The History of Breitling Watches

The history of Breitling watches begins in 1884 with Léon Breitling. He was born in 1860 in Saint-Imier Switzerland to German parents. In Saint-Imier watchmaking was a way of life and Léon was immersed in watches from an early age. He began as an apprentice at 14 years old. In 1884 at the tender age of 24, he opened his own atelier in Saint-Imier at Place Neuve 1, Saint-Imier.

Did you know: According to Mark A Cooper – Watch historian & Author of A Movement in Time with Breitling & Rolex an unauthorized History

Leons’ parents were farmers, however, like many in Saint Imier, they also built clock parts at home. Leon was fascinated with the art of clock manufacturing. Leon went to visit factories whenever he could. He often took time off school to stay home and work on clock parts. When Leon started his own factory at 24, he was already well known in the community.

For a direct quote from Mark A Cooper. regarding Leon Breitling, visit Wachtalk forums ARCHIVE/Hisotry

From this address on a busy square in Saint Imier Léon built one of the most famous brands in the Swiss watch-making industry. Léon chose to focus on chronographs and the ability to measure time accurately.

This was a time of great scientific and technological advancements and Léon recognized that precise timing of these events would be required. Léon Breitling focused on producing chronographs, complicated watches, and chronometric instruments of the finest calibre.

His first patent in 1889 was for a simplified chronograph of greater accuracy. Patent number 927 significantly reduced the number of components necessary for start and stop functions and integrated the chronograph function pusher into the crown. This resulted in a timepiece that could be built and maintained more efficiently.

Breitling’s efforts were quickly recognized and his watches drew critical acclaim. His company quickly gained a reputation for accuracy and precision.

The move to Chaux-de-Fonds

In 1892 due to increasing demand for products Breitling moved locations to La Chaux-de-Fonds, a more modern and industrialized area. Breitling occupied a new building next to a city park and visible from the entire city, on Boulevard du Petit-Château.

To announce to the world that Breitling had moved, Leon took out a full-page color advertisement on page 2 of the “Indicateur Davoine” (the primary source of watch-making information). The ad highlights Breitling’s patents and watches noting the in-crown mono-pusher and rattrapantre complications with 10, 30, and 60-minute totalizers.

Breitling continued to innovate and in 1893 patented a stopwatch with an 8-day power reserve.

In 1896 Léon Breitling introduced a unique reset button to two chronographs and produced a chronograph that was accurate to two-fifths of a second. This accuracy was unknown at the time, and Breitling was immediately popular with aviators, scientists, and sports enthusiasts.

A Montbrillant Moment

The Breitling Montbrillant building
The Montbrillant building today – image courtesy Google

By 1900 a small road was built behind the new factory, named Rouelle Montbrillant. With the addition of the new street, the Breitling factory had a new address Montbrillant 3. Léon Breitling recognized that he could capitalize on the name and this new address was utilized by Breitling in his watch models and advertisements.

A measure of the success of Leon Breitling and his timepieces was that after the move to the new factory they quickly grew to 60 workers and between 1892 and 1902 the Breitling company sold 100,000 chronographs and stopwatches.

In 1906 Léon patented the Vitesse pocket watch. The Vitesse, a timer/tachymeter, measured any speed between 15 and 150km/hr. Because early automobiles did not include a speedometer the Vitesse was very handy for drivers to calculate their speed. So handy in fact, that the police used the watch to issue speeding tickets.

One thing about the watch industry is that it never stands still, in 1913, in Saint Imier, Longines released the very first chronograph wristwatch the 13.33Z. The pusher in this model was integrated into the crown of the watch. Many companies utilized the same system, Breitling included.

Gaston takes over

In 1914 Léon Breitling passed away, he was 54 years old. He was succeeded by his son Gaston- Léon Breitling. Gaston was an innovator like his father.

Gaston Breitling recognized that a watch worn on the wrist was easier to manipulate if the pusher was separated from the crown. In 1915 Gaston created one of the first wrist-worn chronographs with a pusher at 2 o’clock to independently operate the stopwatch functions. He also patented a wrist chronograph featuring a central seconds hand and 30-minute counter.

The pusher separated the start-stop and reset functions from the crown of the watch. This was ideal for aviators, enabling them to time their flight distance and landing times. Pilots could now measure consecutive timing operations without having to reset the hands of the watch.

