag of £16,000, the Triumph’s price tag weighs a little heavier than its wrist-mounted stablemate (the Breitling costs £4,500). But the specs and stats make for persuasive reading. Each of the ice-blue bikes is unique, and features an individually numbered handlebar clamp. That distinctive polychromatic blue paint is noteworthy, too; having been spectrograph-matched to the original Triumph Thunderbird 6T colour from 1951 — and formulated to complement the dial of the chronograph to a Top Time T.
Elsewhere, Triumph has specced out its new Speed Twin with fully adjustable Öhlins twin shocks, complete with gloss black springs. That same slick black colour can be found striped down the tank, where hand-painted coach lines evoke the precise indices and markings of Breitling’s timepiece. The Speed Twin is also fitted with Brembo M50 callipers, high specification Marzocchi USD forks and is powered by a liquid-cooled, crank angle parallel twin engine.
It’s a six-speed, twin-exhausted piece of motorcycling history; the first machine manufactured by the brand alongside a quality timepiece — and the ideal choice for those whose passions lay squarely between high speeds and horology.
And, despite the logos of Triumph and Breitling adorning both bike and watch, there’s more linking the two than a simple namecheck. As we mentioned, the cornerstone of this limited collection is that dazzling blue colour; as piercing as it is punchy. But not only does it reference the decades-old Triumph Thunderbird 6T; the hue also takes cues from a rare 1970s Breitling Top Time (Ref. 815). Similarly, the motorcycle’s saddle features the same perforated black leather and contrasting grey stitching as the Top Time’s strap, and the caseback of the watch is etched with a detailed design sketch of Triumph’s parallel twin engine. It’s a comprehensive collaboration.
But perhaps our favourite ‘tying-together’ touch can be found beyond the handlebars. Triumph worked closely with Breitling to design custom instrument faces, hoping to create speed and RPM gauges that resembled the famous dial of the Top Time. Pair that with the billet-machined aluminium clutch and alternator embellishers — darkly anodised and bearing the Breitling logo — and the watch has stylistically influenced the motorcycle as the motorcycle has the watch.
Of course, like Triumph has tweaked its Speed Twin, so too has Breitling refined its Top Time. At 41mm, the new limited chronograph continue’s the brand’s recent trend to tend towards a more understated size — whilst still retaining those statement oversized mushroom pushers, which allow for easy control of the chronograph’s stop-start and reset functions.
Amidst the ice-blue, the dial also boasts a high-contrast tachymeter scale, offering clear legibility for riders — even if you’re reading the time from the saddle of your swift-shifting Triumph. Inside the case, you’re looking at the manufacture’s revered ‘Caliber 23’, the COSC-certified chronometer with a power reserve nudging 48 hours.
“This collaboration is born out of a shared philosophy of bold and original design,” Triumph CEO Nick Bloor tells us. “The Top Time Triumph brings that uncompromising style and craftsmanship together.”
“Triumph’s heritage and modern-retro aesthetic are just two of the many things we have in common,” adds Georges Kern, CEO of Breitling. “Their blending of tradition with technology is completely in sync with what we do.”
It’s true. There’s a thread that strings these two brands together. Both Breitling and Triumph have an intimate relationship with their past incarnations; and frequently look to their own archives for inspiration. Whether that’s a forgotten tank shape for Triumph, or a case shape that fell by the Breitling wayside, there’s a respect and reverence for heritage that keeps these companies ticking — and motoring — along. And nowhere is that more evident that with this latest vintage-cool collaboration.
Breitling Premier Top Time Triumph Limited Edition
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