Breitling SA

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Breitling SA
IndustryWatch manufacturing
Founded1884 (1884), in Saint-Imier, Switzerland
FounderLéon Breitling
Key people
Georges Kern
OwnerCVC Capital Partners

Breitling SA (German pronunciation: [ˈbraɪtlɪŋ]) is a Swiss luxury watchmaker founded in 1884 in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, by Léon Breitling. The company is known for its precision-made chronometers designed for aviators and is based in Grenchen, Switzerland.


Astronaut Scott Carpenter wearing a Breitling Cosmonaute inside the Aurora 7 spacecraft, May 24, 1962

Breitling SA was founded in Saint-Imier by Léon Breitling in 1884.[1] When Breitling died in 1914, the business passed to his son, Gaston, and then to his son, Willy, in 1935. Willy's children were not interested in pursuing the family business, so the Breitling factory in La Chaux de Fonds closed in December 1978. Willy, already in poor health, died in May 1979.

Ernst Schneider, owner of the Sicura Company in Grenchen, bought the Breitling name from the founding family in 1979. Production of watches moved to the Sicura factory, which later changed its name to Montres Breitling AG and then Breitling AG in 1994.

The Schneider family retained ownership until April 2017, when Ernst's son, Theodore Schneider, sold the majority stake (80%) in Breitling to CVC Capital Partners for $870 million. Schneider retained 20% control of Breitling until November 2018, when he sold these remaining 20% to CVC.[2][3]


The company's mechanical or quartz movements are chronometer certified by the COSC[4] and are usually marketed towards either diving (SuperOcean) or aviation (Navitimer). Aviation models offer aviation functions largely as complications, since their function in aviation has largely been replaced by modern electronic instruments. The styling of Breitling watches consists of polished cases, bracelets, and large watch faces for improved readability. Many models have an automatic winding mechanism with complications.

Breitling offers logo customization for pilots with group orders. By the 1990s, the use of logos for military aviation customers expanded to include various unit logos on the Aerospace and Chronospace Auto models, primarily those of squadrons, usually part of a group purchase by pilots and navigators/flight officers of the particular unit.[5]

Historically, Breitling has sourced movements from suppliers such as Valjoux, ETA, and Venus rather than producing movements in-house; however, in 2009 Breitling developed the B01, a self-winding, column wheel chronograph movement, for use in the Breitling Chronomat 01 and Navitimer 01.[6]


In the 1940s, Breitling added a circular slide rule to the bezel of its Chronomat models. This bezel became most associated with the Navitimer, launched in 1954. The name Navitimer comes from two words were used to describe its purpose: Navigation and Timer.[7] During the 1950s and 1960s, a version of the Navitimer was offered by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association with the AOPA logo on the dial.

In 1961, Scott Carpenter, one of the original astronauts in the Mercury space program, tasked Breitling with incorporating a 24-hour dial instead of the normal 12-hour dial, due to lack of day and night in space travel. Breitling produced the 24-hour Navitimer, which Carpenter wore on his 1962 space flight. Breitling proceeded to produce a commercial version of the 24-hour version, the Cosmonaute Navitimer, with both Breitling and AOPA logos.[8]

The first automatic Navitimer chronograph was introduced to the public in 1969; its movement was co-developed by Breitling, Dubois-Depraz, Heuer, and Hamilton.[7]


The Chronomat is a collection from Breitling released in 1942,[9] and remains one of the best-selling models produced by the manufacturer.[10]

The first Chronomat had a circular slide rule and its design was inspired by military watches.[9] Its movement was the Venus 175 with 17 jewels, a manual wind movement.

The current Chronomat was released in 2009 and was the first watch produced entirely by Breitling, featuring the in-house B01 caliber.[11] The B01 movement has a 70-hour power reserve and COSC certification.[12]


The Breitling Emergency watch contains a radio transmitter for civil aviation use, which broadcasts on the 121.5 MHz distress frequency and serves as a backup for ELT-type airborne beacons.[13] For military users, the Emergency has a miniaturized transmitter operating on the 243.0 MHz military aviation emergency frequency. Under normal conditions—flat terrain or calm seas—the signal can be picked up at a range of up to 90 nautical miles (170 km) by search aircraft flying at 20,000 feet (6,100 m).[14] Since February 2009, the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System has not monitored the 121.5/243.0 MHz frequency; however, the signal transmitted by the Emergency was never strong enough to be picked up by satellite, and Breitling has announced that, as these frequencies will still be monitored by aviation, particularly during the localization phase of a rescue attempt, there are no plans to modify the signal's frequency.[citation needed]

Reuters reported in January 2003 two British pilots, Squadron Leader Steve Brooks and Flight Lieutenant Hugh Quentin-Smith, crashed their helicopter in Antarctica and were rescued after activating their Breitling Emergency transmitter watches.[15]

The Emergency is available for customers without a pilot's license, but they must sign an agreement that they will bear the full costs of a rescue intervention should they trigger the distress beacon.[citation needed]

The model was heavily advertised by the Breitling Orbiter 3, with both Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard wearing the Emergency. Breitling sponsored the Orbiter 3 project, which in 1999 became the first balloon to completely orbit the Earth without landing. A commemorative Orbiter 3 version of the Emergency watch was subsequently produced with a production run of 1,999.

