“You simply don’t become official supplier to world aviation by chance”
A specialist of technical watches, Breitling has played a crucial role in the development of the wrist chronograph and is a leader in this complication. The firm has shared all the finest moments in the conquest of the skies thanks to its sturdy, reliable and high-performance instruments. One of the world's only major watch brands to equip all its models with chronometer-certified movements, the ultimate token of precision, Breitling is also one of the rare companies to produce its own mechanical chronograph movements, entirely developed and manufactured in its own workshops. This family business is also one of the last remaining independent Swiss watch brands.
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The inventor of the modern chronograph
In founding his workshop in the Swiss Jura in 1884, Léon Breitling chose to devote himself to an exclusive and demanding field: that of chronographs and timers. These precision instruments were intended for sports, science and industry. Thanks to its high-quality products and its constant quest for innovation, the brand accompanied the boom of competitive sports and of the automobile – as well as the first feats of the aviation pioneers.
In 1915, Breitling heralded the emergence of the wrist chronograph by inventing the first independent chronograph pushpiece. In 1923, the firm perfected this system by separating the stop/start functions from that of resetting. This patented innovation thereby made it possible to add several successive times without returning the hands to zero – which proved extremely useful both for timing sports competitions and for calculating flight times. In 1934, Breitling set the final touch to the modern face of the chronograph by creating the second independent reset pushpiece – a decisive breakthrough that was soon adopted by the competition.
In 1969, the brand took on one of the greatest 20th century watchmaking challenges by presenting the first selfwinding chronograph movement. In 1984, Breitling heralded the rebirth of the mechanical chronograph by launching the famous Chronomat, which has since become its leading model.
In 2009, the firm’s engineers once again made their mark on the history of the chronograph by creating Breitling Caliber 01, a high-performance selfwinding movement entirely developed and produced in its own workshops. Since then, the brand has developed an entire range of Manufacture Breitling movements equipped with useful and innovative functions - such as dual timezone Caliber B04 and worldtime Caliber B05, both distinguished by their revolutionary user friendliness.
A leader in the field of mechanical chronographs, Breitling is also in the forefront of electronics in watchmaking. The brand has indeed established itself in the vanguard of innovation by creating the Emergency, the world's first wristwatch equipped with an authentic integrated dual frequency personal locator beacon, as well as by developing its own multifunction electronic chronograph movement, specifically designed to meet the needs of aviators.
The authentic partner of aviation
Aviation pioneers needed reliable and efficient instruments, and therefore soon took an interest in Breitling’s pocket chronographs, and later its wrist chronographs. In the early 1930s, building on its reputation for precision and sturdiness, the brand enriched its range with a “specialty” that would earn it worldwide fame: onboard chronographs intended for aircraft cockpits. These instruments indispensable to secure piloting enjoyed great success with the various armed forces, including the Royal Air Force which used them to equip its famous World War II propeller-driven fighter planes.
In 1952, Breitling launched its legendary Navitimer wrist chronograph featuring a circular slide rule serving to perform all navigation-related calculations. A cult object for pilots and aviation enthusiasts, it has been continuously manufactured for almost 60 years – making it the world’s oldest mechanical chronograph still in production. In 1962, a Navitimer accompanied Scott Carpenter on his orbital flight aboard the Aurora 7 capsule, thus becoming the first space-going wrist chronograph.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Breitling played a key role in the boom of commercial aviation, as its onboard chronographs became standard equipment, first on the propeller-driven planes and later on the jet aircraft of many airplane manufacturers and airline companies. The brand thus quite naturally earned the status of “official supplier to world aviation”.
Today, Breitling is perpetuating these authentic and privileged ties with aviation by cooperating with the world’s elite pilots. Several exceptional teams fly the firm’s colors, including the famous Breitling Jet Team with its spectacular aerobatics. It is associated with the greatest airshows, such as the Red Bull Air Race, in which its own team competes under its colors. By supporting the restoration of legendary aircraft such as the Breitling Super Constellation, one of the two remaining flightworthy “Super Connies” in the world, the brand with the winged B asserts its determination to preserve the aeronautical legacy – the magnificent adventure with which its own history is so intimately entwined.
The master of performances
Trained in the tough school of aviation, a domain where safety is of vital importance, Breitling displays the same obsession with quality in all its 100% Swiss made “instruments for professionals”. The firm is one of the world's very few watch brands to submit all its movements (both mechanical and quartz) to the merciless tests of the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) – the highest benchmark of precision and reliability, and the only one based on an international norm. The brand built an ultra-modern facility named Breitling Chronométrie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, dedicated to the development and production of mechanical chronograph movements.
In order to produce its own high-performance Manufacture calibers, the firm has developed an industrial production chain that has revolutionized traditional movement assembly. Each movement is individually monitored by an ultra-sophisticated computer program that automatically directs it towards the appropriate work station, along a route alternating between entirely automated workstations and others requiring manual intervention. This is because for some operations, nothing can equal the latest high-tech advancements, and industrialization results in infinitely more accurate tolerances than manual workmanship. Breitling there by guarantees the large-scale authentic production reliability of its “instruments for professionals”.
Breitling also stands out in the field of electronics by using exclusively thermocompensated SuperQuartz™ movements that are ten times more accurate than standard quartz. Not forgetting the Emergency, the first wristwatch with a built-in emergency micro-transmitter.
Whether in terms of the sturdiness and water resistance of its cases, the clarity and readability of its dials, or the robustness and comfort of its bracelets, each detail of the watch exterior is designed to with stand intensive use in the most trying conditions, and is subjected to count less controls throughout the production process.
You simply don’t become official supplier to world aviation by chance.