The new Breitling Townhouse is too cool for its own good

On London’s Regent Street, the Swiss luxury watchmaker is opening its new flagship store — pool table, bar, motorcycle and all…

Watch boutiques shouldn’t have this much swagger. They should be neatly ticking, cleanly designed spaces with glass cases and knowledgable staff in very small spectacles. They should have white walls, countertop espresso machines and maybe even a token fern. They should be clean, quiet and clinical.

That’s what watch boutiques should be like. Breitling, it would appear, didn’t get that memo.

At 198 Regent Street, the Breitling Townhouse spans eight floors of retail and office space — and couldn’t be further from your father’s watch boutique. There’s exposed brick, neon signs and artsy black and white photographs of surfers hanging from the walls. The lighting is low, the wood dark and the light fittings pleasingly industrial. The place doesn’t look like a watch boutique — it looks, dare we say it, cool?

But that’s only to be expected of Breitling. Since 1884, the Swiss luxury watch brand has been pushing boundaries in the watch world. It has associations with aviation, with surfing and with acting — and trinkets and tokens from these worlds can be spotted throughout the Townhouse.

There’s a racing helmet and small yellow racing car on a centre display, a model airplane sits an angle from a top shelf and a surfboard stamped with the brand’s signature B hangs at a rakish angle on the wall.

And that isn’t even the half of it. Is that a motorcycle in the centre of the floor? Why yes, a silver a limited-edition Norton Commando 961 Cafe Racer MKII to be exact. Which other watch brand could pull that off? And is that a pool table we spy downstairs? You’re damn right it is — just next to the bar. Well of course there’s a bar — stocked with spirited bottles from Casamigos Tequila to Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation American Gin. Very nice.

Modern-retro abides throughout the new space, with an industrial aesthetic heightened with heritage highlights. The vivid Breitling yellow keeps everything bright, and a spotlight falls on an ornate cast iron lift — restored to its original condition to serve the building’s eight floors once again. There’s so much to see, you could almost miss the watches. But, them being Breitlings, there’s little chance of that.

Among them, the Breitling Superocean Héritage II B01 Chronograph 44 — one of Gentleman’s Journal’s current favourites and an eye-catching timepiece with a new stainless steel bezel and an incredibly tough ceramic ring that’s both scratch-proof and shock-resistant. It’s inherently cool. But, when we think about it, all of Breitling’s watches are. So we suppose the brand having a space this cool makes sense too.

Looking to get your watch engraved? Here are our do’s and don’ts of the notoriously tricky tradition…

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