In 1964 Breitling was poised to tackle a new class of clientele: youth.
That year, in announcing his company’s new products, Willy Breitling triumphantly declared: “We are sweeping into the field of youth and we are going to speak their language.”
With watches like the Navitimer and the Chronomat, Breitling had already spoken the language of pilots and scientists. But outside of those specialized areas, Breitling’s sales—in particular its chronographs—needed a little boost. Desperate to attract “young and active professionals” under the age of 25, Breitling commissioned a new watch that he hoped would have the magic touch.
This watch is what resulted: the Top Time.
While the Navitimer and the Chronomat were purpose-driven, designed with the needs of professionals in mind, the Top Time was meant for everyone. Breitling attracted the attention of its target audience with the Top Time’s “bold new lines” and “rare and distinctive air.” Large cases and vibrant dials—in a variety of materials and colors—suited the diverse tastes and needs of youth in the Swinging Sixties.
Breitling’s strategy paid off, with the Top Time becoming one of the company’s best-selling models, and the appearance of a Geiger counter-equipped Top Time on the wrist of James Bond didn’t hurt matters either.
Though the Top Time was discontinued in the 1970s, its clean lines and colorful dials have attracted the attention of a new generation of collectors.
The watch that we offer here is a Reference 815 with an ever-popular “panda” configuration of black-on-silver.
With a clean dial featuring a triple register layout and central chronograph sweep seconds hand, the 815 model is perhaps most distinguishable by its characteristic triple-register "panda" layout set inside its round case. While some examples were produced in plated cases with gold “panda” dials, the steel configurations are much more sought after. It’s powered by a Valjoux 7736 manually-wound chronograph movement, a “budget” (but no less reliable) calibre that was widespread in the industry, making it both less expensive and easier to find parts for than the high-grade movements Breitling used in its other chronographs.
This particular panda is in superb condition overall, with a crisp (38mm) steel monocoque case, and the panda dial shows lovely overall patina.
Though the watch often came in 36mm, the larger ones like the one we offer here are especially desired by modern collectors.
With its sharp looks, it’s clear to see why these watches was—and still are—so popular.
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