Review: Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42
It feels like only yesterday I could barely look a Breitling in the eye. I’ll be honest, I thought they were ugly. Like, kill it with fire ugly. Thing is, they didn’t used to be like that. A vintage Breitling is a stunning thing. And now a modern one is too—and I cannot fathom why anyone would buy a Rolex Daytona instead.
The Premier collection isn’t new to Breitling, and funnily enough what Breitling is trying to do with the Premier collection isn’t new either. Back in the forties, when buyers were turning their noses up at pocket watches en masse, Breitling needed to prove it wasn’t obsolete by producing a wristwatch series that could compete with the best. The name Premier wasn’t exactly subtle, but then again, neither were the watches; by the standards of the time, they were big, complex and impressive.
Breitling, supplier of aviator instruments and professional chronographs, was no stranger to making a watch that hit it marks for performance. The Chronomat and subsequent Navitimer spanned the same period. But the Premier wasn’t just out to impress with its technical ability—it had to wow in other ways as well. It had to be beautiful.
When you’ve spent your life fitting instruments to aircraft, a focus on aesthetics isn’t exactly the most comfortable place to be, but nevertheless, Breitling absolutely nailed it. The original Premier was and is a sensational thing, built to be as visually satisfying as it is practically. That was a long time ago, though, and a lot has changed since. We’ve found ourselves in a time where, once again, people doubt Breitling’s ability to make a beautiful watch. Sure, they could rescue a man on the far side of the planet, but did he look good doing it? The jury was out.
In 2018 we saw signs of life, the first twitches of a hibernating beast ready to re-emerge. What state it would be in was anybody’s guess, and when the word “Premier” started getting bandied about again, it sounded like a sure-fire fail in the making. It’s a bit like a band calling its upcoming album The Greatest Of All Time. You almost find yourself rooting for it to be terrible just to teach them a lesson in setting expectations.
But, you know what, the new Premier wasn’t bad. In fact it was better than not bad—it was really good! I think at the time it was such a departure from what we’d all become used to that perhaps we—myself included—got a little overexcited, but even now after the dust has settled, I’m still willing to commit to “really good”. The elegance was back. The beauty, too. Breitling had made a watch that I actually felt comfortable wearing.
That could’ve been it. I think Breitling really could pat themselves on the back for that one and leave the Premier lounging alongside its more professional pieces and call it a day. There would’ve been a little bit for everyone and no more room left to complain. Apparently that wasn’t enough, however, because Breitling is back at it again with the Premier collection—and this one’s going to blow your socks off.
The Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42 does something no Breitling has ever done before it. Ever. I would comfortably say that this watch has created a scenario that has never once befallen any Breitling before. This Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42 is the first Breitling in history to ever elicit the comment: “Is that a Patek Philippe?”
I’m not even talking just the once. Several times this watch was mistaken for a Patek Philippe, and I think it’s easy to see why. It is beautiful, and I mean achingly beautiful. It’s leave the wife and kids beautiful. I don’t usually like to impart judgement on how you think a watch looks since it’s so subjective, but if you don’t think this watch is beautiful then perhaps your guide dog needs a visit to the optician.
Before I simper over how this watch looks any further, let’s get the bad bits out of the way first. Like its predecessors, it’s big. 42mm in diameter. It’s thick too, as thick as a houseboat, over 15mm. It sits higher on your wrist than a Sea-Dweller, but—I don’t care. It’s so beautiful. It’s a supermodel with club feet. You’d get over it.
To try and be at least remotely objective for a second, what is it that makes this watch so good looking? I’d like to wheel out my favourite word when it comes to judging watches: proportions. Alright, so side on it’s not so hot, but front on and we’re cooking with plutonium. The lugs the pushers, the crown—they’re all there, solidly and reassuringly, but they don’t outstay their welcome. They know we’re all here for the dial and they let that happen with making a fuss.
Choose steel and you get a salmon dial like we have here. Rose gold and you’ll get cream. Both colours work fantastically. It’s the proportions doing the heavy lifting here though. Firstly, thanks to the Calibre B25, built by Breitling in-house, you get the time, a chronograph, calendar and moon phase to play with. It’s not an annual or perpetual calendar, you still have to adjust it yourself at the end of short months, but it still has that visual majesty at least.
And that’s because Breitling understands proportions. The B25 may be thicker than a Royal Oak Jumbo by itself, but the positive is in the way it lays out the complications across the dial. There’s an outer tachymeter for the chronograph which sits a little lower that the rest of the dial. Running seconds and chronograph minutes sit back a bit too, a delicate circular finish applied to both. The date gets a step on the third sub dial, which it shares with the moon phase that drops down yet another level. Day and month sit nicely above the logo and between the hour markers, which are raised above the dial’s profile and finished in bare, polished metal. Even the nibbles in the hour markers, which some people hate, have been executed with such balance even the most pedantic couldn’t complain. Maybe.
Every little detail, from the syringe hands to the font and spacing of the text, all works so well, effortlessly, and that’s why people think at first glance that this is a Patek Philippe. It’s a tremendous achievement—but it’s far from the most impressive thing about this watch.
That accolade would have to go to the price, which sits, at £10,200, a whopping £1,400 less than a Rolex Daytona, which looks like a child’s toy by comparison. The gold version will set you back £17,950. And if that’s still a bit too rich for you, Breitling have also made a non-calendar, split-second version of this watch in steel with an equally incredible blue dial for £8,100.
It makes me happy to see Breitling making watches like this again. For me personally, the squiggly Breitling “B” logo is all about the elegance and beauty of the 40s and 50s, about watches worn by Dakota DC-3 pilots kicking up dust behind their gleaming planes. There’s been a lot of dissonance between that picture and Breitling’s catalogue of late, but the Premier B25 Datora 42 goes a long, long way towards fixing that. May the old girl fly once again.
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