23 August, 2018

The History of Breitling

Welcome to exploring the history of another luxury watchmaker, Beitling. So far, we have explored the fantastic story of Rolex and how their founder endeavoured to realise his dream of a watch worn on the wrist. Missed it? View our blog post: Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Rolex

The story of Breitling began in 1864 when Léon Breitling realised his vision. He dedicated himself to the world of chronographs and timers for sports, aviation and industry.

His exploits in the field of watchmaking helped to forge strong relationships with extreme sports, automobiles and aviation.

Pioneer in the Making

Despite operating for 50 years, their breakthrough came in 1915 when they invented an independent chronograph push-piece. This turned out to be the first wrist chronograph!

They perfected it in 1923 when they separated the stop/start and reset functions. This enabled the user to time multiple things which appealed to sport and aviation.

Over the 50s and 60s, commercial aviation was experiencing rapid growth and Breitling found themselves as the standard onboard chronograph equipment for a series of airlines.

Breitling's Collections

Breitling has a series of models which make up their collections which range from aviation to extreme conditions. 


Breitling launched the Chronomat in 1942, a combination of chronograph and mathematics. The standout feature is the slide rule. Intended for a specialised audience, the slide rule acts as a calculation device. For example, multiplication, division and 3 part combinations. 

Trivia - The chronomat is the predecessor of the Navitimer. 


Outside the chronomat, the Navitimer is among the most-known Breitling watch. Released in 1952, it featured a built-in slide rule and boasted greater capabilities such as measuring fuel consumption, speed and time measurements. 

AOPA (The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) declared the Navitimer the "Pilot's Watch" and Breitling earned the moniker "official supplier to world aviation"


Breitling made use of their savoir-faire and made the Superocean everything they intended, a benchmark.

Introduced in 1957, waterproof started at 200m but Breitling didn't stop there. 

1995 - The Breitling Colt Superocean outfitted with a helium valve hit 1,500m
2002 - The Breitling Seawolf furnished with an integrated helium valve hit 3,000m!


Launched in 1958, Breitling designed the Transocean for international travellers but the popularity became apparent. A certified movement, it's waterproof, shock-resistant and anti-magnetic to name a few. This duo-threat of aesthetic design and technical ability stole the show for Breitling.

Trivia - Revived in 2010, Breitling maintained its original look but added modern aesthetics.

Taking on the Question of the Century

Every industry is facing a question. An answer can unlock new types of innovations and cement a brand as a beacon. The watchmaking industry is no different.

Breitling took on one of the ultimate challenges when they sought to invent the first automatic winding chronograph. Léon partnered with the notable specialists Jack W. Heuer and Dubois-Dépraz and presented their watch in 1969 to acclaim. However, Zenith beat them to first place with the 'El Primero' (the first).

Final Words

The Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute is a renowned facility who award certificates of reliability and precision for chronographs. Achieving this status is one of the highest forms of reliability and Breitling uses their enduring process to test the precision and reliability of its watches for both its quartz and mechanical watches.

The aim is to ensure the owners of Breitling watches that they are receiving a watch which is of the highest standard for measuring time.

Breitling continue the endeavour of their founder who dedicated himself to the world of Chronographs as they currently develop and produce mechanical movements at the Breitling Chronométrie in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

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The next watchmaker to enter our series is Omega. Take a look at our blog post: Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Omega.

You can find Breitling, Patek, Rolex and more in our luxury watch auctions ending soon. Take a look by clicking the button below.

Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Breitling
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Breitling
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Breitling
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Breitling
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Breitling