Breitling, the horology Maison founded in 1884 is one of the greatest in the world, owing to its awe-inspiring legacy. The kind of legacy that is enriched with generational watchmaking excellence and an undying passion to carry the name forward through remarkable timepieces.
The visionary founder Léon Breitling created his first chronograph in 1884. With many milestone patents to his name, he got his first one in 1889 for a simplified model, sleek design, and an uncomplicated manufacturing process. The patent distinguished his chronograph from Breitling’s competitors, further enhancing his credibility.
Accolades followed and in 1892 the fairly young company named L. Breitling, Montbrillant Watch Manufacturing moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds and produced their first pocket watch. Breitling observed an increasing demand for dashboard clocks (in planes) and military, industrial, scientific and athletic applications for chronographs. In 1915, Breitling introduced its first wrist chronograph with central seconds and a 30-minute counter, allowing pilots to perform basic calculations.
After Léon passed away in 1914, his son Gaston took over the family business. With an insatiable passion for chronographs like his father, he showcased his passion by launching one of the world’s first wrist chronographs with a separate push-piece above the crown in 1915, a novelty nonetheless. Until 1934, wristwatches only had a single pusher – a start and stop feature. Willy Breitling, Leon’s grandson saw this as a key deficiency when he took over the helm of the company. That same year, he filed a patent for the world’s first wrist chronograph with two pushers– one to start and pause the chronograph and one to reset timing. For the first time, the stopwatch could measure multiple times in sequence.
The year 1952 marked the debut of an unprecedented watch, the iconic Breitling Navitimer. Its name comes from the words ‘navigation’ and ‘timer’. Equipped with the revolutionary flight-specific slide rule that was introduced with the 1936 Chronomat, countless pilots, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers continue to opt for the Navitimer, ever since.
For over 65 years, the Breitling Navitimer remains one of the world’s most beloved mechanical chronographs. It was designed to help pilots coordinate time and navigation. Equipped with calculating functions and containing the hand-wound Caliber Venus 178, the Navitimer was known as a ‘personal onboard instrument’. The built-in slide rule enabled aviators to multiply and divide, convert nautical miles to land miles, and calculate speed averages, fuel consumption, an average gain of altitude, and distances during ascent and descent. Since its genesis, the Navitimer has undergone various changes, mainly to its case and the calibre it houses, i.e. hand-wound, hand-wound with date, and self-winding calibres. The Navitimer family now wishes to introduce the watchmaking legend to a whole new generation.
As their reputation for aviator watches was firmly established, in 1957 Breitling wanted to expand its horizon beyond the sky by shifting its focus towards the SuperOcean, their diving watch. Touted to be water-resistant up to 200 meters, the SuperOcean surpassed its contemporaries by leaps and bounds. Its clean and practical design featured large Arabic numerals and pointed oversized hands to make it easier for divers to read. Created to equip professional and military divers, it also developed a following among leisure divers and watch enthusiasts. Since its debut, the Breitling SuperOcean has been fine-tuned to withstand greater depths and in selected models, to be water-resistant up to 2,000 meters. The diving watch now features a helium valve that allows the watch to withstand the incredible underwater pressure without exploding. Breitling has also expanded the look of the SuperOcean, now offering the diving watch in more colours and different case sizes.
In 2007, Breitling commemorated the model’s 50th anniversary with the SuperOcean Heritage Collection. The SuperOcean Heritage pays homage to the inaugural SuperOcean with its braided steel bracelet and even brought back its 1950s logo for this collection. Mindful of modern tastes, it is available in a 38 mm and a 46 mm case size, with various options to customise. Breitling heavily modified the original Venus 188 movement so that it would offer the ‘slow counter’ which measures the elapsed minutes in the clearest way possible for its users, for whom it was a matter of life and death.
Both the Navitimer and the SuperOcean are legendary in their own regard but are also symbolic of the legacy that they represent. Each timepiece stands to tell the story of the founder and is a tribute to him. Breitling continues to soar high with every watch aficionado’s expectations and dives deep into their hearts with their iconic timepieces even today.