Breitling Top Time
Ask a member of the general public which watch they
associate with the iconic super-spy, James Bond, and the answer
may vary depending on the age of the person being
questioned: those above a certain age will answer “Rolex
Submariner”, those born more recently will state “Omega
But there have been other watches, besides these,
featured in both the films and the novels, and one such
watch is the Breitling Top Time; a somewhat unusually named
chronograph from the mid 1960s that doubled as a geiger
counter in Thunderball.
The watch that we are interested in is the somewhat more
conventional looking (and functioning!) 810 chronograph with
a round case (not an extended rectangular one, like Bond’s
watch) and the Venus 179 movement.
The Top Time’s place on The List has been earned by the
very fact that it is not (yet, at least) a watch that is
purely bought as a retro trend item or as an investment.
This means that it is unlikely to be seen on the wrist of a
poseur who is merely buying what is currently de rigeur, or
by a collector who will handle it only with white cotton
gloves. It is a classic watch, with timeless aesthetics,
that denotes that the wearer has the knowledge and good
taste not to let trends, or the Top Time’s comparatively low
purchase price, dictate what they choose to wear on their
With its white face and black sub-dials, the Top Time has
similarities with Rolex’s legendary Paul Newman Daytona, but
it is still distinctive in its own right, with the orange
seconds hand giving the timepiece a particular vintage
appeal. It almost goes without saying that the only model in
which we are interested is the stainless steel one, which
radiates an air of elegant sportiness, reminiscent of its
more famous contemporary, the Heuer Carrera.
With a decent leather strap, the Top Time appears both
vintage and modern; certainly distinct from, and sleeker
than, much of Breitling’s current range.
Under the skin is a 19 jewel Venus 179 movement, whose
origins date back to the pre-war period. Beating at a fairly
leisurely 18000vph, this is a durable movement that, if
serviced regularly, will keep good time. It is not, perhaps
as technically sophisticated as the later automatic
chronograph movements from Valjoux and Zenith, but, then, a
Ferrari 250 GTO is not as sophisticated as an Enzo – to
compare sometimes is meaningless.
Despite the Top Time having been a volume seller for
Breitling in the 1960s, it is not the sort of watch that you
are likely too come across on the wrist of anyone but a
member of the Breitling cognoscenti. And therein lies its