Emergency II[edit]

In April 2013, Breitling announced a new version of the Emergency watch.[16] This upgrade transmits on the 121.5 MHz frequency, but adds the 406.04 MHz signal that is monitored by satellites. It has a separate, rechargeable battery for the transmitter.

Breitling for Bentley[edit]

In 2002, Breitling designed the dashboard clock for the Bentley Continental GT.[17] The following year, Breitling started making chronographs for Bentley Motors. As part of 10th anniversary of a Breitling–Bentley partnership, the Bentley B04 GMT, B05 Unitime and B06 (based on COSC Certified Breitling Calibre B04, B05 and B06 respectively) were produced.[18] In 2015, Breitling designed the Mulliner Tourbillon dashboard clock for the Bentley Bentayga, which spins 3 times every 15 minutes.[19]


Breitling Aerospace Avantage with titanium case
Breitling Navitimer wristwatch with circular slide rule
Breitling Emergency wristwatch
Breitling Chronomat Blackbird


Aero L-39 Albatros aircraft of the Breitling Jet Team perform at RIAT in Fairford, England

Breitling aeronautical sponsorships include the first circumnavigation of the globe by balloon (Breitling Orbiter); the fixed-wing jet pack flights of Yves Rossy; aerobatics teams, including the Breitling Jet Team and Breitling Wingwalkers; and the Reno Air Races from 2002 to 2015. Breitling was a sponsor of Team Bentley during its Le Mans 24 Hours campaign, from 2001 to 2003; to commemorate this, it created the Breitling-Bentley 24 Le Mans Watch.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball, Bond is given a Breitling Top Time, which contains a geiger counter, enabling Bond to track down two stolen nuclear warheads. After the movie was filmed, the watch disappeared and later resurfaced in a car boot sale in England in 2012, where it was purchased for £25. It later sold at Christie's auction house for over £100,000.[20][21]

Jerry Seinfeld can be seen wearing either a Navitimer or Chronomat in nearly every episode of Seinfeld, and frequently appeared wearing the Navitimer in promotional photos for the show's later seasons; as of 2019, he still owns the watches featured onscreen.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Breitling SA: Private Company Information". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  2. ^ Megaw, Nicolas (April 28, 2017). "CVC to take majority stake in Swiss watchmaker Breitling". Financial Times. London. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  3. ^ Kowalsky, Marc (December 21, 2018). "Breitling: "Kern und Schneider sind wie Feuer und Eis"" [Breitling: "The core and cutter are like fire and ice"]. Bilanz (in German). Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  4. ^ Bues, Jonathan (November 2, 2010). "COSC - An External Referee". WorldTempus. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  5. ^ "Viper Breitling Order". Baseops Forums. July 26, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  6. ^ Ivkovic, Boris (January 10, 2013). "Breitling Caliber 01 – An Automatic Chronograph Movement Intended for Industrial Production". Watch Analyzer. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "An Icon of the Skies: A brief history of the Breitling Navitimer". SecondTime. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  8. ^ "Breitling Navitimer". Breitling. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Brunner, Gisbert (April 17, 2014). "5 Milestone Breitling Watches, from 1915 to Today". WatchTime. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  10. ^ Adams, Charlotte (October 2, 2013). "Top 3 Best-selling Breitling Watches". Male Standard. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  11. ^ Jones, Roy. "The Breitling B01". Men's Health. Archived from the original on February 21, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  12. ^ Richter, Martina (April 10, 2012). "Pilot's Watch Review: Breitling Chronomat GMT". WatchTime. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  13. ^ Ganapati, Priya (October 3, 2008). "Fossett Was Not Wearing a Breitling Emergency Watch, Says Watchmaker". Wired. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  14. ^ Sonnenfeld, Barry (May 1, 2005). "Time Saver". Esquire. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  15. ^ Morris, Steven (January 28, 2003). "Explorers or boys messing about? Either way, taxpayer gets rescue bill". The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  16. ^ Biggs, John (April 29, 2013). "Breitling Releases the Emergency II, a Watch That Can Save You If You're Trapped on the Island". TechCrunch. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  17. ^ Kahle, Laurie (March 7, 2019). "Breitling Pays Tribute to Bentley's Centennial with Limited Edition Watches". Barron's. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  18. ^ ""Breitling For Bentley" Celebrates 10 Years With 3 New Watches". Lux Pursuits. August 30, 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  19. ^ Gibson, David K. (November 10, 2015). "Bentley Bentayga's $160,000 Option". BBC News. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  20. ^ "James Bond watch with geiger counter sells for $160,000". Reuters. June 26, 2013. Archived from the original on July 1, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  21. ^ "Original Thunderball Geiger counter watch found by Bond fans". Bond Lifestyle. May 16, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  22. ^ Jerry Seinfeld's Watch Collection

External links[edit]