Breitling Welcomes the Ford Thunderbird to Its Top Time Classic Cars Collection
The great American sports car lineup gets a new team member and more muscle under the hood with the addition of the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01.
The 1960s was a decade of experimentation, fun, freedom, and energy. Whether cruising on a motorcycle or revving up a sports car, living life at full speed was the order of the day. Third-generation founder Willy Breitling felt this change of pace and set out to design an unconventional chronograph that captured the verve of the era. He called it the Top Time.
“The Top Time represented a break from traditional watch design for a generation that was breaking with convention in every way,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “We are going after that sense of freedom and fun with the 1960s-inspired Top Time Classic Cars collection, and are thrilled to once again partner with Ford to introduce the new Thunderbird model, along with updated versions of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, and Shelby Cobra chronographs.”
A best-selling collection in 2021, Top Time Classic Cars proved such a success, Breitling had no choice but to bring it back – this time with even more throttle.
Style and Speed, with a Powerful New Engine
From the start, the Top Time was all about action, and it became a fast favorite among motor enthusiasts and the fashion set. One of the first chronographs that was equally sought after by both men and women, its bold, graphic designs took over magazines and the silver screen (the world’s favorite spy, James Bond, even wore an iteration in the 1965 movie Thunderball). That spirited tradition continues today with Breitling partnering with some of the coolest names in wheels to create its Top Time designs – brands like Deus Ex Machina and Triumph Motorcycles for bikes, Ford Thunderbird and Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, and Shelby Cobra for cars.
The updated Classic Cars collection now includes the Ford Thunderbird model with a red strap and clean white dial that draws the eye to the teal Thunderbird logo and red chronograph hands. The four watches feature the colors and emblems of their 1950s and 1960s sports car counterparts, and now all come with a brag-worthy new engine under the hood: the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01.
This exceptional manufacture movement, whose refined mechanics are visible through the open sapphire-crystal caseback, provides an approximately 70-hour power reserve and a 5-year warranty. First released in 2009, the Breitling 01 Caliber is one of the most highly regarded chronograph movements in the industry, designed for maximum precision, reliability, and functionality. As with all of Breitling’s mechanical calibers, each one has achieved the rigorous COSC certification. And as a manufacture movement, it must also pass a gruelling series of in-house shock, winding, and pusher tests. To house the caliber, the Top Time case has been enhanced and now provides an increased water resistance of 100 m (10 bar).
Design elements include the perforated leather racing strap, speed-measuring tachymeter scale, and contrasting “squircle” (not quite square, not quite round) subdials that are evocative of vintage dashboard gauges. And just like its style-driven 1960s predecessor, the Top Time’s 41-mm stainless-steel case is a comfortable size for car and watch lovers of all stripes.
The Timeless Cars behind the Top Time Collection
The Ford Thunderbird was unveiled in 1954 at the first post-war Detroit auto show. It was touted as a fun-to-drive cabriolet that made its presence felt through its luxurious design, solid build, and dramatic tail fin. The Thunderbird was not so much about living life in the fast lane, as it was about cruising in comfort and style. The two first generations remain the most collectable models, nicknamed the “Classic Bird” (1955–1957) for early two-seaters and the “Square Bird” (1958–1960) for the later four-seat iterations.
The first-generation Ford Mustang, produced from 1964 to 1974, was compact and sleek. With some models suited to families and others ideal for speed-loving sportsters, it became the car of choice for hitting the road in hip 1960s America. It also featured in some of the era’s most popular movies. This living legend is still in production, but car buffs know that the coolest of all were those very first models that captured the freewheeling spirit of the sixties.
The second-generation Chevrolet Corvette, from the 1963 to 1967 model years, is the most sought-after version of the American legend. The “Sting Ray”, as it was known, took inspiration from a 1959 racing-model prototype. For 60 years, it has captured the imagination of car lovers around the world with its perfect combination of a low-profile body and a powerful engine that delivers performance whether on the road or on the track. It remains a classic to this day.
In the early 1960s, Le Mans winner Carrol Shelby imagined a car that combined British design with American racing engineering. He created the Shelby Cobra, a sports car that ingeniously matched a small, light chassis to a strong, reliable big-block engine. When it was introduced in 1962, the Cobra met with instant success and became the only American sports car to win the European FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship race series. The original Shelby Cobra remains blisteringly fast and is cherished by collectors to this day.