Much has been made lately in the vintage Heuer collecting community lately about the "Jo Siffert Autavia" and the "Derek Bell Autavia" or the "McQueen Monaco." These particular models are climbing precipitously in value of late, but I think it's funny how no one in the vintage Breitling community seems that obsessed with the fact that legendary Jim Clark not only wore a Breitling Top Time, but actually appeared in ads for it, sporting a handsome white leather racing strap, no less!
The Top Time is part of the same generation as the Omega Speedmaster, the Heuer Carrera, and the Rolex Daytona, but unlike the other three watches it is far less known, was produced for a much shorter time period, and as a result today's values are considerably lower. Top Times are relatively affordable for a vintage racing chronograph. They change hands between 900 to 2,000 USD depending on the condition and style.Clark wore a black 3-subregister watch like the one above, but the 2 subdial watch with silver dial may be even more handsome. I would put the relative obscurity of these watches down to the fact that the modern Breitling company has focused completely on Aviation, with its Navitimer watch as the core of its brand, basically throwing out all association with motorsport. Meanwhile TAG Heuer assaults us with images on a regular basis of Steve McQueen and his Monaco watch, and Rolex and Omega still make the Daytona and Speedmaster, respectively. Frankly, I like it this way. With vintage Heuer prices basically having crossed into "stupid territory" of late, I like the idea of a Top Time more and more. And frankly, I never understood why people go so crazy over a watch worn by Jo Siffert, or even the young Derek Bell. Neither of these men -with due respect to Bell's later Le Mans accomplishments- can hold a candle to Clark's towering abilities. Wearing the watch he wore would for me have far more emotional resonance!
I think the point I would like to make the most here is how this example emphasizes what sheep so many watch collectors are, and how the marketing efforts of the present-day watch company can have such a big impact on the perceived value of vintage watches. If Breitling were to re-issue the top time, and make a big campaign about Clark wearing it (after all, he is the greatest driver of his era hands down) it's a foregone conclusion that collectors would suddenly go ape for a vintage "Jim Clark Top Time." But thankfully that will never happen, especially since Breitling still thinks John Travolta is cool, and continues to slide into an abyss of bad taste and oversized, blingy schlock. Bad news for Breitling, but good news for the independent-minded collector!