Telephone companies are not glamourous. Telephone companies are not sexy. Likewise, state-owned telephone companies are a particularly lackluster proposition. And yet, in 1970s Sweden, this particularly stylish steel Breitling defied that paradigm. Televerket, as mentioned, operated all phone lines in Sweden in period. The Swedish military had a brief romance with the Navitimer previous. So, when the government needed a chronograph for the switchboard employees, Breitling got the call again. What resulted is a specialized 815 chronograph dial that is equal parts outrageously cool and uber rare. Unassuming watches with stories like this are what make vintage collecting so damn enjoyable.
Allow me to backtrack slightly. The Top Time series of chronographs were introduced by Breitling in the mid 60s as a chronograph of the people, slotting under the Navitimer. This reference 815 hails from the second series of Top Times, introduced in 1970. At 38mm with straight lugs, the proportions are compelling for modern collectors. The 815 featured 3-subdial Valjoux 7736 with a massively upgraded power reserve of 52 hours. The sub at 6 will measure up to 12 elapsed hours, giving this 815 the nickname ‘Long Playing’.
Now onwards to the absurd backstory here. Switchboard operators frequently had to time intervals to appropriately bill callers, coordinate meetings, and coordinate wake-up calls across different time zones. As such, Sweden found its operators needing a way to measure elapsed intervals with ease. Sweden had previously contracted Lemania and Breitling for small runs of military chronographs and so renewed their relationship to satisfy this need. The Tillhör Televerket chronographs were produced with no Breitling signature on the dial, instead replaced by the Swedish Royal crest (a crown). Cool right? The dials were only available in this panda combination and given to seasoned switchboard operators to coordinate their staff. Unusual watch? Certainly. But attractive? Doubtless.
This example sports a very clear and unmolested dial. The Swedish crest is crisp with all printing still highly legible. Its back is engraved with the correct Tillhör Televerket (meaning, essentially, property of Swedish Telephone Service) and has not worn through even remotely. All tritium pips are present and matched to the handset. The lugs are crisp and the crystal hardly marked. The upper lug opposite the pushers has some hard scratching on its inside, that’s all I can observe here. All around, a solid piece. It comes from a media outlet’s retail shop, who rarely tend to inventory watches. When they do, they’re hot metal.
Find this Tillhör Televerket 815 here from Revolution for 12500 USD.