In today’s oft-times volatile vintage watch market, familiar names like Omega, Heuer, or Rolex serve as touchstones for the collector—as solid as their brand boutiques on Madison Avenue. Breitling, founded in 1885, is another old guard name in the business, whose reputation rests almost entirely on their pilot’s chronographs. The Navitimer and Chronomat’s large size (larger and larger with each passing year, it seems) and innovative design spring readily to mind as examples of Breitling’s most noteworthy products.
Back when things were sized a little more sensibly, they had a more diverse line of sporting and luxury timepieces, such as the Premier line, which debuted in 1946, a time that was perhaps the pinnacle of Breitling's technical prowess. Their solid cases (waterproof, at the time, due to the screw back and round pushers) proved a hit with the GIs returning home in droves from the Second World War. In anticipation of huge post-war sales, Breitling commissioned five times as many cases for these chronographs as they did in previous years.
But the better-known, best-selling, and dare we say iconic Breitling chronograph--or wrist computer--is of course the Navitimer. The Navitimer debuted in 1952. Released at a time when tool watches were all the rage, sales of the Navitimer eclipsed the Premier, thanks in part to an innovative marketing campaign (conceived by Willy Breitling) that targeted pilots.
Meanwhile, sales of the Premier plummeted, and the line was shelved.
Even after Willy Breitling sold the company to Ernest Schneider in the 1970s and the company was resurrected in the 1980s, the Navitimer survived. Not so the Premier. While Breitling attempted to reintroduce the line in the 1990s--at the same time as the Navitimer--it never enjoyed the repeated success of the post-war boom, and the Premier receded back into the archives.
Fortunately, surviving examples of the model still appear on the vintage market. They may not have the technical appeal of the Navitimer, but they stun in their own quiet way. This expression features a dial that is one of the more visually-arresting designs we've ever come across. The interplay of the warm gold and bronze tones of the telemeter and tachymeter track against the glossy black of the dial captivates the eye, offset by the delicate tapering lugs. Its solid construction and elegant dial serve as the perfect counterpoint to the Navitimer's flash, every millimeter a testament to Breitling's quality--a proposition that is not to be ignored.
Stainless steel case is approximately 38mm (excluding crown and pushers). Breitling Reference 777. Venus Caliber 175 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1950s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with sharp lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Case does show faint signs of use and wear in keeping with its age, including some slight tool marks on the side of the case near 9 o'clock. Glossy black dial is in excellent condition with a fine even patina. Unsigned crown. Breitling case back bears some light signs of wear but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 20mm brown Analog/Shift strap and two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle