Breitling has played a major role in the development of the wrist chronograph. All its models are chronometer-certified. Breitling also produces its own mechanical chronograph movement, developed and manufactured in its own workshops. This family business is also one of the last remaining independent Swiss watch brands.
Breitling Brand History – The inventor of the modern chronograph
In founding his workshop in the Swiss Jura in 1884, Léon Breitling chose to devote himself to a demanding field: that of chronographs and timers. These precision instruments were intended for sports, science and industry. The brand accompanied the boom of competitive sports and of the automobile – as well as the first feats of the aviation pioneers.
In 1915, it invented the first independent chronograph pushpiece. In 1923, it 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 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.
Breitling Brand History – The 1969 turn
In 1969, the brand took on one of the greatest 20th century watchmaking challenges by presenting the first selfwinding chronograph movement, developed with Heuer and M. Dubois. In 1984, Breitling heralded the rebirth of the mechanical chronograph by launching the famous Chronomat, which has since become its leading model, based upon the 1969 invention.
In 2009, the firm’s engineers created the Caliber 01, a selfwinding chronograph movement, developed and manufactured in the workshops of Breitling Chronométrie. The brand also developed an entire range of high-tech instruments first and foremost dedicated to aviation.
Breitling Brand History – A full COSC certified production
Breitling’s motto is “instruments for professionals”. It’s the world’s only major watch brand to submit all its movements (both mechanical and quartz) to the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
The brand built a facility named Breitling Chronometrie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, dedicated to the development and production of mechanical chronograph movements. The firm has developed an industrial production chain for that purpose. Each movement is individually monitored by a computer program that automatically directs it towards the appropriate workstation, along a route alternating between entirely automated workstations and others requiring manual intervention.
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 withstand intensive use in the most trying conditions, and is subjected to countless controls throughout the production process.
Breitling Brand History – A Breitling in space
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, Breitling 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 that used them to equip its famous World War II propeller-driven fighter planes.
In 1952, Breitling launched its Navitimer wrist chronograph featuring a circular slide rule serving to perform all navigation-related calculations. 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.
Breitling Brand History – The aviation partner
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.
Today, Breitling is perpetuating these ties with aviation by cooperating with pilots. Several teams fly the firm’s colors, including the Breitling Jet Team with its aerobatics. It is associated with air shows, such as the famous Reno Air Races (Nevada/United States).
By supporting the restoration of aircraft such as the Super Constellation, one of the last flight worthy “Super Connies” in the world, Breitling asserts its determination to preserve the aeronautical legacy.