Did you know that, for a long time, the most prestigious form of Mercedes Benz to own wasn’t an S-Class or a G-Wagon? True connoisseurs have appreciated the SL since its inception and particularly value the luxuriousness of this speedy convertible. It could take on tracks, but it was happier cruising down Route 66 or the Amalfi coast with the roof down and the sun shining, a true marker of the uncompromising drive so many aspired to. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? It wasn’t just on this side of the pond that this particular dream lived. In 1954, Detroit was shaken up by the arrival of the all-American “personal luxury car”, the Ford Thunderbird, which combined power and luxuriousness with up-to-date styling, it was undoubtedly a poster child for the American Dream. Being an English myself, I even like the early Noughties Thunderbirds that Americans seem to despise so much (does anyone remember that Thunderbirds movie where FAB 1 was based on that particular Ford Thunderbird? It’s in the British Motor Museum in Warwickshire, UK). I’m getting sidetracked.
Breitling Top Time B01 Ford Thunderbird White
Breitling’s paid tribute to that car, and several others, with a new version of the Top Time B01, which features a white dial with rounded square subdials and touches of red. The historically-inspired cursive font of the Breitling logo makes this one look handsome, I’m not usually a fan of Breitling mixing and matching its logo on its watches, but it works here next to the Thunderbird logo. This version has a 41mm stainless steel case with a fiery red perforated leather strap or a stainless steel Milanese loop. The Thunderbird logo sits atop the ball-bearing rotor, which is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback.
Breitling Top Time B01 Chevrolet Corvette Red
The second Top Time version is dedicated to what could be considered a rival for the Thunderbird, sort of. When Chevrolet’s Corvette came about in 1953, it was clear that America had made what it needed most, a home-built sports car to take on the open roads. The Corvette would, more or less, stick to the principle of being America’s poster-child sports car. It doesn’t have the exotic draw of the Ferrari name, but it doesn’t have the same standoffish attitude either.
Breitling’s tribute to the Corvette is a Top Time with a fiery red dial with black subdials and all the attitude to match that of the Corvette and its burger-eating driver. While the second generation Corvette Stingray is probably the most desirable, there’s something for everyone with every generation of Corvette, and it seems the Top Time is the same. If you don’t like the steel Milanese loop bracelet, the brown leather strap looks good, and the 41mm stainless steel case isn’t offensive.
Breitling Top Time B01 Ford Mustang Green
The Corvette might well be America’s best car if it can fend off this next model. The Ford Mustang wasn’t the first “pony car” on sale; that title goes to the Plymouth Barracuda, which went on the market two weeks before the Mustang, although we all know which one would win the marathon in the end. Nevertheless, as well as still being in existence today, Ford’s venerable Mustan is recognised with the third of today’s Top Time editions.
This Ford Mustang edition comes with a distinctive green dial as well as the iconic Mustang logo on the dial. Like the Thunderbird edition, the cursive Breitling logo combines well with the horsey of the Mustang and the retro vibes Breitling is clearly aiming for. Breitling’s press blurb about all the watches is quite specific, the Thunderbird model is aimed at the first two generations (nicknamed the “Classic Bird” & “Square Bird”), the Corvette version mentions the second generation ‘Vette from 1963-1967 and this watch is inspired by the first generation ‘Stang which ran from 1964-1967. The last model, though, is a different story.
Breitling Top Time B01 Shelby Cobra Blue
Unlike the others, the car that the last model is named after isn’t some huge number-selling monster, although it’s definitely a speed monster. The AC Cobra, sold as the Shelby Cobra in the USA, is a small, lightweight sports car made by a tiny British company almost nobody’s ever heard of. Their sports car of the time, the Ace, used an old 6-cylinder Bristol engine, which was itself a pre-WW2 BMW engine and was outdated. Carroll Shelby, a retired racing driver, asked AC if they wouldn’t mind shoving a V8 into a car for him, and when he returned with boxes and boxes of Ford’s new ‘Windsor’ V8, they realised they were onto something.
Like all of the models here today, Breitling’s B01 calibre powers the Shelby Cobra edition of the Top Time. Unlike the others, though, this is in a twin-subdial configuration. It’s otherwise the same, though. That means these watches all get Breitling’s excellent in-house calibre, complete with a column wheel chronograph fitted with a vertical clutch. It’s also a COSC-certified chronometer with a power reserve of around 70 hours. Like all the others, it has the car’s logo in the centre of the self-winding rotor.
Which of these Top Time models is your favourite? While I’m a sucker for blue, I think the Thunderbird model looks the classiest and the best.