Breitling Top Time: Chronograph With Vintage Flair
Breitling introduced the Top Time in the 1960s as an affordable entry point to their brand. In 2020, the manufacturer began producing fresh models, many of which are dedicated to 1960s muscle cars.
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For Collectors and Fans of Classic Chronographs
Along with early Navitimer and Chronomat models, watches in the Top Time collection are some of the most sought-after vintage timepieces among Breitling fans. The Swiss watchmaker first introduced the chronograph in 1964 and maintained the series until the mid-1970s. The Top Time was intended to be a more affordable alternative to Breitling's other watches, and its target audience was primarily young, active men in their mid- to late 20s. That said, the watch's elegant designs and moderate sizes (from 36 to 42 mm) make the Top Time appealing to women as well.
Initially, Breitling only offered the Top Time with a bicompax dial layout. Towards the end of the 1960s, however, models with three subdials were introduced to the collection. Both versions featured the panda or reverse panda color schemes that are still very popular today. Watches with designs inspired by racing and those with a "Zorro" dial are also in great demand among collectors. The outer edge of every Top Time dial features either a tachymeter scale, pulsometer, or decimal scale. A curved acrylic glass protects the display.
The Breitling Top Time comes in stainless steel, yellow gold, or gold-plated stainless steel. Depending on the production year, the case will be either round or cushion-shaped. The manufacturer equips these timepieces exclusively with manual calibers from Venus or Valjoux.
Breitling has manufactured a modernized version of the Top Time since 2020. It started with a limited edition of 2,000 pieces that brought the Zorro dial from the 1960s back into play. After that, more new Top Time models appeared, some dedicated to 1960s muscle cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang, and Shelby Cobra. Breitling also set their sights on motorcycle enthusiasts and created a number of timepieces in cooperation with the motorcycle manufacturer Triumph and Australian custom motorcycle and surfboard producer Deus ex Machina.
These Top Time variants are powered by calibers produced by Swiss watch movement manufacturer ETA. Breitling modifies the movements in-house and has them certified by the COSC.
5 Reasons to Buy a Breitling Top Time
- Vintage and current chronographs available
- Panda and reverse panda dials with two or three subdials
- Swiss calibers by Venus, Valjoux, or ETA
- Round and cushion-shaped cases from 35 to 42 mm
- Special editions for muscle car and motorcycle manufacturers
Prices at a Glance: Breitling Top Time
|Reference number||Price (approx.)||Size, subdials, dial|
|7656||8,500 USD||42 mm, 3, reverse panda|
|A41315A71C1X2, Shelby Cobra||8,200 USD||41 mm, 2, blue & white|
|A233101A1A1X1, Deus||7,600 USD||41 mm, 2, panda|
|A233112A1A1X1, Deus||7,300 USD||41 mm, 2, blue & white|
|A25310241K1X1, Chevrolet Corvette||6,800 USD||42 mm, 3, black & red|
|A253101A1L1X1, Ford Mustang||6,500 USD||42 mm, 3, black & green|
|A23311121C1X1, Triumph||6,100 USD||41 mm, 2, ice blue & black|
|A23310121G1X1||5,500 USD||41 mm, 2, panda, Zorro|
|810||4,800 USD||38 mm, 3, monotone|
|2002||3,200 USD||36 mm, 2, reverse panda|
|814||3,200 USD||38 mm, 3, reverse panda|
|2211||3,200 USD||38 mm, 2, racing|
|2000-33||3,100 USD||36 mm, 2, reverse panda|
|2008||1,300 USD||38 mm, 2, panda|
Buying a Breitling Top Time
Prices for a Top Time range from about 1,300 USD for a cushion-shaped ref. 2008 to around 8,400 USD for the rare ref. 7656. Most vintage chronographs in the line change hands for roughly 3,200 to 4,800 USD. The latter amount would get you the ref. 810, for example, with a reverse panda dial design and two subdials.
New Breitling Top Time models produced since 2020 cost between 5,500 and 8,200 USD. While you'll find the 2020 relaunched "Zorro" variant at the lower end of this price range, the price point for the Top Time Shelby Cobra sits at the upper end. The Top Time Ford Mustang demands a comparatively moderate investment of around 6,500 USD.
Vintage Top Time With Two Subdials
The ref. 2002 is the most popular early Top Time model. This is largely thanks to its appearance in the 1965 James Bond film "Thunderball." In fact, it was the first Bond watch ever to be upgraded with special functions by quartermaster Q. More specifically, Bond's Top Time comes with a Geiger counter that he uses to detect stolen nuclear weapons. The original timepiece from the movie sold for approximately 160,000 USD at a Christie's auction in 2013.
