About Breitling Watches
Founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling in St. Imier, Switzerland, the founder established himself as a master chronograph maker and his legacy continues to live on today as modern-day Breitling is most associated with high-end chronograph watches. With the founder’s grandson, Willy Breitling, at the helm of the company, the mid-20th century was a particularly important era in Breitling’s history. Willy Breitling focused his attention on serving professional and military aviation fields by establishing the Huit Aviation Department to create dashboard clocks for planes and wrist chronographs for pilots.
In 1940, Breitling unveiled the Chronomat watch, characterized by a patented rotating slide rule for technicians and scientists to compute complex calculations. In 1952, the Breitling Navitimer (a contraction of the words "Navigation" and "Timer") was born, taking the Chronomat’s slide rule but fitting it into a pilot’s timepiece as a tool watch for aviators. Then, in 1957, Breitling introduced the SuperOcean dive watch to compete with similar offerings from Rolex, Blancpain, and Omega launched earlier that decade. The Chronomat, Navitimer, and SuperOcean continue to be a part of Breitling’s current catalog of watches.
In 1965, Breitling joined forces with Heuer, Hamilton-Bruen, and Dubois Depraz to secretly work on the world’s first automatic chronograph movement—an endeavor they called Project 99. In March 1969, Caliber 11 was officially announced as one of the world’s first automatic chronograph movements and later that year, Breitling’s first self-winding chronograph watch, the Chrono-Matic, made its debut.
Ernst Schneider bought the company from the Breitling family in 1979 and under the new ownership, the Breitling brand saw some milestone changes. To celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary in 1984, Breitling redesigned the Chronomat chronograph watch, featuring rider tabs on the bezel and an automatic movement inside the watch. The Breitling Chronomat went on to become one of Breitling’s best selling watches. The 1980s also saw the introduction of the multifunction quartz Breitling Aerospace watch with both an analog and digital display, the Colt watch originally developed for armed forces, and the innovative Breitling Emergency watch with an integrated emergency transmitter.
In the mid-2000s, Breitling teamed up with luxury car manufacturer Bentley to first make dashboards clock for Bentley cars. However, the relationship soon flourished into a full Breitling for Bentley collection of watches, which fuse design cues from both the watchmaker and the automaker.
To mark the 125th anniversary of Breitling, the company unveiled the in-house automatic chronograph Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01 in 2009. Breitling is continuing on this path of in-house movement making by equipping many of its watches with new manufacture movements.
Breitling was recently sold to CVC Capital Partners and a veteran of the industry, Georges Kern, assumed the role of CEO. Under his leadership, Breitling is releasing a flurry of new models, many inspired by iconic models from the brand’s archives like the Premiere collection and the Navitimer 8 lineup, but redesigned for a contemporary audience. What remains the same is Breitling’s commitment to making high-end technical chronographs and other complex timepieces deeply rooted in aviation.