Breitling Top Time Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…
Under the loupe this time is this Breitling Top Time chronograph.
(Click pictures to enlarge)
Introduced in 1964 to appeal to the ‘youth market’, the Top Time was an entry level chronograph offered at a much lower price point than their Navitimer and Chronomat models. The watch in this post is one of the cushion cased models from the 1970′s, which was also available with several different dial colours, and in a gold plated case with either matching or contrasting subdials.
A quick search reveals a variety of styles ranging from simple round cased models reminiscent of the Heuer Carrera, to the more elaborate later models with external bezels. Here are several options, including one featuring an additional 12hr register, very similar in style to watches from Breitlings own ‘LP’ (Long Playing) range.
Famous for wearing Rolex, and more recently Omega watches, a Top Time can be spotted on the wrist of James Bond in the 1965 movie Thunderball. Although clearly visible several times during the film, you’d be very hard pressed to find the same model today, as the watch in the film was transferred into an appropriate case made by the props department. You’ll notice in the pictures below that the watch doesn’t even have a crown or pushers (and possibly the most ill-fitting strap ever!)… but it did have a rather handy Geiger counter ‘complication’ – pretty good those props guys.
The Top Time range proved very popular, remaining in production until the late 1970′s. Despite the introduction of automatic chronographs in the late 1960′s, the Top Time range remained all manually wound, powered by either Valjoux (7730 / 7733 / 7736), or Venus (188 / 178/ 179) calibres.
The watch in this post has a Valjoux 7733 inside which was in running condition, but the chronograph didn’t function at all. Removing the caseback revealed the possible cause of the problem right away, the chronograph operating lever was cracked and just flexed when the pusher was pressed.
However, further investigation revealed more serious problems. With the watch removed from the case, it quickly became apparent that an unsuccessful attempt had been made to repair the pushers at some time in the past.
As you can see, one of the mounting plates for the pushers had broken loose from the case, and the one still in position had been soldered into the case in the incorrect position, so didn’t even make contact with the reset lever.
Finding replacement pushers for this case without buying a complete donor watch proved very difficult, so I had little choice but to remove them altogether and start again; modifying the pushers and making new mounting plates, before attaching them in exactly the right positions this time.
With the pushers repaired, it was on to the rest of the job. Once the broken operating lever had been replaced, the rest of movement service was straight forward, and from a cosmetic perspective there was little to do except clean the case and polish the crystal. The dial and hands were still in excellent condition, and the case too was still in great shape – which isn’t always the case with vintage chrome plated cases.
** Many thanks to Sohail Chaudhari for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **