Made for risk-takers, adrenaline-seekers, and boundary-breakers, Breitling timepieces are made for nonstop lifestyles. This Swiss watch brand was founded by Leon Breitling in 1884. Leon, who was only 24 years at the time of its founding, expanded to a larger factory within its first ten years. Almost a hundred years later, Ernst Schneider bought the company from the Breitling family from 1979 to April 2017. His son, Theodore Schneider took over the company, retaining ownership until November 2018.
Inventor of the modern-day chronograph, the brand is best known for creating a watch that tells more than time. Breitling was the first to fuse utilitarian functionality with the fine design, and this engineered collaboration made victory limitless. During the first World War, Breitling quickly established itself as the leading pilot’s watch, though its name would quickly gain traction outside of this industry. In 1934, Breitling maximized their chronographs utility through the advent of the return-to-zero push-piece (which resets the chronograph to zero with a pushback), making them even more useful for pilots. And with this, the modern-day Chronograph, with its distinctive 2 push-buttons at “2” and “4” O’clock, was born.
Their frondeur philosophy is mirrored through their manufacturing, as the company set the pace of the horologic trade. With the highest regard within aviation, Breitling launched the Aerospace in 1985. This digital chronograph introduced new tools for pilots, making them an active participant in the advancement of aviation. Breitling from its beginning manufactured the highest quality movements and instruments. However, in much of its modern era sourced based movements witch they modified from esteemed suppliers such as Valjoux, Venus, and ETA. But, in 2009 that all changed when Breitling developed the B01 Calibre, an in-house self-winding, column-wheel chronograph movement found in the Breitling Chronomat 01 and Navitimer 01.
In the early ’50s, Breitling was approached by the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) commissioned a new chronograph made specifically for its members. Willy Breitling developed a state-of-the-art wristwatch that provided pilots with essential flight calculations such as distance traveled, average speed, rate of climb/descent, fuel consumption, and measurement converter. Breitling took the traditional logarithmic slide rule of the 40’s Chronomat and incorporated It into a rotating bezel that was easier to manipulate.
With a case diameter of 41 millimeters, apropos large at its time, guaranteed information was legible, the Navitimer was an evocative amalgam of two seemingly partisan concepts. Apart from its design, this mindset made Breitling an inherently avant-garde brand for one that perfected utility. It was in this complexity that brought upon its future relevance in sport and competition. To this day, the Navitimer continues to be an Icon of utility, engineering and design throughout both aviation and watchmaking circles.
Breitling understands that greatness has no single definition and seeks to be a part of it in every sense of achievement. The 1950s was a pivotal time globally, and the mid-centurion era brought on new opportunities, thrill-seekers, and demand for more ubiquitous technological resources. As opportunists, Breitling saw the increased demand for divers’ watches as the conquests of seas and exploration of oceans cultivated more success. Professional deep-sea diving required more scientific support and nautical athleticism and leisurely aquatic sports boomed between amateurs and mavens. Both levels of enthusiast lacked serious tools that were to be instrumental in such excursions and experiences.
In the late ‘50s, Breitling launched two revolutionary diving watches at the same time: a time-only diver and a chronograph. Both aptly named SuperOcean, these two watches target two types of nautical sport; the former made for the every-man with a more fashionable and beachy approach and the latter with seasoned sportier intent tracked performance and promised reliability.
1957 introduced Breitling’s SuperOcean collection with their classic dive watch for military and professional use, but quickly gained popularity amongst general watch enthusiasts and explorers. Great for athletes, adventure-seekers, and record-breakers, the SuperOcean includes multiple models that fuse style and functionality, including their SuperOcean II’s, Chronograph 44’s, and Heritage’s. Breitling believes that craftsmanship focuses on small minutiae to influence big change, and that’s why they relish in the details. Wristwatches that make a statement in both style and functionality permits Breitling’s robust technologies to lead the way on your next adventure.
A brand that prides itself on adaptability and leaning into current times, Breitling leveraged its craft to aid the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Breitling streamed its first-ever global Summit Webcast to accommodate the pandemic lockdown guidelines to properly introduce the SuperOcean Heritage ’57 Collection, along with a very special Limited Edition version. This Limited Edition watch’s rainbow-clad elements received overwhelming praise, subsequently causing Breitling’s second edition launch, with a blue dial and 1000-piece capsule. The latter of which was dedicated to the sacrifices and advancements made by the medical industry during this global pandemic. Limited to 1000 pieces, Breitling commissioned Charitybuzz, an online auction-organization, to raise funds for Direct Relief, a US Based charity. Breitling has not only showcased it commitments to watchmaking and quality craftsmanship, but through contributions such as this, the brand outlines it’s commitment to social responsibility too.
Again, Breitling knows greatness when it sees it, and rightly recognizes its engineering. In June, Breitling will also auction the SuperOcean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition II watches through Charitybuzz, an auction-organization that supports an array of causes. These proceeds were donated to Direct Relief, a US-based charity and the highest bidder will win an opportunity to live chat with Kelly Slater, a member of Breitling Surfers Squad and top surfer. Breitling used it’s platform to acknowledge that COVID-19’s solution is contingent on the unwavering positivity and zealous selflessness of our global healthcare heroes through this special-edition launch. This bright colourway commemorates the sacrifices and advancements made by the medical industry and the communal efforts for a global cause.
Breitling has also garnered a sense of celebrity over the years, and in the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball, Bond is given a Breitling Top Time with a geiger counter that enables Bond to track down two stolen nuclear warheads. This watch seemed to disappear after the movie was filmed and later resurfaced in an English car boot sale in 2012. It was bought for GB£25 but resold later at Christie’s auction house for over GB£100,000.