Breitling today and Breitling from the 1950s. If you removed the brand name from the dials, you would not be able to tell that these two sets of watches originated from the same manufacture. This has been said many times before, but reiterating it really puts into context just how different they used to be.
If you’re not into vintage, you would have never known that Breitling was a pioneer of chronographs and sport watches back in the day. They were the first to ever make a chronograph wristwatch and also the first to make a dual button chronograph, amongst other breakthroughs. What would be even more surprising is that they also used to make dress chronographs, and very elegant ones mind you. Though the terms ‘Breitling’ and ‘elegant’ may seem like an oxymoron, this is exactly what we are looking at today: The Breitling Premier Ref. 734 Kronometer Stockholm (with a twist)
Breitling released the Ref. 734 in the 40’s but this example you see wasn’t made until the early 50’s. The early 734s featured a different logo and it wasn’t until Breitling moved to Geneva in 1952 that they began branding their dials ‘Breitling Geneve’. The ‘Premier’ designation albeit inconsistently used, was largely reserved for many of their higher end chronographs and this example certainly fits the bill.
Housed in a very large 37mm (made in a time where 34mm was the norm) stainless steel case and powered by a premium column-wheel Venus 178, this Breitling Premier was one of the best that came out of the manufacture. Featuring a highly legible white dial with a contrasting blue tachymeter track and three subdials, this watch is as clean and elegant as you are going to find in a chronograph.
To some, you might say, it's a bit boring. How many three register, white dialled chronographs are there out there? A lot. But to that I say: look closer. You will notice that there is another logo beneath the Breitling logo, and this is where the details of the watch really kick in and make it so special and beautiful. The logo you see is a double stamp made by Kronometer Stockholm of Sweden. They were watch importers and retailers, working most famously as an agent for Breitling to distribute their chronographs. Similar to a Tiffany stamped Rolex, the dial of the Premier Ref. 734 bears their logo and irrespective of its provenance, I just think it just looks so good.
I’m not done yet. Next, the condition. When I received this watch, I was amazed at how preserved this Ref. 734 was. The term ‘razor-sharp’ is certainly overused in this industry but it really is applicable here. If you rub a finger along the edge of this Breitling’s case, you can feel just how sharp it is. Not to mention, the perfectly preserved bevels and brushed and polished finish of the mid-case and caseback with the serial and reference numbers still deep. The dial, as you can see, remains in mint condition and if you know a thing or two about vintage watches is that dials like these often degrade and tarnish. I really am astounded at the condition of this dial and my only explanation of it would be due to the climate of the place this watch came from. In Stockholm, the climate is dry and cold, allowing the materials on the dial to remain fairly stable compared to the often patina’d and tarnished dials coming from the humid tropics.
Acquired through auction, I was already feeling lucky that I bagged such a quality piece, but what makes this story even better is that after I posted it on Instagram, the original owner got in touch with me. He said that his father had bought three Premier Ref. 734s- two with a white dial like you see here, one with a black dial and all stamped with the Kronometer Stockholm logo. His father barely used these watches, which really explains the condition it is in, and while he sold one, it is nice to know that he is keeping the other two.
This watch really is a time capsule, from the finishing of the case and the text on the dial to the double stamped logo and info from the original owner. It is this that really drives a large portion of the vintage community as at often times, it is the provenance that captures the imagination of collectors. With that being said, you will be hard-pressed to find a more special or rare Breitling Premier Ref. 734 out there.