Breitling SA is a group with its headquarters in Grenchen (Switzerland), which manufactures wristwatches in the high to luxurious price segment.
History of the Breitling company
The company was founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling (1860-1914) in Saint-Imier in the Bernese Jura. In 1892 she was transferred to La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 1914 Gaston Breitling became his father’s successor as company boss. In 1915, the Revue Internationale d’Horlogerie reported a Breitling chronograph bracelet with a central chronograph hand and a 30-minute counter; the development of the chronograph later became a focus of Breitling. In 1923 the first independent chronograph pusher followed, in 1934 the second independent chronograph pusher, which made it possible to reset it to zero.
From 1936 Breitling supplied the Royal Air Force with clocks for their planes. They had an eight-day power reserve; the wristwatches developed for pilots were characterized by black dials with striking luminous numerals. In 1942, Breitling launched the Chronomat model, a slide-rule, hand-wound chronograph that the U.S. Armed Forces officially introduced to the U.S. Army Air Force.
Another development by Breitling’s designers was the Navitimer in 1952. As a further development of the Chronomat, this pilot’s chronograph has an even more complex bezel that does more complicated calculations such as fuel consumption, climb or descent rates, average speeds and the like. enables. The company’s first diving watch was launched in 1958 under the Superocean name.
Shortly before his death in 1979, Willy Breitling sold the name and trademark rights to the pilot and entrepreneur Ernest Schneider. Schneider was not a newcomer to the watch market and had already produced watches under the Sicura brand in the 1960s. After moving production to Grenchen, Breitling Montres S.A. their production. In 1984 Breitling launched the new Chronomat – the Italian aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori had a significant influence on their development in 1984 – which is now Breitling’s main product. Breitling launched the pilot watch Emergency in 1995, based in part on the aerospace created in 1985. In addition to a multifunctional chronograph, this watch integrates an emergency transmitter that sends a widely located emergency signal on demand at the 121.5 MHz frequency applicable for international air traffic. Depending on the national legal situation, this watch could only be sold to customers with a valid pilot license. From then on, Breitling straddled the line between manufacturing high-quality mechanical watches and implementing functions that resulted from quartz technology. Since 1999, all mechanical watch movements from Breitling have been subjected to the COSC chronometer test.
In 2001 Breitling decided to also subject all electronic movements to the COSC test. As a rule, only chronometers from the plants in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Grenchen are sold. In 2002, the manufacture of mechanical watches was outsourced to La Chaux-de-Fonds, the place where the company was already in 1892. Also in 2002, Breitling was the first manufacturer to produce a mechanical diving watch that was waterproof to 3000 meters.
For the 125th anniversary in 2009, Breitling presented a self-designed (“in-house”) chronograph movement under the designation B01 at Baselworld. This plant was also COSC certified.
At the end of April 2017, the British financial investor CVC Capital Partners took over 80 percent of the shares in Breitling; the owner family around Theodore Schneider kept 20 percent. In July 2017, former Richemont watch boss Georges Kern became Breitling’s new boss. In November 2018, the remaining 20 percent of the shares were also sold to CVC. Georges Kern also has a stake in the company.