Breitling initially outfitted the ref. 2002 with the manual Venus caliber 188. The manufacturer then switched to the Valjoux 7730 for the ref. 2002-3, later replacing it with the Valjoux 7733 in the ref. 2002-33. These watches are available with panda, reverse panda, or monotone silver-white dials. The 36-mm stainless steel case is water-resistant to 30 m (3 bar, 98 ft) thanks to its screw-down case back. Depending on the watch's condition, you can get your hands on one of these timepieces for around 3,200 USD.
The Top Time ref. 2003 entered the market at about the same time and demands a similar investment. In terms of design, the refs. 2002 and 2003 are nearly identical. The main difference is that the ref. 2003 is available with a gold-plated stainless steel case. It also boasts a monobloc case but no water resistance, and gets its power from a Venus 178 or Valjoux 7733 caliber. Breitling produced the watch with round and rectangular push-pieces. Plan to shell out about 2,000 USD for one of these timepieces.
Models With Three Subdials
If you'd prefer a vintage watch with three subdials, take a look at the Top Time ref. 810. The Venus caliber 178 ticks away inside its 38-mm stainless steel case. The hour counter sits at 6 o'clock, the minute counter at 3, and the small seconds dial at 9. Breitling modified the movement with an extra-long mainspring, thereby improving its power reserve from 45 to 52 hours. As a result, the timepiece quickly earned the nickname "Long Playing."
For specimens manufactured between 1964 and 1966, Breitling continued to use a monobloc stainless steel case. It was not until 1967 that the Swiss watchmaker switched production to a case with a separate case back. Regardless of the construction type, you should budget between 4,800 and 8,100 USD for a well-preserved Top Time ref. 810, depending on the condition and dial variant.
The Top Time 7656 With a Rotating Bezel
The Top Time ref. 7656 has a special place in the hearts of collectors. This model is from the 1970s and features a bidirectional bezel, which sets it apart from the rest of the collection. What's more, it measures 42 mm in diameter – a massive size for its time. The watch is powered by the Valjoux 7736. Breitling only offered this chronograph with a reverse panda dial featuring three white subdials on a black background. Due to its rarity, it's not uncommon to find pieces selling for upwards of 9,000 USD.
The Top Time With a Cushion-Shaped Case
In addition to classic round cases, Breitling began offering the Top Time with a cushion-shaped case in the late 1960s. One of the most sought-after models is the ref. 814. The Venus caliber 178 provides this watch with a minute counter, hour counter, and small seconds in a 3-6-9 dial layout. It's also hard to miss the bright orange chronograph seconds hand. Well-maintained models change hands for roughly 3,200 USD on Chrono24.
Models with the reference numbers 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 are somewhat more affordable. You can tell these watches apart by their finer details such as the ornamentation on the case and the shape and arrangement of the hour indices. Unlike the ref. 814, these models predominately have two subdials thanks to the Valjoux 7730 inside. The chronograph pushers are also different with their rectangular shape. Prices for these timepieces range from approximately 1,300 to 2,700 USD.
A Coveted Collector's Item: The Top Time Racing
Breitling made some modifications to the dial for the ref. 2211. The subdials at 3 and 9 o'clock are oval-shaped instead of circular. What's more, the stopwatch, hour, and minute hands are all bright orange. Inside, you'll find a Venus 188 or Valjoux 7730 caliber, depending on the watch's year of production. The ref. 2211 demands an investment of around 3,200 USD.
If you decide to buy a Top Time Racing, that price will increase by about 540 USD. The racing model is the same as the standard ref. 2211 except for its dial design. The net-like pattern in the middle of the dial and the white edging around the black subdials resemble the dashboard of a racecar – hence the name.
Top Time Classic Cars
Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, Shelby Cobra: Most of you will be familiar with these three legendary American muscle cars from the 1960s. Breitling introduced a total of three Top Time models in 2021 as part of the brand's Classic Cars Squad. Each variant pays tribute to one of these high-performance cars. While the Top Time Shelby Cobra only features a bicompax dial design, it's still part of the same line as the other two models.
All three watches come with polished stainless steel cases. While the Top Time Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette measure 42 mm in diameter, the Shelby Cobra is significantly smaller, measuring just 40 mm across. The Mustang and Corvette also share a movement, the Breitling caliber 25. The Shelby, on the other hand, is powered by the caliber 41. The movements are based on the ETA 2892 or Sellita SW300; both are chronometer-certified and feature a chronograph module from Dubois Dépraz. All three models are water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft).
The watches belong to the Capsule collection, which Breitling reserves for models that are not limited editions per se, but produced for a limited time.
