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Review: Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton Edition

by Peter Chong on September 6, 2019
Overview
Brand

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton Edition

Complication / Type of Watch

Chronograph watch, no date.
Co-branding with legendary motorcycle manufacturer Norton

Recommended Retail Price

S$ 11,900 inclusive of GST

The Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton Edition was announced in Baselworld 2019 to celebrate Breitling’s partnership with epic British motorcycle manufacturer, Norton. We take a close look at the watch.

“Cool, charismatic and contoured, this chronograph reflects the innovative and adventurous streak in both brands.”

Breitling press blurb. We tend to agree.
Breitling CEO Georges Kern introducing the partnership and the birth of the new Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton Edition

Norton Motorcycles

The Norton Motorcycle Company (formerly Norton Motors, Ltd.) is an English motorcycle marque, originally from Birmingham, England, UK. It was founded in 1898 as a parts manufacturer. By 1902 the company had begun manufacturing motorcycles using French and Swiss engines. In 1908 a Norton-built engine was added to the range. This began a long series of production of single and eventually twin-cylinder motorcycles, and a long history of racing involvement.

The Norton Breitling Sport Limited Edition

The company had an illustrious history of motorcycle racing and iconic products like the Dominator in 1949, the Commando in 1968.

In late 2008 Stuart Garner, a UK businessman, bought the rights to Norton from some US concerns and relaunched Norton in its Midlands home at Donington Park where it will develop the 961cc Norton Commando,[3] and a new range of Norton motorcycles. In 2009, Stuart went on to set the World Speed Record for a Rotary Powered Motorcycle (recording 173mph for a timed mile).

CEO of Breitling – Georges Kern with CEO of Norton Motorcycles Stuart Garner, on stage at the Breitling Summit in Baselworld 2019

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton Edition

In the tradition set by Georges Kern since he got onto the helm of Breitling some 2 years ago, the Premier B01 Chronograph is clearly a product of thoughtful considerations to the visual aspects, as well as the technical. The watch exudes a quiet confidence that can only come from competent aesthetics, while the functioning of the chronograph is sleek and smooth that tells the tale of a well designed movement.

The case, dial and hands

The case is the now familiar Premier case. Somewhat similar to the very sleek classical lines of the IWC Portugeiser, the Premier case is rather streamlined looking. Very pleasing lines coupled with a well laid out dial. The case is 42mm, which is neither large nor small for a sporty contraption these days, and the sapphire crystal extends almost to the edges of the case, stretching across the entire dial. The bezel is miniscule, and the impression is one where the dial is the star.

And a star it is. We think the design makes use of clever colour touches which work extremely well together. The white peripheral carries the tachymeter markings, while the black dial allows the gold accented markers and hands to stand out. The sub-dials are panda-style, white over black and is the signature that the movement is the Breitling B01.

We particularly liked it paired with the raw brown leather strap as shown in our photographs, but a stainless steel bracelet is also available.

The case carries a sapphire glass display back and is rated to 100m water resistance.

The movement: Breitling B01

The case back shows an inscription of the Norton motorcycle and logo on the sapphire glass. This partially blocks the view to the B01 movement, which we think though is a necessity in a co-branding exercise, is a shame as the movement is quite a looker.

The B01 is a column wheel movement designed with massive chronograph levers operating from the column wheel. The movement runs off a vertical clutch system and in operation is smooth with a good feel on the pushers. Start/Stop/Reset are all activated with a nice positive click as it engages, and all three actions are similar in pusher pressure to operate.

The finishing is not at the haute horlogerie levels, but neither are the prices. The movement is judged by our naked eye looking at the standalone movement shown to us at Baselworld to be roughly the same finish level as a Rolex C.4130 shown to us under similar situations.

Competitive landscape

The Breitling B01 is a formidable movement to be featured in a bi-compax chronograph with classical lines. The movement is manufactured in-house in Breitling, and is also supplied to Tudor for the Black Bay Chronograph.

The collaboration with Norton Motorcycles will further be attractive to a wider audience which will include non-traditional watch enthusiasts, but will also be inclusive of motorcycle fans.

The obvious competitor is probably the Zenith Cafe Racer, also a motorcycle inspired watch. Priced also very similarly at S$11,200, the Zenith carries the famous El Primero movement, also arranged in a bi-compax layout in a somewhat larger 45mm case. In direct comparison, the Breitling looks more elegant and classic than the raw masculinity of the Zenith.

Another comparison may be drawn to the IWC Portugese Yacht Club, though not motocycle inspired, it shares quite similar case design lines. The dial design is also twin light sub-dials over a dark main dial, but the layout is for the the sub-dials at 12 and 6 instead of the 3 and 9 of the Breitling. But at S$17,900, it is rather more pricey than the B01 Norton Edition.

Closing thoughts

We think the pricing of the Breitling Norton is very reasonable for a chronograph featuring an in-house movement. A peek at other similarly manufactured chronographs will include the Rolex Daytona at S$16,600, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch at S$13,800 in titanium or the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph at approx S$11,500.

On the wrist the Breitling Norton sits comfortably on a regular male wrist, and the aesthetics are rather beautiful. The watch performs flawlessly during our tests, and is certainly a serious consideration for those looking for a fine sporty chronograph.

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6 Comments
Leave a response
  • Jonathan Raven
    September 8, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Put the wings back on the “B”.
    The winged B is iconic, by removing them you new owners have ruined an icon.

    • September 8, 2019 at 6:13 pm

      It may be perhaps of interest to you that the B logo, sans wings were the original, and the wings were introduced in the 1950s, and evolved from there under the Schneider ownership.

      Kern and the new management merely brought back the original “B” logo, albeit updated. What we do find confusing is that he also allowed some watches to continue to sport the winged B logo, and it is unclear (to us) which watches would carry the winged logo, and which the other.

      Personally, I find the un-winged “B” to be preferable – the design is cleaner, sleeker, more intimate and carry a more up to date vibe, though it pre-dates the other.

  • harry schaffner
    September 7, 2019 at 7:16 am

    I USED TO OWN A NORTON COMMANDO. ITR WAS THE FASTEST BIKE I EVER OWNED. IT WOULD TEAR YOUR CHEEKS OFF. I ALSO USED TO OWN A BREITLING THAT RAN POORLY. I OWNED THEM AT SEPARATE TIMES BUT NEAR EACH OTHER.

    I MUST ADMIT I NEVER THOUGHT OF THE MOTOR CYLCE AS A WATCH. IT WAS JUST A VERY FAST BIKE AND OVER MY HEAD. THE WATCH WAS A BIT OF 80’S GLAM AND TOO SHOWY FOR THE TIMES. IT WAS BIG AND HEAVY BEFORE THAT WAS A DESIRABLE THING.

    AS FOR MY NOSTALGIA FOR EACH I HAVE NONE. DO THEY GO TOGETHER? I HAVE NO IDEA. ONE IS A WATCH AND THE OTHER IS A MOTOR CYCLE.

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