While partnerships are nothing new in the watch world, artists and athletes being favourite choices, not all last as long as the one between Breitling and Bentley, the longest-running alliance ever between a watch brand and a carmaker. It began in 2002 when Bentley asked Breitling to design the onboard clock for its soon-to-be-released Continental GT. When the following year Bentley returned to the racing circuit – reviving a glorious past with five wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1924 and 1930 – Breitling did the honours as the team’s main sponsor. After Bentley’s drivers roared home in first and second place, Breitling marked the occasion with a limited-edition chronograph. The two brands, it has to be said, have longstanding affinities. Willy Breitling, whose 47-year tenure at the head of the brand between 1932 and 1979 is another lesson in longevity, was a huge fan of the marque and, from the 1940s, was frequently spotted driving around Switzerland at the wheel of one of his beloved Bentleys.
“It’s precisely this past that gives our alliance its substance,” says Breitling CEO George Kern. “In today’s transparent markets, if a partnership is to last, it has to tell a true story. Anything else soon gets found out. And that’s what we are doing: telling a true story with anecdotes to prove that the rapprochement between Breitling and Bentley goes beyond purely commercial aspects.” After Breitling changed hands in May 2017, acquired by CVC Capital, the connection between watchmaker and carmaker was seen by Kern as sufficiently “authentic” to be reprised. It doesn’t hurt that the Breitling CEO, appointed in July 2017, and Adrian Hallmark, who took up his position at the head of Bentley in February the following year, hit it off so well. “There’s so much we can talk about,” comments Hallmark, “whether it’s technology, engineering, design or the special skills required to put them into practice. For a partnership to work and deliver long-term results there has to be a meeting of minds. With Breitling and George Kern, the chemistry is right.”
The best is yet to come
Last year’s Geneva International Motor Show was a case in point, with both partners showcasing their latest creations. For Breitling, which “officialised” the renewed alliance with a first release in 2018, this meant the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley Centenary with burl elm dial, produced as two limited editions in stainless steel and gold for the British carmaker’s one-hundredth anniversary. The initiative was extremely well-received; so much so the two brands had planned a repeat performance at this year’s Show – cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. Undeterred, and in collaboration with its partner, Breitling engineered a digital reveal of its Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition, whose design looks to the Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible which the luxury car firm unveiled the same day.
Bentley’s Mulliner workshop is an extension of Mulliner, a family firm that can be traced back to 1559 and a supplier of bespoke coaches, including since 1959 special commissions for Bentley. Accordingly, Breitling’s watch interprets features from the interior of the Continental GT Mulliner, described as “the most luxurious GT ever designed” with, of course, a Breitling dashboard clock. The new watch, proposed as a 1,000-piece limited edition with a 42mm stainless steel case and in Bentley colours, is powered by Breitling’s own B01 chronograph calibre, considered one of the finest of its generation. The result is a technically sophisticated, stylishly elegant watch with the vintage undertones the market loves right now. And the best is yet to come: George Kern is promising more new releases, that will be even more exclusive, under the Breitling-Bentley umbrella. Now that Breitling has parked its “Breitling for Bentley” concept, these new products will appear in the other collections of a brand intent on cultivating its luxury appeal.