Bentley and Breitling set a trend for collaborations between luxury car marques and high-end watchmakers when they teamed up in 2002, just a few months before the launch of the top-selling Continental GT and Bentley’s return to Le Mans glory with the 1-2 finishes of the Speed 8 cars.
Drivers Tom Kristensen, Guy Smith and Rinaldo Capello (in winning car No7) and Mark Blundell, David Brabham and Johnny Herbert (in second-placed car No8) were issued with special Le Mans editions of a Breitling watch based on the existing 24-hour dial Navitimer Cosmonaute, originally developed for astronaut Scott Carpenter to wear during the orbital flights of Mercury-Atlas 7 in 1962.
The Le Mans special was the first variation on the Breitling for Bentley theme that began with the original Bentley Motors chronograph and grew to include numerous other models, among them the 6.75, the Bentley Perpetual, the limited-edition Mulliner Tourbillon and a rectangular-cased disaster called the Flying B.
The partnership became the longest known between a watch brand and a car marque. But following the sale of Breitling to investment group CVC Capital Partners in 2017 and the appointment of former IWC boss Georges Kern as CEO, some thought it likely that the Bentley deal would be axed – and now, after an impressive 19 years, its demise has been officially announced.
Bentley’s historic image as a maker of carriages for sporting, tweed-clad gentlemen couldn’t be much further from Breitling’s new direction as a watchmaker for a younger, funkier, ‘woke’ generation. It’s an image the brand promotes through its ‘squad’ concept that draws ambassadors from the worlds of cinema, exploration, aviation and sport and collaborations with hip labels such as Deus Ex Machina, Outerknown and Ironman.
The appreciation of retro-cool is also central to Breitling’s message, and that has now manifested itself in three new automotive watches in its Top Time chronograph range, each paying tribute to a ’60s American car.
The Classic Car Squad watches comprise a red and black dial version dedicated to the Chevrolet Corvette; a green and brown model inspired by the Ford Mustang and a blue one based on the Shelby Cobra. Each is a variation on the existing stainless steel Top Time (itself a tribute to one of the maker’s most popular ’60s pieces) and is powered by Breitling’s chronometer-certified Calibre 23 movement.
The snap-on back of each watch is engraved with the respective car’s logo, and the calfskin leather straps are perforated in ‘driver’ style.
Breitling Top Time Classic Cars Squad chronographs, £4360.
Atelier Jalaper is a Belgian make that is following in the path of REC by offering watches featuring dials hewn from the left-over components of interesting cars. In this case it’s the bonnet of an Aston Martin DB5 that has been used to create 600 dials for the four-model range, comprising date and day-date versions. The guilloché or ‘engine turned’ finish in the cut-outs at 12 and six o’clock is based on the look of a DB5 radiator grille, while transparent case backs give a view of the Japanese Miyota self-winding movement.
Atelier Jalaper AJ001-S, £690
Moto Culture is a new brand that celebrates the fire-breathing, bansheewailing 500cc two-stroke GP bikes that scared riders and thrilled crowds at race tracks in the 1980s and ’90s. The inaugural Heritage Racer is available in six colour combinations that recall Honda’s NSR500, Yamaha’s YZR500 and Suzuki’s RGV500 as well as the men who tamed them, including Freddie Spencer, Barry Sheene and Wayne Rainey. Each has a 40mm steel case containing a Seiko quartz movement.
Moto Culture Heritage Racer, £299