The Breitling Top Time range has always been popular amongst vintage watch collectors, due to its relatively accessible price point and classic good looks. Designed originally to appeal to a younger audience, Breitling positioned this watch towards anyone with an active lifestyle, advertising it as an ‘instrument panel’ on the wrist.
That being said, while there are many variations in the Top Time family both in aesthetics and quality, the one to collect is arguably the Ref. 810.
The Ref. 810 comprises characteristics that make for a classic chronograph- most notably a stunning reverse panda dial- white sub-registers and a black dial. While the Panda version of the 810 features applied steel hour markers, this inverse example features fully lumed markers.
While the reference 810 in itself is already special, what makes this particular example even more unique and rare comes down to the unusual logo you see on the dial. While a normal 810 will have the Breitling branding on the dial, this example features the AOPA logo, which stood for the ‘Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’. Following WWII, there was a huge surge in interest for civil aviation and Breitling was at the forefront of producing watches for this association that came as a result. Much like a Tiffany signed Rolex, this too was a form of double branding that today makes these specimens much more desirable.
Other aspects of this include a large 38mm case with muscular lugs and the thing that sets it apart from other Top Times is the Venus 178 movement. Most Top Times used a lower quality cam controlled Valjoux 77, whereas this early Top Time from the 1960s used a column wheel movement.
I would consider the Ref. 810 to be Breitling’s equivalent of a Heuer Carrera, a true classic. While the reverse panda dialed Carrera 2447 is at a stratospheric price point, with the Top Time, you get a classic chronograph with a beautiful reverse panda dial for a fraction of the cost. I really am a fan of this piece.