By 1920 Gaston changed the name of the manufacturer to G- Léon Breitling S.A. Montbrillant Watch Manufactory. It is surprising to note that prior to the late 1920s that the name Breitling did not appear on the dial of Breitling watches.

In 1923 Gaston Breitling produced the first chronograph with a second function pusher. One at the 2 o’clock position for the start and stop function and a second pusher integrated into the crown to reset the stopwatch.

This was the first time that “elapsed time” could be measured, paused, recorded, and then resumed to complete the overall timing of an event or journey.

Gastons’ separation of the reset button from the start/stop was yet another innovation to chronographs, made by Breitling throughout its history.

Sadly, Gaston Breitling did not live a long and fruitful life, he died in 1927, leaving the Breitling manufactory to his 14 years old son Willy.

From 1927 until 1932 Breitling was managed by an external team of 5 managers that were hired by the family until Willy Breitling took over in 1932. Under the management group, Breitling weathered the crash of 1929 and the subsequent depression of the early ’30s. By 1930 Breitling produced over 35 different models for the consumer marketplace.

Willy Breitling steps up

Although Willy was only 19 at the time he was steeped in the business from an early age and he quickly took Breitling to new heights.

In 1931 Breitling introduced onboard chronographs to the automotive industry, suitable for cars and planes.

As early as 1934 Willy introduced and patented, a second independent pusher at the 4 o’clock position. This took all of the stopwatch functions away from the crown, enabling much easier timing of events. So much so, that this innovation was quickly “introduced” by all other chronograph makers.

By 1936 Willy introduced a chronograph for aviators. It had a black dial with luminescent numerals and hands. This cemented Breitlings’ commitment to the aviation industry.

The “Huit” Revolution

In 1936, Willy introduced chronographs to the airplane cockpit. These 8-day chronographs were quickly adopted by many airlines.

Breitling instruments for the Cockpit - Breitling catalogue 1941
On-board chronographs and instruments for pilots, Breitling catalog, 1941. (PPR/Breitling)

In 1938 Willy established the Huit Aviation Department. Huit (for the French word for eight), reflected the eight-day power reserve offered by the cockpit clocks and chronometers, including “wrist” chronographs which Huit was developing for aviators.

The Huit department was dedicated to providing timepieces that adhered to the strict requirements for light weight, accuracy, and readability needed by the airline industry.

With the world war looming the Huit Aviation Department supplied large orders to the Royal Airforce among others. The RAF equipped all of their planes with Breitling cockpit clocks and Breitling went on to become the official supplier to the RAF.

Breitling knew that their aviation timepieces, both in the cockpit and on the pilots’ wrists were subjected to some of the harshest conditions known by the watch industry. The Huit Aviation department developed numerous tests to ensure that every timepiece was capable of withstanding anything the pilot or plane could throw at it.

Each piece was subjected to shocks, vibration, extreme temperatures (-40 to 100﮿ C), wind, magnetism, and general wear and tear that was everyday life for pilots and planes. Any piece supplied by Breitling was known for reliability and accuracy.

The World War

In 1940 as war engulfed Europe Breitlings’ relationship with the RAF put the company in jeopardy. Willy Breitling found an ingenious way of continuing his business with the British. Willy Breitling would meet RAF planes in secret mountain meadows and hand over critical cockpit supplies. He and his friends would line up their cars and turn on the lights for the planes to land and then disappear. Willy would then proceed to a local bar and “be noticed”, sometimes getting drunk and arrested.

By being “noticed” he had a “perfect” alibi for any supposed activities that came to the attention of the authorities. Willy actually performed this feat on several occasions and was never arrested for more than being drunk and disorderly.

But Willy was much more than a drunk, disorderly, captain of industry. Willy brought aviation to the world with the Chronomat and the Navitimer.

The Chronomat

In 1940 Breitling patented a circular logarithmic slide rule that they incorporated into the Chronomat, (Chronographe-Mathematique). It was a revolution at the time. The Chronomat was functional and beautiful. With it, you could handle a wide variety of mathematical functions on your wrist. Scientists, mathematicians, sportsmen, and aviators were able to perform everything from simple speed to complex calculations, right at their fingertips.

Breitling now refers to this model as the “smartwatch of its time”. The Chronomat model handled everything; from tachymeter/telemeter, and pulsometer functions, to multiplication, division, rule-of-three problems, production calculations, metric conversions, and much more.

The sliding calculator was invented by mathematician, Marcel Robert. He incorporated standard mileage, kilometers, and nautical miles. With the Chronomat pilots could calculate fuel consumption and speed.

The Chronomat became available in late1941, and early 1942 and was quickly a success. It was ground-breaking and practical, and, everybody wanted one.

The Premier Line

Now we see what a genius Willy really was. He had mastered the scientific and sports community and was well on his way to mastering aviation – what was next? Willy would market functional watches with style to everyone else.

Even while the war was raging Willy recognized that there was an untapped market. Willy was a gentleman, back when that name still meant something. He realized that a line of watches for discerning tastes was woefully under-serviced. In 1943 Breitling introduced the Premier collection.

This would bring watches that had a “purpose”, elements of style. As Willy saw it, “When a man puts on his watch, it is the unmistakable stamp of impeccable taste.”

Premier watches were different from the brand’s combat-ready, performance-driven models, these were elegant, refined chronographs designed for everyday civilian wear, with a Breitling engine underneath.

This was the first time that Breitling had marketed a chronograph for civilian use. Premier watches were available in 32, 35, and 38mm. They were produced in stainless steel and solid gold.

In 1944 Breitling introduced the Duograph and the Datora in 1945. Designed for men who wanted style and elegance, they used robust Venus calibres such as the 175 and the 178. Enabling both compur (sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock) and compax (v-shaped sub-dial layout of 3, 6, and 9 o’clock).

A highly complicated split-second chronograph the Duograph allows the timing of two separate events simultaneously. It was available in stainless steel or gold.

The Datora incorporated day, date, and moon phase in an elegantly balanced design. These two chronographs were known for attractive dials and elegant cases. No expense was spared in the level of detail and design of these pieces.

Willy Breitling led the way, he saw the coming shift in aviation, from military to civilian, and Breitling was ahead of its’ time.

The Unitime

Breitling recognized that their customers were international travelers and they would want to know the time in various locations around the world. This was accomplished with the Unitime. Released in 1951 with a world-time complication that had an outermost ring of 24 cities that could be adjusted to an inner ring with a 24-hour scale the Unitime allowed 24 time zones to be displayed concurrently.

The Navigation-Timer

The Navitimer was, and perhaps still is Breitlings’ most famous watch. It arrived on the scene just as the civil aviation industry boomed.

In 1952 Willy Breitling began to re-configure the Chronomat slide rule specifically for aviation. He integrated the slide rule into the rotating bezel and capped it with small beads to allow manipulation even with pilot gloves on. In 1954 the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) announced that this watch would be its official timepiece.

Did you know: That the Navitimer was initially commissioned by the AOPA and not available to the public. Only after witnessing its huge success among AOPA members did Willy Breitling decide to make it part of Breitling’s catalog. From there, the watch that was already a mainstay in every cockpit went on to become one of the most iconic timepieces ever made. – courtesy

Designed for the AOPA the first Navitimers did not have the Breitling brand name nor logo on the dial, only an AOPA signed logo at the 12 o’clock position. Initially, the watch was only available to AOPA members, however by 1956 the Navitimer was released to the public, with an 806 reference and the Breitling name above a stylized AOPA winged logo.

The Navitimer was an instant success, the endorsement by the AOPA ensured that every pilot wanted one and they were essential flight gear.

Which Navitimer is my Navitimer?

If you have an early Navitimer, there are some things that can help you to put a date on your watch.

The first Navitimer with the stylized AOPA wings and a black dial was designated an 806 reference. The movement in the earliest models was a Valjoux 72. A year and a half later it was replaced by the Venus 178, in 1955. In the late 1960s, some Navitimers had Valjoux 7736 movements and were marked 806-36 or 806E.

1968 saw the “Big Case” Navitimers – Reference 816 and 1806 some had the Valjoux 7736 or the Valjoux 72 movements. All early Navitimers were hand-wound movements and were a standard 41 mm with oversized Arabic numerals on the dial.

