In his St. Imier workshop, Léon Breitling handcrafted instruments with a straightforward, low maintenance design, gaining him a patent in the year 1889 for a model that would go on to become a pocket watch with a formidable reputation. The watchmaker’s passion for the chronograph was inherited by his son, Gaston, who took over the company when Leon passed away in 1914. Just a year later, Gaston would go on to formulate his first ever chronograph wristwatch with a sperate push piece positioned just above the crown on the case.
After Gaston Breitling passed away unexpectedly in 1927, the company was managed externally for five years until his son, Willy Breitling was old enough to take over the business. As aircrafts reached new heights, so would Breitling’s aeronautical wristwatches, with dashboard instruments that made the cockpit a more functional, elegant place. Chronographs were made for the Royal Air Force, accurately keeping track of the day’s passing seconds during some of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the Second World War.
1957 marked a pivotal year for the luxury watch company. The birth of the famous Navitimer watch with its knurled bezel. The flight-specific slide rule of which it was equipped with enabled pilots, aircraft manufacturers and airlines to utilize this wristwatch for carrying out integral tasks in their line of work. Breitling Navitimer watches were soon installed into iconic jet crafts of this era. In the same year as the Navitimer, the Superocean watch was also making its way to the wrists of professional and military deep sea divers. Its classic diver watch aesthetic made it a popular choice for leisure divers and watch enthusiasts alike.
The 1970s sparked much uncertainty about the future of watchmaking. Willy Breitling sold his assets to watchmaker and pilot, Ernest Schneider in 1979, who understandably expressed great interest in Breitling’s well loved Navitimer watch. The company would remain in the hands of Schneider’s family up until 2017. During this time Breitling relocated to Grenchen for its headquarters and also celebrated its centenary in 1984 with a new redesigned Chronomat model with an inhouse made chronograph calibre and instantly recognisable rider tabs.
In 1987 Breitling launched the Aerospace model housed inside a lightweight titanium case. Breitling has since revisited this multifunctional chronograph with the Aerospace Evo watch, powered by a thermo-compensated SuperQuartz movement that promised an accuracy ten times better than that of a standard quartz movement.
Since 2017 Breitling has been under the direction of CEO Georges Kern, who not only continues to build on the essence of the brand with a simplified, solid and more premium look but also looks back on a distinguished career in watchmaking. Aside from icons like the Avenger, the Superocean and the Professional watch, Breitling’s relatively recent Premier watch collection tips its hat to the brand’s glittering past and cosmopolitan leanings. Breitling still remains a family-run watchmaker to this day. Every timepiece manufactured by this prestigious Swiss luxury watch brand has been fitted with a chronometer-certified movement as a mark of uncompromised and unfaltering Swiss precision.