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New Breitling Premier Bentley, Mulliner Edition, Captures Retromobile Mood

Latest press info from Breitling, who have launched a new Bentley model. These are big, chunky and fairly heavy watches, but many collectors love the Breitling for Bentley models. Now featuring the B01 In-house Breitling movement, the Premier models combine retro chrono dial/case designs with the latest Breitling movement tech. Winning combo as regards long term value some might say.

To celebrate its extraordinary partnership with Bentley Motors, Breitling reveals a special limited edition watch, the Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition.

The new Breitling watch commemorates 17 years of collaboration – the longest-ever partnership between a watch brand and an automobile manufacturer – and focuses attention on Bentley’s Mulliner bespoke department which, since 1959, has crafted the world’s leading luxury car maker’s most unique tailor-made models.

Bentley’s partnership with Breitling can be traced back to 2002, when the iconic automotive brand was designing its legendary Continental GT. Bentley commissioned Breitling to create an onboard clock that would reflect the unparalleled luxury, peerless quality, and extraordinary performance of the new grand tourer, which was debuted in 2003.

breitling bentley mulliner model watch white dial

Adrian Hallmark, Bentley Chairman and CEO, commented “The long-standing relationship between Bentley and Breitling is a reflection of the values we both share and our dedication to world-leading performance, luxury, innovation and refinement. The links between the new Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition watch and Bentley’s Continental GT Mulliner Convertible can be seen in the exquisite engraving detail of the watch and the design features that reference the Breitling clock in the GT’s dashboard – a perfect display of Bentley Mulliner product craftsmanship.”

Georges Kern, Breitling’s CEO, says that the new chronograph underscores one of his brand’s most important partnerships: “The Premier Bentley Centenary Edition that we launched a year ago was warmly received, both by Bentley and Breitling fans. The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition, with its clear links between Bentley’s and our DNA, is a logical next step in our shared story and it is also a testimony to Bentley Mulliner, whose name is synonymous with heritage, craftsmanship and outstanding performance.”

The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition
A Breitling watch worthy of the Bentley and Mulliner names is a very special fusion between two brands attuned to the distinctive needs of their customers. The new chronograph has close links to the interior of the Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible, the most luxurious GT ever designed, and particularly to the Breitling clock in the luxury automobile’s dashboard.

The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition is limited to 1,000 pieces. It features a 42-mm stainless steel case presented on a blue alligator leather strap echoing the Imperial Blue leather interior of the car. Its elegant silver dial recalls the Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible’s dashboard clock. The watch boasts blue subdials – a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock – an indication of the Breitling Manufacturer Caliber 01, with an impressive power reserve of approximately 70 hours.

breitling bentley mulliner special edition

The dial features a white tachymeter scale on a blue inner bezel around the dial, with a red tachymeter inscription. The red second hand and centered 60-minute scale mirror the red stitching found throughout the interior cabin of the Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible. The links between the watch and the Continental GT Mulliner Convertible clock are further strengthened by their complementary sets of Arabic numerals: the dashboard clock features the numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9, while the watch has them at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11. Sharing these numerals across these two pieces is a nod to the design DNA they share.

On the left side of the case is a plate with an engraved “Bentley” inscription, whose design is based on the engine spin dashboard found in historic Bentleys. Around the watch’s transparent sapphire caseback is an inscription saying “MULLINER EDITION – BREITLING – ONE OF 1000”. The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition is a COSC-certified chronometer.

Are Sicura Watches Worth Collecting, Will They Rise in Value?

Updated with some auction values at the end of the article 23.06.21

These are good questions, and for those who don’t know Sicura let me summarise by saying they are the watch company that bought Breitling and rescued the brand name from oblivion when the quartz crisis wreaked havoc in Switzerland during the 1970s. Here’s a brief history lesson;

Sicura in the mid-70s were sitting pretty, selling about 1 million units a year and still mainly using mechanical movements. They offered basic pin-pallet watches for the everyday person, plus some fancier looking divers watches, again with fairly average Swiss movements inside, and then some top of the range items with Valjoux/Venus movements in their cases.

Sicura got on the quartz train in the late 70s, with a `something for everyone’ approach, that saw basic battery powered quartz watches, alongside things like the solar powered VIP2000 model, which promised eternal power from the sun! As any Eco-Drive owner knows only too well, the power cells cannot defeat physics and they don’t last forever. Nothing does, except Remainer tears.

When Breitling hit financial hard times in the late 70s and finally closed their factory in 1979, Sicura’s boss Mr Ernest Schneider bought the brand. Schneider was a pilot and admired Breitling models like the Navitimer, and he wanted to keep that Swiss name alive. It says a great deal about Schneider that he stopped selling Sicra watches and switched to Breitling a short time after striking the deal – he could see that Breitling had a greater long term profit potential. In fact Ernest’s son, Teddy Schneider sold Breitling to CVO venture capital for $790 million in 2018.

sicura jump hour 70s

SO, ARE SICURA WATCHES WORTH COLLECTING?

The best models featuring movements like the Valjoux 7734 definitely are. These are just as well built as a Cauny, Gruen, Oriosa, GHC, Atlantic, Tressa, Lip, Wakmann and dare we say it, Breitling too? Maybe a Breitling or a Heuer had an build quality edge on a Sicura 7734  back in the 70s, but after 45 years of wear n tear, it comes down to servicing, owner care and luck as regards condition and accuracy.

sicura chrono valjoux 7734

Consider this though; you can’t go far wrong with any Valjoux 7734 powered wristwatch, as there still plenty of spare movements around, which means that repairing a vintage model on a reasonable budget of say under £250 is a possibility. Pushers and crowns are the things that need checking above all else – that’s where cack-handed owners do the damage, and water can get in too of course.

The budget independent watchmaker repairs that you can spend on a Sicura cannot be carried out a vintage Breitling – not if you want to retain its auction value.  So in that regard, a Sicura is arguably a cheaper way to collect a watch with the same Valjoux 7733 movement as a Breitling Top Time.

There’s also a bullhead variant Sicura Pilot style model, plus a four crown model, which has a bezel release crown set on the left side of the case, so you can click-stop the tachymetre around. All the Sicura chrono watches are pretty looking, not too big, but still have visual impact even today. Good examples are fetching £500-£950 depending on condition, dial colour, original box etc. Tropical dials seem very in demand right now – that could change in a year or two.

sicura submarine collectable values

Things get trickier when it comes to models like the Sicura Submarine 400. This homage to the Rolex Submariner certainly looks the part, but inside the case there is a fairly budget movement. It proudly states that it’s been vacuum tested and can dive up to 400 metres, which was pretty unlikely, even when the thing was brand new, given the overall build quality of the watch.

Inside the Sicura Submarine there’s a 23 jewel movement, which has a basic pin pallet fork, rather than a jewelled type of pallet lever clipping the escapement wheel. Even the balance wheel itself looks like something from a Josmar, a real flat lump of metal – unpolished and unloved.

That bit of cost-cutting by Sicura shows how the company stayed afloat when many rivals went bust in the 70s. It also makes the Submarine 400 something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing. A nice looking example can fetch £170-£220 online and for that money you could buy a mint Tissot Seastar Seven, which is arguably a much better watch. It just doesn’t look as chunky and James Bond-ish.

sicura submarine movement

When you get down to models like the Sicura jump hour watches from the late 60s and early 70s, these are really on par with an entry level 17 jewel Rotary, Montine, Hudson, Lucerne, Omax etc model. Perfectly durable movements, but nothing special inside that funky 70s chunky case, so don’t pay more than £50 for a mint example, as it’s never really going to be worth a fortune. Buy one because you love the New Avengers styling of it, not the technology inside.

sicura quartz no battery solar

The solar powered Sicura is arguably as collectible as many other early Swiss – or Japanese – quartz watches. The sheer rarity of working examples makes them true museum pieces.

The big problem is of course that any quartz movement eventually packs in, the crystal stops vibrating, condensation works its way inside, and the result is a dead movement. Where do you get NOS spare movements for such watches? All the independent jewellers who took these hi-tech quartz watches on as brands back in the 1970s are either retired, or long since closed up shop.

The best advice is if you find a working example of a VIP2000, then hide it away in a cool, dry, dark place – and remove the solar cell just in case it starts to oxidise inside the case.

AUCTION PRICES

We came back to this article and added some recent auction prices just FYI;

A Sicura Submarine Tritium, looking a bit battered but working made 440 euros on Catwiki recently, which is fairly impressive. A nicely preserved Jump Hour mpdel from teh 70s was at 113 euros with justa  few hours to go – higher than we thought.

Over on Chrono24 we found the cheapest Sicura was a Submarine model at £425 asking price. Next up was a Chrono Computer at £719, plus £95 shipping and import duties from the USA. So you are looking at over a grand in total.

Fact is, you could buy a really nice Swiss watch for that sort of money – new!

On eBay we found a 17 jewel Sicura auto, with a blue dial, in fairly decent nick at £155 – that was in Kiev, Ukraine, so form your own view on the guarantee on that one. The other model we thought was interesting on eBay was a digital Melody Alarm model, which a UK antiques dealer had on offer at £185. Fully working, vgc.

That has got investment potential and we think it’s worth an offer, as you only have to look at Bulova Accutron prices over the last two or three years to see how they have rocketed upwards.

 

 

Sekonda: A lot of Watch, For Very Little Money!

Lot of watch for very little money – that was the advertising slogan behind Sekonda back in the 1970s, when thousands of these cheap, reliable Russian watches made their way to the UK as communist Russia passed the begging bowl around the developed world, looking for hard currency. They traded crude oil for albums with Abba, they sold furs and skins from animals, culled on an industrial, Stalinist scale, and sold Jawa/CZ motorcycles that emitted more smoke than Casey Jones locomotive at full throttle.

But Sekonda watches, unlike a Jawa 350, were actually very good products. The reasons are simple; they took Swiss watch designs, copied them – sometimes improved them a little – but generally cut corners to make their watches simple to service, as well as mass produce. So a Poljot movement was based on a Valjoux 7731 for example.

sekonda 2
This one is just in – complete with original box! Ideal for a Shoreditch hipster

In the 1930s the Soviets bought in Jaeger Le Coultre chronoflights for their aircraft and ended up copying the movements for watches, manufacturing chronographs based on this design until the 1950s.

The most common mechanical Sekonda you’ll find knocking about for £30-£50 is a 19 jewel Raketa movement model, or sometimes an automatic Slava 27/25 jewel movement. Both are usually still ticking away even after 40 years of hard knock life, but if you strat to strip them down to repair them you’ll soon discover your only parts source is the pool of other working watches on ebay, or at car boot sales – why spend a day fixing a broken balance and meticulously cleaning a £30 Sekonda when you can simply buy another one?

So I say enjoy them while they’re still going and when you find one like the model pictured above, complete with its original box from the early 80s – keep it as a reminder of the era when Soviet Russia passed the hat around the West, simply to earn a few roubles. Very different now under Tsar Vladimir isn’t it?

pix 80s sekonda 2

Wired is Talking Garbage About Refurbished Vintage Watches & Here’s Why

As a former jounalist and editor, I have very little time for most mens’ lifestyle magazines. Buzzword-infested copy, lavishly photoshopped tech porn pictures and page after page of thinly disguised press releases, sponsored by big brand advertisers keen to sell gadgetry to men with `all the gear and no idea.’

Wired is a classic of this genre, with cod-scientific articles predicting various prism-shifting vistas of utopian city-dweller futures, where soy-boys compare their latest purchases on Instagram until the poorer guy cracks up and starts smoking Spice in back alleyways.

Here’s a link to a recent promo piece in Wired, which sells the idea that pre-owned, even truly vintage 100 year old watches, will be bigger than the new watch market one day. Total BS. For one thing consumers will soon tire of owning a watch that doesn’t keep accurate time. But we will get to that later.

In the Wired feature the guy from Armand Nicolet asserts that by changing the mainspring and hairspring, many decades of life may be miraculously extended from vintage movements. Hmmm, well maybe. Another bloke claims that vintage pocket watches are in some ways superior to modern examples.

OK, allow me to present a bit of reality into the equation readers, because this grade A baloney is giving me a headache;

silver tarnish degrades
Old silver and gold cases can degrade and pit badly over a century, it takes a skilled jeweller to restore them. Things like bows and hinges can be incredibly difficult to find – try getting a quote on having them hand made to original spec.