The early production models can be dated by the number of beads around the bezel. The early 1950 models had 125 beads, but by 1960 there were as few as 93. The first AOPA models did not have the Breitling name, nor was 806 stamped on the case back, however they did have winged logos signed AOPA.

By 1956 AOPA was gone from the dial, the Breitling name was just above the AOPA wings, and 806 was stamped on the case-back.

During the late 1950s, the race was on for transatlantic flights and the Navitimer was in every cockpit.

Breitling - vintage commercial
1950’s advertisement, Breitling becomes the official supplier to world aviation, by fitting its onboard chronographs in propeller planes and later in the jets of numerous manufacturers and airlines. (PPR/Breitling)

The Navitimer continued to be one of the mainstays of the Breitling line-up, even after the 1979 sell-off of Navitimer parts and cases, Breitling continued to make the iconic watch.

The Navitimer reappeared in the Breitling stable in 1986 with the Ref. 81600 manual wind Lemania 1872 movement.

Continuing a Legacy

In 1988 the Navitimer was available as an automatic again. By 1990 it was powered by the Valjoux 7750 and the ETA 2892.

In 1993 Breitling took the Navitimer sub-sea with a 3-bar water resistance.

Throughout the 2000s’ the Navitimer continued to use the Valjoux 7750.

In 2009 Breitling released the B01 movement which became the beating heart of the current Navitimer.

Since the purchase of Breitling by CVC Capital Partners in 2017 the Navitimer collection has expanded. There are even non-chronograph time-only models available. In 2019 Breitling released a “historically faithful” recreation of the 806 models, right down to case size and the number of beads on its bezel.

In the minds of many, Breitling will always be synonymous with the Navitmer.

The Super Ocean

While still conquering the air, Breitling dove deep in 1957 and released the SuperOcean. This was the first time Breitling ventured below the waves, I suppose they just had a natural pilots aversion so being underwater.

Breitling was immediately competing with the likes of Blancpain’s 50 fathoms and the Rolex Submariner. The SuperOcean marked the 25th anniversary of Willy Breitling as head of the company. A SuperOcean was water-resistant down to 200m despite not having screw-down pushers. Released in stainless steel in both standard 3-hand and chronograph versions the SuperOcean was ideal for experienced divers and surfers.

The SuperOcean was quickly followed by the TransOcean in 1958. The TransOcean was aimed at the passengers of the flights that were using Breitling cockpit instruments, and Navitimers on the pilots’ wrists. The TransOcean was a COSC-certified chronometer movement, anti-magnetic, shockproof, and super sealed for ultimate reliability.

The Navitimer goes to Space – The Cosmonaute

Breitling created the Cosmonaute in direct response to a request by NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter. He needed a 24-hour dial because you cannot always tell when it is day or night in space. Carpenter wore his Cosmonaute for 3 Earth orbits on May 24, 1962, onboard the Aurora-7.

1964 was the Breitling Top Time

The ’60s were in full swing, Breitling had conquered the air, ocean, and the jet-set traveler. The Top Time was a chronograph for the masses. It was aimed at a younger crowd. Breitling was looking for a dynamic, contemporary feel. The Top Time, especially the Zorro model, embodied this moment like no other.

Willy Breitling realized that younger people didn’t want the same type of watch worn by their fathers. Instead, as he put it, they wanted “a competition watch with special dials and push-buttons. A watch that will ‘impress the boys’ — a watch that is both impressive and really elegant.”

007’s Top Time

A modified Top Time was used by Sean Connery in Thunderball. With a custom Geiger counter to detect radiation. That watch was a one-of-a-kind piece, with a special case designed by Valley Tool Company. The Breitling Top Time, Ref. 2002, case no. 984343 and manufactured in 1962. The modified case was signed V.T.C. and worn by Sean Connery in the 1965 film Thunderball.

For a detailed description of the re-discovery of the watch please click here:

The iconic watch eventually sold at Christies for GBP 103,875.00

Project 99

1969 was a year of innovation and technological achievement. A (supposed) first manned landing on the moon, the maiden flight of the 747 airliners, and the unveiling of the automatic chronograph, by three manufacturers.

Project 99 was the realization of the holy grail – an automatic chronograph movement. As long as it was on your wrist, it would always stay wound, and keep time. It was the dream of every brand.

