Breitling is an established name in the watchmaking industry, with a deeply-rooted history in St. Imier, Switzerland. Building on its reputation as a pocket watchmaking legend, Breitling soon started specialising in masculine pilot chronographs – an evergreen design that is still manufactured, 130 years on. Acquired by the Schneider family in 1979, the company’s offerings continued to bank on its insatiable passion for chronographs.
Breitling’s stint with the Schneider family came to an end in 2017 when the company’s 80% stake was sold to CVC Capital Partners, a London based private equity group. With the change in ownership came a change in the brand’s direction. A need for spark and innovation led to the hiring of the ‘Man with a Plan’- Georges Kern.
While other luxury watch brands were cruising in the market with a specific yet diverse line of products, Breitling was feared to be stuck in the era of chronographs. The brand needed to move away from this image and no one could do it better than Kern, the youngest ex-CEO of IWC.
In an unexpected move in the world of Haute Horlogerie, Georges left a senior role at the Richemont Group and took his talent to Breitling to become its CEO. Tasked to revamp the product lines for a more diverse audience, Kern developed an elaborate plan and a masterful vision for Breitling.
Kern’s first step as a visionary for the brand’s future was streamlining the non-differentiable line of watches to allow easier buying decisions, for “Too much choice is no choice”, as remarked by Georges himself. Under his direction, Breitling created four product pillars – ‘air’, ‘sea’, and ‘professional’. The ‘Air’ collection comprised of the aviation watches Navitimer 1, the new Navitimer 8, and the Avenger lines. The diver series under ‘Sea’ included Breitling’s best-selling Superocean and Superocean Heritage. The ‘Professional’ series continued its triumphant march with timepieces such as the Emergency II and Cockpit B50. Apart from the above product lines, Georges aimed to target the Chinese market – which accounts for more than 50% of the luxury watch market – by creating smaller, more traditional watches.
In larger efforts to revert Breitling to its days of eminence, Georges Kern took an unprecedented initiative of creating a squad of ambassadors representing the brand with their engaging campaign, ‘Squad on a mission’. Breitling roped together a trio of eminent personalities ranging from Hollywood actors to sportsmen and explorers, including actors Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Adam Driver and champion surfer Kelly Slater.
Georges wanted to reach out to a wider, younger, digitally-savvy audience by expanding the horizons of the brand’s offerings. To do so, Breitling developed a plan that focused more on the online experience, while still improving the offline in-store experience. Their new e-commerce website and the experiential luxe boutique now encompassed the new Breitling.
Kern transformed Breitling’s chaotic product lines and gave it a more refined structure while adapting progressive marketing methods. His pioneering spirit, innovative flair and unwavering intent to turn his vision into action have given Breitling a renewed life and glory.