Breitling has its very own place among watch brands: the highly exclusive ‘stronghold’ of technical watches, mainly chronographs. A longstanding partner of aviation, a field where reliability and precision play a vital role, the brand has always devoted premier importance to the quality of its products, designed to withstand intensive use in the most trying conditions.
Breitling is a chronograph specialist that has played a key role in the technical development of this complication, including by inventing the two independent pushpieces and by presenting the first selfwinding chronograph (1969). The firm belongs to the highly exclusive circle of watch manufacturers possessing their very own mechanical chronograph movements:
Breitling cases are designed to accompany professionals on their most extreme missions. They must therefore provide maximum protection in case of impacts, and each detail of their construction has been developed and tested to withstand intensive use. They are also distinguished by their technical complexity, their high-end aesthetic appeal and the quality of their finishing.
To guarantee products complying with the highest technical and aesthetic parameters, not only does Breitling work with the finest suppliers and entrust production to the most expert watchmakers using the most sophisticated equipment, but the firm has also instated comprehensive and stringent test procedures. A Breitling chronometer thus undergoes no less than 1,000 controls during the production process.
Some examples for legendary and iconic models are the Navitimer, the Chronomat, the Emergency and the SuperOcean.
1884 founded by Leon Breitling and setup in Saint-Emier and moved to La Chaux de Fondin 1892, Leon was fascinated by the precision and the functionality of precise stopwatches (and other timing devices) used by sport, military or aviation institutions.
In 1889, Breitling was granted a patent for a simple but functional chronograph that was easy to produce and to service, paving the way for the future development of this watch genre.
With Leon Breitling’s death in 1914, Gaston Breitling takes over the company and following his passion for innovation, creates one of the first wrist chronographs with a separate push button to operate the chronograph function, in 1915.
Followed by the patent of the two pusher chronograph system in 1923, allowing to start and stop the timer successively without resetting the chronograph and with that, setting the two pusher standard for today’s chronograph functions.
By the time Willy Breitling takes over the company in 1932, Breitling offers over 40 different versions of chronographs specifically for aviation usage and is one of the leading watchmakers in this genre.
In 1942, Breitling launched the Chronomat watch (combination of chronograph and mathematics) allowing the wearer to perform calculations by using the inner slide rule bezel. With the Chronomat, Breitling invested the face of today’s chronograph watches.
The idea of the Chronomat was further improved in 1952, when Breitling introduced the iconic Navitimer (a combination of Navigation and Timer) a pilot’s watch with an enhanced slide rule bezel allowing the calculation of fuel consumptions, average speeds or climbing speeds. Sold under the reference 806, the dial of the first Navitimer was decorated with the “Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association” (AOPA) emblem which evolved into a real collaboration in the 1960s.
In 1957, Breitling launched its first dive watch the “SuperOcean” with an impressive water resistance of 200 meters, followed by the “TransOcean” in 1958, adding shockproof and anti-magnetism functionality.
The astronaut Scot Carpenter designed his own Navitimer, with a special 24 hour dial to be able to differentiate between day and night in space, and wore it during his flight in the Aurora 7 Capsule in 1962, making it the first chronograph in space.
In 1969, Breitling together with Heuer issued the world’s first world automatic micro rotor chronograph (caliber 11).
In 1979, Ernest Schneider took over the company until 2017 and was the driver for various redesigns (like the “Chronomat” in 1985) and innovations like the “Emergency” in 1988, which can act as a beacon sending a distress signal in times of need and later improved in 1995.
To emphasize Breitling’s strive for quality and precision, all of Breitling’s movements are COSC certified since 1999 crowned by the introduction of the first in-house chronograph movement the B01, celebrating the 125th anniversary of the company, in 2009.
Let’s have a look at Breitling’s long history: