Ok, it’s probably a while since you’ve had to jump on a motorcycle to get yourself from one coffee shop to another due to the irrepressible advance of the likes of Starbuck. But the romance of 1960s Café Racer motorcycles still persists, and it is now being celebrated in a unique collaboration between Swiss watchmakers Breitling and UK-based Triumph motorcycles.
Breitling is producing two stainless steel 41mm unisex Top Time Chronograph watches with sunray ice-blue dials. The first is the Top Time Triumph with a brushed finish and a bow-tie motif nicknamed “the Zorro dial” by Top Time collectors. The second is the Top Time Triumph Speed Twin Owners’ Limited Edition because, of course, Triumph is launching 270 co-branded motorcycles. Only buyers of the motorcycle, which comes equipped with a matching blue petrol tank, get the opportunity to purchase the special owner’s limited edition Triumph Speed Twin Owners watch, which features a sunray dial and engraved caseback with the individual number of the bike.
Set on a racy black calfskin leather strap, the Breitling and Triumph logos are placed at 12 and 6 o’clock. At 2 and 4 o’clock, oversized mushroom pushers control the chronograph’s stop-start and reset functions. Both versions feature black counters for running seconds and chronograph 30 minutes at 3 and 9 o’ clock respectively. There’s also a tachymeter scale for lap time readings at your local speedway.
The “engine” of choice is the Breitling Caliber 23, a COSC-certified chronometer with a power reserve of around 48 hours. Turn the watch over, and the caseback features a detailed design sketch of Triumph’s parallel twin engine. These two new watches echo the 1960s, when at the height of the café racer era, Willy Breitling of Breitling watches introduced the Breitling Top Time, a chronograph designed for “young and active professionals.”
An early example of lifestyle merchandising, the Breitling Top Time watches complemented the cool of café racer bikes. Perhaps of all café racers, no other marque is more admired or coveted than Leicestershire-based Triumph Motorcycles. The brand has the closest ties of all to cafe racer history, and most iconic cafe racers were built using Triumph components.
These motorcycles were used to literally transport their Brylcreemed un-helmeted riders from one hip café to another.
“What are you rebelling against?” Marlon Brando was asked in the 1953 movie The Wild One. “What have you got?” replied Marlon from the saddle of his Triumph racer bike.
This statement and this movie were the kickstart to café racer culture. The distinctive ice blue colorway to be found on the dials of the new Top Time Triumph watches and the new Triumph Speed Twin Bikes is inspired by the color of Brando’s racer in the movie. To be exact, the color is a tribute to a blue Triumph Thunderbird 6T from 1951, and a rare, blue-dialed Breitling Top Time Ref. 815 from the 1970s.
The original watch entered pop culture perpetuity by being the first “modified” James Bond watch, kitted out by Q Branch to include a handy Geiger counter in the 1965 Bond movie Thunderball.
No one’s claiming you’re going to be quite as cool as Marlon Brando in The Wild One, but whether you opt for the bike or the watch or both, your cool quotient should definitely improve.
Movement: Breitling Caliber 23, COSC certified with 48 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, running seconds, 30 minutes counter, tachymeter
Case: 41mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 30 meters
Dial: Ice blue with special brushing Super-LumiNova luminescent hour markers, hour and minute hands
Strap: Black racing-themed calfskin leather strap with folding buckle
Price: USD 6,380