Breitling Introduces the Affordable(ish) Top Time Classic Cars Chronograph Tourbillon

A (very) big, complicated watch.

Mostly made up of no-frills, vintage-inspired chronographs, Breitling’s Top Time collection now gets one of the brand’s most complicated offerings. The Breitling Top Time B21 Classic Cars Chronograph Tourbillon is inspired by the livery of 1960s American sports cars like the Ford Mustang, while its mechanics are courtesy of movement specialist La Joux-Perret, which constructed the B21 movement that combines a tourbillon and chronograph with column wheel.

Initial thoughts

Breitling’s newest launch goes far beyond the brand’s typical price range, but it is a chronograph with tourbillon, making it relative affordable given the complications. In fact, the combination of a chronograph with tourbillon is an uncommon pairing regardless of price.

The Top Time B21 Chevrolet Corvette

The watch retains the usual retro-inspired Top Time styling, which is attractive. The symmetry of the dial adds to its appeal, as do details like the mirrored register and tourbillon aperture, both shaped like a squircle.

While the green and blue dials have a conventional metal finish, the dial on the Chevrolet Corvette edition is burl wood veneer, a reference to the wood steering wheel and dash of the 1960s Corvette. The wood dial and black ceramic case are an unusual combination, but make the Corvette version the most interesting of the trio.

The downside of the watch is its size. The case is either 43 mm or 44 mm (depending on the material), which is acceptable, but 15.4 mm thick – that’s taller than a Lange Double Split. The thickness is inevitable due to the movement, but it gives the watch chunky and bulky proportions.

All three versions retail for US$47,000, a substantial number but accessible as such complications go.

Inspired by American sports cars

Like the rest of the Top Time line, the Chronograph Tourbillon has a simple but gently retro design. The case is a clean, round style with “pump” pushers, while the dial has a 60-minute counter in a vintage-inspired shape of a squircle (a square with round corners).

The Top Time Chronograph Tourbillon is available in three variants, all equipped with the same B21 movement. Two of them share the same black ceramic case that’s 44 mm in diameter. The first is the Chevrolet Corvette edition with a burl wood dial, and the second the Shelby Cobra with a dark blue dial inspired by the livery of the 1962 car of the same name.

The Top Time B21 Shelby Cobra

And the most striking of the trio is the Ford Mustang edition with a green dial and bronze case, a combination that reflects the colours of the first-generation Ford Mustang according to Breitling.

The bronze case is 43 mm in diameter, slightly smaller than that of the other two versions due to the simpler construction (as ceramic cases require an inner case).

The Top Time B21 Ford Mustang

The Top Time Chronograph Tourbillon is powered by the B21, a La Joux-Perret (LJP) creation that is often found in entry-level chronograph tourbillons.

The calibre reflects the movement maker’s historical speciality: building on the architecture of the ETA Valjoux 7750. But even though this is distantly related to the 7750, it is a LJP creation due to substantial modifications and improvements.

Besides the tourbillon at 12 o’clock, it also sports a column wheel instead of the cam in the stock 7750. The B21, however, does suffer from the familiar weakness of the 7750, thickness. This explains the bulky, 15.4 mm high case.

Key facts and price

Breitling Top Time B21 Classic Cars Chronograph Tourbillon
Ref. NB21251A1L1X1 (Ford Mustang, green)
Ref. SB21251A1C1X1 (Shelby Cobra, blue)
Ref. SB21252A1Q1X1 (Chevrolet Corvette, wood)

Diameter: 43 mm (Ford Mustang), 44 mm (Shelby Cobra and Chevrolet Corvette)
Height: 15.4 mm
Material: Bronze (Ford Mustang), or black ceramic (Shelby Cobra and Chevrolet Corvette)
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: B21
Functions: Hours, minutes, chronograph, and tourbillon
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 55 hours

Strap: Leather strap with folding buckle

Limited edition: No
Availability: Available at Breitling boutiques, retailers and online
Price: US$47,000

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