Top Time Ford Mustang
The dial of the Top Time Ford Mustang is green, just like the first generation of Mustang cars manufactured by Ford between 1964 and 1969. The small seconds is located at 3 o'clock, and the chronograph functions are at 6 and 9. The tachymeter scale at the outer edge of the dial is black, as are the subdials. Splashes of red and orange on the tachymeter scale and chronograph hands complete the timepiece's sporty design. The watch is available on a brown calfskin leather strap.
New models change hands on Chrono24 for roughly 6,500 USD.
Top Time Chevrolet Corvette
The Top Time Chevrolet Corvette (ref. A25310241K1X1) pays tribute to a Corvette model produced by the car manufacturer from 1963 to 1967 – the Corvette Stingray. The watch features a red dial with black subdials and a black tachymeter scale. Like the Top Time Ford Mustang, the watch comes with red and orange accents on the tachymeter scale and hands. The brand offers the watch on a black calfskin leather strap.
An unworn Top Time Chevrolet Corvette will set you back about 6,850 USD.
Top Time Shelby Cobra
With the Top Time Shelby Cobra (ref. A41315A71C1X2), Breitling pays tribute to the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Carroll Shelby. The successful racecar driver was the first to combine British design with American big-block engine technology. The result of his efforts was the Shelby Cobra, unveiled in 1962.
Like the automobile, the dial on the Top Time Shelby Cobra is predominantly blue and white. The subdials, tachymeter scale, and minute and hour hands are all white, while red accents on the tachymeter scale, chronograph hands, and Shelby logo located above 6 o'clock give the watch an extra splash of color. The watch comes on a brown calfskin leather strap and demands an investment of approximately 8,300 USD.
Top Time With a Zorro Dial
In the fall of 2020, Breitling unveiled its first Top Time Limited Edition. The design was inspired by the ref. 2002 with the "Zorro" dial. The dial gets its name from the dark triangular shapes around the light subdials, reminiscent of the mask of the swashbuckling hero of page and screen. The hour, minute, and stop second hands are deep red, while the hands on the subdials are black.
Unlike the original, the Limited Edition's stainless steel case measures a more modern 41 mm in diameter. It is water-resistant to 30 m (3 bar, 98 ft) and houses the ETA-7753-based caliber B23.
Breitling has limited this watch to a run of only 2,000 pieces. You can call one your own for around 5,500 USD on Chrono24.
Top Time Deus: For Bikers & Boarders
The Top Time collection is home to two variants created in cooperation with the Australian motorcycle and clothing brand Deus Ex Machina. The first of these, the ref. A233101A1A1X1, was released in 2021. The 41-mm stainless steel watch features a cream-colored dial with a classic panda design, whereby the subdials are squares with rounded corners. Breitling adds red and orange accents to the hands and dial that give the chronograph an emphatically sporty touch. The Deus brand logo is located just above 6 o'clock.
The Deus brand motto is "In Benzin Veritas", which you'll find printed on the black tachymeter scale at the outer edge of the dial. The watch's design is the brainchild of creative director Carby Tuckwell. To round out the motorcycle theme, the case back features an engraving of a vintage biker on his motorcycle. A brown perforated rally strap with a pin buckle holds the chronograph securely on the wrist. At the heart of this timepiece beats the chronometer-certified Breitling caliber B23, based on the ETA Valjoux 7753.
Breitling limited production of this watch to a run of only 1,500 pieces, one of which will set you back about 7,700 USD on Chrono24.
Breitling introduced another variant of the Top Time Deus (ref. A233112A1A1X1) in 2022. Here, too, the stainless steel watch measures 41 mm in diameter and features the Deus motto "In Benzin Veritas" on the dial. But whereas its predecessor comes with black design elements, the subdials and tachymeter scale on the newer watch are bright blue.
Unworn models demand an investment of approximately 7,400 USD on Chrono24.
Top Time Triumph: For Motorcycle Fans
The Top Time Breitling Triumph was created in cooperation with the eponymous English motorcycle manufacturer. The watch was inspired by the café racer culture that originated in the British biker community in the 1960s. "Café racer" was the name given to especially high-class motorcycles ridden from café to café.
The watch's most striking design element is its ice blue dial, which features black subdials and Breitling's famous Zorro design. However, the contrast is much more subtle than that of the panda dial, thanks to the Triumph's light blue Zorro mask. The Triumph logo is located just above 6 o'clock.
The watch's color palette was inspired by the 1951 Triumph 6T and Breitling Top Time ref. 815 released in the 1970s. The indices and tachymeter scale are black, as is the leather strap, which is accented with white stitching.
The watch is powered by the tried and true Valjoux-based Breitling caliber B23, and the case back is engraved with a detailed sketch of the Triumph motorbike's parallel twin engine.
A pre-owned model in stainless steel changes hands on Chrono24 for roughly 6,200 USD.