|Founded||1884Saint-Imier, Switzerland, in|
|Owner||CVC 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.
Breitling SA was founded in Saint-Imier by Léon Breitling in 1884. 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.
The company's mechanical or quartz movements are chronometer certified by the COSC 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 Aviation models offer aviation functions largely as complications, since their function in aviation has largely been replaced by modern electronic instruments.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.
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.
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. 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.
The current Chronomat was released in 2009 and was the first watch produced entirely by Breitling, featuring the in-house B01 caliber. The B01 movement has a 70-hour power reserve and COSC certification.
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. 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). 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.
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.
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.
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.
In April 2013, Breitling announced a new version of the Emergency watch. 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
In 2002, Breitling designed the dashboard clock for the Bentley Continental GT. 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. In 2015, Breitling designed the Mulliner Tourbillon dashboard clock for the Bentley Bentayga, which spins 3 times every 15 minutes.
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.
In popular culture
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.
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.
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