Cultural Perspectives • 21 Jul 2019
Origins of the Breitling-Bentley Motors Relationship
Relationship Built on Shared Passions
On first glance, it’s easy to see why Bentley Motors and Breitling have endured such a long-running partnership. The luxury car manufacturer is lauded for both impeccable engineering and timeless design, while the Swiss watchmaker shares a number of parallels: its timepieces are meticulous in their precision and never compromise on looks. The brands are famed for their joint Breitling for Bentley collection, but it’s obvious that their association goes far beyond a line of watches.
Le Mans Winner
Bentley is practically synonymous with luxury, but the car brand has also enjoyed a lucrative history producing race cars. Bentley famously won the 24 hours of Le Mans four times in a row from 1927 to 1930, firmly establishing its reputation as a serious contender in motor racing. At the time, its racing output was spearheaded by a group of wealthy men known as the “Bentley Boys”.
They became masters of the track, winning a number of races – including Le Mans – in Bentley’s name. Made up of playboys, racing car drivers, magnates, heirs, journalists, aviators and more, the Bentley Boys stood for everything the brand represented: they were dedicated, passionate and thrilled by a challenge. The Bentley Boys’ enthusiasm for motor racing was evenly matched by their female counterparts, the Bentley Girls. The women also rivalled the men in skill, excelling in multiple races including the Monte Carlo Rally and Le Mans. They truly shone in the field; many broke several driving records on top of being master aviators, sailors, and horsewomen.
From Onboard Clocks to Wristwatches
It was in the spirit of celebrating mastery that the relationship between Breitling and Bentley began. Specifically, it started with an onboard clock. In 2002, Bentley had just launched the Continental GT and, for the first time in its history, sought horological advice beyond its own craftsmen. Breitling was engaged to design the onboard clock, creating an elegant timepiece that matched the luxury of the Continental GT. The trust placed in Breitling was for good reason; the watchmaker had been producing onboard chronographs that worked across both aviation and motoring since 1931 and had since become renowned for its excellent chronographs and technical watches, as well as developing and manufacturing its own unique mechanical movements.
The onboard clock was so well received that it bred inspiration for an extended line of Breitling timepieces. In 2003, the Breitling for Bentley range was launched, combining the brands’ aesthetics and their shared emphasis on fine craftsmanship. Bentley’s signature look was evident across the range, and clever details were integrated into each watch: design forms from certain Bentley cars were transferred to the timepieces, and some models bore original Bentley varnish on their dials. The Breitling Bentley Le Mans, for example, features a 24-hour indication in honour of the race’s duration. The bezel on the Le Mans model is perlaged, much like the dashboard of a Bentley racing car. Breitling’s reputation as one of the most adept Swiss watchmakers also meant the watches’ movements were of exceptional quality.
Breitling and Bentley’s Modern Relationship
This year marks the centenary of Bentley Motors. In celebration of both the car manufacturer’s 100th birthday and the partnership between the two companies, Breitling has introduced a new watch as part of its Premier range. The Breitling Premier Bentley Centenary Limited Edition again draws inspiration from the Bentley aesthetic, adopting particular materials and subtle design features. The brown elm burl dial is inspired by the wooden dashboard of the 1929 “Blower” Bentley, one of the famous supercharged race cars used by the Bentley Boys. The leather strap on some models is influenced by the pattern and stitching used on Bentley seats.
But it’s not just the watches themselves that draw heavy inspiration from Bentley’s past: Breitling has recently introduced its very own ‘Squads’ of luminaries across multiple fields, including cinema, triathlon, surfing and exploration – not unlike the Bentley Boys and Girls of the 1920s.
“At Breitling, we believe in the power of a team, the strength of a group, and the mutual identification of a common target, which ultimately leads to success,” said Breitling’s CEO Georges Kern. In the same vein as the racecourse, the Squads are tasked with team challenges in their respective fields; a 202-kilometre bicycle race in South Africa undertaken by the Triathlon Squad to raise money for charity is just one such example. The Squads embody the same resolve as Bentley’s Boys and Girls, adopting equal dedication and passion for their craft. The parallels between the Squads and the Boys and Girls far exceed the commercial alliance between Bentley and Breitling; they allow the partnership to transcend to a bond equally based on spirit.
Breitling Pop-Up Store
by Watches of Switzerland Singapore
23 – 29 July 2019
Paragon, Atrium B
Stop by to see a range of Breitling watches up close.