In 2021 Breitling, in the midst of a ’60s-inspired nostalgia kick, released the first capsule collection of the Top Time Classic Cars. This fun, flavorful three-pack of casual chronographs were a smash hit. Well, racers, start your engines because the Top Time Classic Cars are back and better than ever.
First of all, the 2023 collection boasts a new member to the team: the Ford Thunderbird is joining the Mustang, as well as the Chevrolet Corvette and the Shelby Cobra. The new entrant, the T-bird, is in white; the Mustang, green; the Cobra, blue; and the ’Vette, red. The addition of the white Ford version isn’t the only change in the lineup; there’s been a host of other amendments that make these auto-inspired watches racier than ever.
The cases have been shaved by 1mm, down to 41mm across, which, combined with the height of 13.6mm, makes for versatile and wearable proportions sure to please pretty much everyone on the wrist. For daily peace of mind, these polished steel cases are all water resistant to 100 meters. Inside beats the Breitling caliber B01.This engine represents a powerful upgrade for the Top Time. The B01 is one of the most highly regarded automatic chronograph movements on the market today, and it’s easy to see why. First released in 2009, the B01 offers 70 hours of power reserve and is backed by a five-year warranty. On top of that, the column-wheel chronograph is designed for precision and reliability, is COSC-certified, and has undergone a series of grueling tests designed to ensure that this caliber up for anything. On top of all that, the movement is on clear display through the sapphire caseback.
All the Top Time models share the same case and caliber, but the dials are very different indeed. For starters, take the newest addition, the Ford Thunderbird. Inspired by the stylish and luxurious cruiser that debuted in 1954, this white dial features tonally matched chronograph counters, red highlights and a Thunderbird logo under the Breitling brand. As with the previous Top Time Classic Cars, the layout of dials in this series are full of subtle nostalgic nods, such as the squared-off ‘television’ shape of the chronograph registers, which lend a real ’60s feel to these chronographs — a mood accentuated by the perforated calfskin racing straps.
The second Ford-themed watch is the green Mustang model, complete with the titular racing horse on the dial. This reference is directly inspired by the sleek racer produced between 1964 and ’74, which has become one of the most enduringly iconic American motorcars.
The blue-dialed chronograph is inspired by the legendary Shelby Cobra, the creation of Le Mans champion Carroll Shelby that merged a lightweight chassis with a powerful big-block engine. The resulting car was visually stunning and spectacularly fast. The Top Time’s blue dial and striking cobra dial pay tribute to the car’s timeless style and, interestingly enough, it is the only one of the four chronographs to feature a two-register layout.
Finally, the vivid red dial, inspired by the second-generation Chevrolet Corvette, also known as the ‘Sting Ray’, features a black tachymetric scale and black chronograph subdials — just like the Mustang model.
The current crop of watches in the Top Time Classic Cars collection are excellent. Well-built, perfectly sized chronographs with Breitling’s signature movement ticking away behind the dial, there’s very little in the way of compromise here. The dials are also well designed, with just the right amount of vintage flair. The classic cars connection, which is core to this collection, will obviously be a major drawcard for die-hard fans of American automobiles. But even if you’re not prepared to weigh in on big block versus hemi, or Chrysler versus Ford, there’s still great joy to be found in these watches, which do an excellent job of evoking a bygone era while still offering a best-in-class modern chronograph experience.
Movement: Self-winding Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01; 70-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours and minutes; small seconds; chronograph
Case: 41mm x 13.6mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 100m
Strap: Calfskin in various colors (depending on model) with folding buckle, or stainless-steel mesh bracelet with butterfly clasp