Old watches are generally worn out. By this I don’t just mean the hairspring is gummed up with WD40 and the mainspring is slacker than the knicker elastic on a Love Island detainee. This is especially true of things like Victorian key-wind pocket watches. Think about 120 years of coal fires, rattletrap train journeys, factory machinery and tools hitting the poor old Elgin or Waltham, raggedy children winding the thing until the fusee hooks beg for mercy.

About 50% of the project pocket watches I’ve bought from car boot sales, customers in the shop, or at antique fairs, never – that’s NEVER – manage to go for more than 4 hours and keep the right time. It isn’t just about replacing mainsprings, and stripping and cleaning the parts. Once you wash all the gunk out of old pocket watches you find worn out jewels, allowing the balance staff and other pins/pivots to run out of true, plus gears have worn teeth, escapement wheels and pallet stones are also usually clapped out.

For those who don’t know – such as hipster-bearded, Birra Moretti drinking Wired readers – let me explain that the balance assembly, with the lever and the pallet stones flicking the escapement wheel with total precision, is where the power of the mainspring is weakest. ANY resistance, any wear, anything out of alingnment, will make the watch stop as the spring uncoils and obviously the power is reduced.

That explanation is physics, not casual opinion sponsored by advertisers.

You don’t get to by-pass the overall wear and tear, the myriad problems an old watch has, simply by replacing two springs. It ain’t that easy. Even top winder pocket watches, which are generally more resiliant than fusee chain types, cannot cope with modern life.

Here’s another fact, modern pocket watches, made by computer aided machines, virtually untouched by human hand, are much more reliable timekeepers, and in need of less cleaning and oiling than old pocket watches. The tolerances are far, far closer, the parts are lighter and much more resistant to magnetism too. Even an unsigned, Chinese made basic mechanical pocket watch with a Seagull movement can whup the ass of a 100 year old Waltham in everyday life. Less fragile, more accurate, longer power reserve – no character of course, but definitely better at doing the thing a watch should do, tell the bloody time.

rotary service 1
Decades of ingrained dirt, moisture, skin and grease can kill off most watches. Some will cost three times the value to restore properly – spend because you love it, it isn’t an investment.

No Wristwatch Born Before 1970 Was Designed To Survive a Digital World

Here is another fact of life regarding classic mechanical and automatic wristwatches. Most of them, even the ones that say anti-magnetic on the dial, are in no way equipped to handle modern life. Every month we get buyers coming into the shop with Breitlings, or Tissots, gaining vast amounts of time. The owners usually work with computers, tablets, park the watch next their phone overnight etc. That screws up your watch, even the nice one you bought from Chrono24 for over £400.

There’s no escape in the open too. Phone masts, on-street wifi in shops, businesses and pubs. Even your modern car has magnetic fields buzzing around inside as it manages all the engine management functions, warning lights, Sat Nav, phone commands etc. Your vintage watch, even after a full overhaul, may still be useless as a timekeeper if you insist on being a dipstick and wearing it every day in an office full of computers – it isn’t designed for that life!

thos russell movement

The Problem of Parts Supply

You can refurbish popular old watches by essentially pillaging the supply of dead watches still knocking around ebay, Etsy, car boot sales and contacting specialist companies. But let me explain the reality of classic watch ownership for you.

Dials that peel and pickle require highly skilled re-enamelling, or repainting. Obtaining a genuine mineral crystal for many less popular Swiss automatics is another wild goose chase – then you have to pay someone to fit it. Who is going to set up a factory and mass-produce parts for all these vintage watches? Amazon? Don’t make me laugh.

No, the truth is that if a simple service with new springs and a clean gets an old watch going nicely, then there’s little wrong with it – you dropped lucky. Take my advice and use that watch sparingly. Keep it well away from microwaves, pesky kids, workplaces, drunken nights out with the lads or magnetic fields. Treasure it as a piece of engineering history like an Alfa 164, a Ducati 750SS or a Foden lorry and know that servicing it every five years, or restoring after damage,  will almost certainly cost you hundreds of pounds.