The watch brand Breitling is well loved and admired around the world. Founded in Saint-Imier, within the Bernese Jura by talented watchmaker Léon Breitling in 1884, the brand has been leading the way in wrist chronographs ever since with exceptional design and a pioneering spirit. By 1892, just 8 years after the company was set up, production had to be moved to a new, larger factory, due to the success Breitling was having and, in particular, the huge popularity of its chronographs.
Due to the brand’s absolute precision in timekeeping, Breitling is a revered brand in the fields of aviation, sports and science.
Breitling has triumphed over the years despite rough patches in its timeline, brought about by the Great Depression and the Quartz Crisis of the late 1970s. The company now employs around 900 people at its two manufacturing sites and its headquarters in Switzerland.
Pivotal moments in Breitling’s history
With so many years under its belt, Breitling has a rich history, encompassing all manner of inventions, new releases and exciting events. The highlights of Breitling’s fascinating history are outlined below.
1884: Breitling is born
In 1884, Breitling was founded by Léon Breitling.
1915: The wristwatch chronograph is born
Breitling developed a world first in 1915, a wristwatch chronograph, with the pushpiece situated at 2 o’clock. The Breitling Transocean Chronograph 1915 watch, unveiled in 2015, is a dedication to this pivotal achievement. By 1923, Breitling’s chronograph included an advanced technique that was welcomed by scientists and sportsmen alike: the separation of the start-stop function from the reset button.
1920s: The name ‘Breitling’ appears on the dials
In the late 1920s, the brand’s name started featuring on the dials of the watches – over 40 years after Breitling was established.
1930: Police use Breitling watches to do motor speed checks
In 1930, the Breitling Vitesse stopwatch was unveiled which became highly popular with police officers who used it to do accurate speed checks on motorists.
1936: Breitling takes to the air
At the dawn of air travel, Breitling was there, supplying the on-board chronographs in airplane cockpits.
1939: Breitling supplies the RAF
In 1939, Breitling became further engaged in the aviation industry by signing a contract with the British Air Ministry to make flight chronographs for the Royal Air Force. This secured Breitling’s future within aircraft navigation and innovation.
1952: The Navitimer is released
In 1952, Breitling released the Navitimer, a watch that could withstand all of the calculations required for a flight plan. This naturally and rapidly became a favourite amongst pilots, including Lt. Commander Scott Carpenter, who wore his throughout the 1950s. The Navitimer range is still a popular choice now, with a wide selection available.
1962: The first Swiss wristwatch in space
On May 24 1962, Lt. Commander Scott Carpenter orbited the Earth three times aboard the Aurora 7 capsule with a Breitling Navitimer on his wrist. This watch featured a 24-hour graduation – a vital necessity for astronauts to distinguish day from night. This was the first Swiss wristwatch to travel in space.
1979: The Breitling family sell the company to a pilot
In 1979, pilot Ernest Schneider took over the company from the Breitling family, and the Schneiders continued to own the company until 2017. Ernest’s son, Theodore Schneider, still has a 20% stake in the company.
1995: The “Emergency” wristwatch is born
The Breitling Emergency wristwatch is popular with thrill seekers. Launched in 1995, and still in production now, the Emergency watch features a built-in dual frequency distress beacon which works on land, at sea, and in the air. This watch is a true safety and survival instrument. In fact, in 2003, two British pilots crashed a helicopter in Antarctica, activated their Emergency watches from their lifeboat, and were shortly picked up by a rescue helicopter.
2001: Kings of accuracy
In 2001, Breitling introduced their SuperQuartz technology, which is 10 times more accurate than standard quartz. This led to all of Breitling’s electronic models being certified by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute).
Breitling on screen
A Breitling watch featured in the 1965 James Bond movie, Thunderball. The watch is given to Bond by Q – in real life it is a Breitling Top Time, but in Thunderball it is presented by Q as a geiger counter. This enables 007 to track down two stolen nuclear warheads during the famous underwater scenes. Post-filming, the watch disappeared until 2012, when it made an appearance at a car boot sale in England. It was purchased for the sum of £25.00, and later sold at Christie’s auction house for more than £100,000!
Breitling wristwatches have also been spotted in the Sherlock TV series (worn by Sherlock himself), LOST, Independence Day, House of Cards, Gossip Girl, Die Hard: With a Vengenance, and more.
If you would like to explore the exceptional design of the Breitling wristwatch collection, you can do so here. Prices start at just £2,050.00.