Watchmakers have long stretched their boundaries and expanded their expertise in order to meet the needs of the evolving aviation industry. The change from pocket watches to wristwatches is one pivotal moment in watchmaking that changed the entire course of history of timepieces. Today, not all watch brands dare to answer the call to provide aviation watches, only a few good ones have made their mark on such market, including the Swiss brand Breitling.
Hailing from Grenchen, Switzerland is the man who founded the company in 1884, named Léon Breitling. Before it has become a staple brand in the aviation that it is today, Breitling was bought by Ernst Schneider after nine decades with the founding family. Just recently (May 2017), it was sold to CVC Capital Partners (or at least 80% of its stake) while the remaining minor stake remained with the Schneiders. A known and respected man in the timepiece industry took the lead—Georges Kern.
From focus on chronographs to the creation of their first movement
All industrial, athletic, scientific, and military applications needed chronographs back in the time of Léon Breitling; hence, his choice to put the focus of the entire company on making chronographs. The charm of simplicity, sleek design, and uncomplicated maintenance process earned Breitling prestige back in the 80s, with a patent for simplified model.
Gaston Breitling eventually took reins when his father passed away in 1924, allowing him to unleash his innovative self through the introduction of a wrist chronograph, one of the few pioneering ones that featured above its watch crown a separate push-piece.
In the past, the brand didn’t produce in-house movements; rather, it sought topnotch ones from known suppliers, including Venue, ETA, and Valjoux. But just recently in 2009, the BO1, self-winding chronograph movement with column wheel, was developed by Breitling. It was used for the unique Breitling Chronomat 01 and later on, for Navitimer 01.
Breitling Navitimer Limited Edition. Instudio 68
Watch collections and key pieces
All models of the brand has certified chronometers in them, the best-selling ones used mostly for aviation and diving. However, that doesn’t mean that Breitling lags behind on other pieces. Quite contrary, it has 4 collections that focus on pieces with specified functions for distinct uses and environments.
The flagship piece of the brand’s “Air Collection” is the already mentioned Navitimer, which has functions for aviation eversince it was launched back in 1952. This watch has an iconic status and stayed at the peak of horology ranking for 65 years.
For the “Sea Collection”, the brand has its SuperOcean, created just a few years behind the Navitimer in 1957 directed to meet the needs of military and professional drivers alike. But the style and features of the wtches in this collection caught the eye of leisure divers, too, mking them a big portion of the modern clients for the SuperOcean.
The TransOcean consists the “Land Collection”, filled with pieces for international travelers. It was launched back in 1958, notably possessing sleek designs and clean aesthetic. And as we know, craftsmanship truly shines when there is minimal design. And the TransOcean isn’t short of that.
The “Universal Collection” has the Chronomat, stemming from an inspiration brought by certain aviation chronograph exclusively designed for the elite aerobatics team of the Italian Air Force. Even with its aviation-packed design, the aesthetic, construction and performance of the Chronomat earned the admiration of people from all walks of life, hence the term, “Universal”.
Another popular watch from the brnd is the Emergency watch. It has put Breitling on the map when two British pilots, Steve Brooks and Hugh Quentin-Smith were rescued after their crash—mainly because they have activated their Breitling Emergency watches. The Emergency watch of Breitling has a radio transmitter that can be used for aviation, especially within the military emergency frequency.
Breitling Transocean – Limited Edition. Instudio 68
Giving back and being one of the best
Because of its prominence in the aviation industry, Beitling ensures to sponsor different endeavors connected to it. The brand sponsored Breitling Orbiter’s (balloon) circumnavigation of the earth. Other missions include Yves Rossy’s fixed-wing jet pack flight, and aerobatics in the Reno Air Race, Breitling Wingwalkers and Breitling Jet Team. The brand also became a sponsor in Le Mans 24 Hours campaign for 3 years, supporting the Team Bentley. This was commemorated through a watch named Breitling Bentley 24 Le Mans Watch.
Breitling is undoubtedly a brand keen on delivering quality pieces, as their field of expertise, including aviation and diving requires a higher level of craftsmanship and dedication for innovative features. Through the years of it surfacing to the top despite countless competition, it has earned its rightful place as one of the best watch brands in the market today.
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Breitling logo outside of a boutique in Vienna, Austria. Bascar