In 1965 Gérald Dubois contacted Willy Breitling, they then asked Jack Heuer (later Tag Heuer) to share development costs to produce a self-winding chronograph movement. The fourth member of project 99 was Buren who was acquired by Hamilton in 1966. On February 2nd, 1966 an agreement is signed and Project 99 was born.

Almost every brand wanted to be the first to develop the automatic chronograph movement, but the costs were very high. Everything was very hush-hush. Most of the staff not directly involved in the project at the various houses had no idea the project existed.

The race to automatic was dominated by 3 major groups.

Zenith and Movado


Heuer-Léonidas, Hamilton-Buren, Dubois- Dépraz and Breitling

Heuer and Breitling were rivals, Breitling dominated the air and Heuer motor racing, also Breitling was stronger in European markets and Heuer in the US and the UK.

The movement became the Calibre 11, or Chrono-Matic, depending on the house. The Cal 11 had a modular construction and was based on a Buren micro-rotor movement and a Dépraz chronograph mechanism. It became the engine behind the legendary Heuer Monaco, the Breitling Chrono-Matic collections, the Hamilton Fontainebleau, and Chrono-Matic.

In a not-so-subtle nod to the automatic movement, both the Heuer Monaco and the Hamilton/Breitling Chrono-Matics, placed the crown on the left side of the dial, indicating that the movements inside these watches did not need winding.

For an in-depth review of the Calibre 11.

Who really made the first Automatic Chronograph?

There is some debate about who produced the first automatic chronograph.

  • Zenith “announced” the El Primero on January 10, 1969 Most agree this was indeed the first automatic chronograph. Though they would not get a production model to market until October of 1969.
  • Project 99 announced its movement on March 3, 1969, and provided 10 working prototypes for Basel in April 1969
  • Project 99’s Chronomatic was in full serial production by the summer of 1969
  • Seiko’s Ref. 6139 may have been produced in The Spring of 1969. Recent information suggests that Seiko released the 6139 (Speedtimer) in May of 1969 in Japan. However, there are production references surfacing from Japan that indicate Speedtimers with production dates as early as March or February 1969.

It was noted later by Jack Heuer that the head of Seiko Mr. Itiro Hattori visited Heuer’s booth at Mustermesse the “Sample fair” that would later become Baselworld in 1969 and offered them congratulations, on Heuers’ claim of the first production of automatic chronographs. However, this may have just been Japanese politeness, or may indeed be true.

  • Project 99 partners advertise Chronomatics as the first modular automatic chronograph.
  • Zenith describes the El Primero as the first integrated automatic chronograph.

At the time the introduction of the automatic chronograph movement was the culmination of years of work and almost the pinnacle of the mechanical watch industry. But storm clouds were already on the horizon and many would not survive what was to come.

The quartz crisis

In December of 1969, Seiko unveiled the first quartz watch the Quartz-Astron in Tokyo. The watch industry was never the same.

While various Swiss manufacturers had been experimenting with quartz the majority were caught flat by the quartz revolution.

During WWII the Swiss watch industry enjoyed an unofficial “monopoly”. While many countries switched to a wartime economy, the Swiss remained neutral and their watch industry flourished.

Before the advent of quartz watches, it has been stated that the Swiss industry sold at least 50% to as much as 90% of the watches worldwide.

At the beginning of the 20th century and until well after the Second World War, 95 % of all mechanical watches sold worldwide came from Switzerland. There was practically no competition, and the technical and craftsmanship lead was too great. Production was carried out in state-controlled small enterprises, most of the work was done by hand and with simple but proven machines. Even then, Swiss watches were synonymous with perfection, craftsmanship and quality. 90,000 people worked directly or indirectly for the watch industry. Until the early seventies, the situation was comfortable but doomed to tragically change.[1] – The Quartz Crisis: The almost downfall of the mechanical watch.

Quartz watches were marketed with accuracy in mind, not craftsmanship. You could be up to 100 times more accurate than a Swiss watch for less money.

The quartz crisis cannot be overstated. The Swiss industry was devastated and took years to climb out of the hole they had dug for themselves.

The quartz crisis was the result of one miscalculation. Between 1970 and 1983, Swiss watch companies decreased from 1,600 to 600 and employment fell from 90,000 to only 28,000 jobs. Smaller workshops and family-run businesses primarily had to file for bankruptcy by the dozens.[2] – The quartz crisis and its significance for the watch industry.

Breitling and the Quartz crisis

Breitling was hit hard by the quartz revolution; they did release a quartz version of the Chronomat in 1975 along with the mechanical version. This was followed by a quartz Navitimer in 1976. But, Breitling was still in trouble, Willy was not well and quartz watches were still growing in popularity.

Breitling laid off staff and sold off assets to remain afloat. They sold the Navitimer technology and parts to three companies Sicura, Sinn, and Ollech & Wais. Ollech and Wais produced their version of the Navigator as the Aviation.

The rights to the Navitimer were sold onto Sicura and Sinn, while the remaining Breitling stock (mostly cases and dials) were bought by Sinn, Ollech and Wajs, and another company. Sinn bought the rights to the Breitling 806 and 809 Navitimer models as well as 500 cases and dials, keen to produce a pilot’s watch with a logarithmic scale and slide rule function that made the Breitling Navitimer so recognizable. [3] – Why The Sinn 903 Isn’t Just A Navitimer Homage

Sinn, due to purchasing the rights to the 806 and 809 models, was able to produce Navitimers as a Sinn Ref. 903.

Willy Breitling finally sold the Breitling name and trademark to Ernest Schneider in 1979. Willy was dead 5 weeks later. Schneider was a pilot and also proprietor of the Sicura watch company. Breitling was on the “shelf” until 1982. After 95 years a member of the Breitling family, would no longer be at the helm of Breitling watches.

A New Era

Breitling Montres S.A. was registered by Schneider on November 30, 1982, and relocated the company headquarters to Grenchen. His first foray with the Breitling name was a request from the Italian Air Force. The Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale Frecce Tricolori were looking for an analog chronograph that was rugged enough for the cockpit and (being Italians) stylish enough to be worn around town.

The result was the Chronomat, an entirely new design, delivered in 1983. It was released with a  Valjoux 7750 movement and had a slightly recessed crystal and 4  “rider” tabs on the bezel at 00, 15, 30, and 45-minute locations. The 15- and 45-minute tabs could be removed and exchanged to allow for counting up or down. The tabs were slightly raised allowing the wearer to easily manipulate the bezel with gloves while providing protection for the crystal when in the cockpit.

The Italian pilots loved the design and in 1984, on the 100th year anniversary of the brand, the Chronomat was released to the public. It was a statement that the mechanical watch was not dead and quartz was not king. Since 1984 the Chronomat has been a part of the Breitling line and a symbol of its style.

The Chronomat is released with a distinctive “Rouleaux” bracelet. There was a version for yachting, and a model specifically designed for the Renault F1 team. Two-tone versions were available with gold accents, the Chronomat was sporty and chic and stood out from the competition. Everyone from the business world, the silver screen, and the jet-set wore one.

The Aerospace

1985 saw the introduction of the Aerospace, it was innovative with both digital and analog elements on the dial. It was a unique watch with a simple and logical control system. All of the features of the watch are accessible by turning, pressing, or pulling a single crown.

It was a multi-function quartz chronograph with the latest Swiss technology and two LCD screens with a traditional analog face.

The design kept the raised rider tabs that were so popular with the Chronomat design, and it was offered in titanium for maximum strength and lightness.

What’s the Emergency?

The Emergency watch was a technological marvel. Schneider developed a watch capable of transmitting a distress signal for downed pilots or stranded yachtsmen. He had been approached by a pilot who had ejected from his plane, only to find himself stranded with nothing but his uniform and his watch.

Years of intensive development were required to design a watch with a radio transmitter small enough to fit inside. It turned out the emergency was a watch that could save your life. The Emergency was launched in 1995 and was an instant success.

The Emergency was suitable for any adventurer in any location. Inside a 43mm case was a micro transmitter that would send signals to the international air distress frequency 121.5 Mhz.

To use the Emergency you unscrew the main antenna’s safety cap (lower right of the case) and deploy the antenna to maximum length. There is also an auxiliary antenna on the opposite side of the case, which can increase the radiated power of the signal.

Signal strength depended on the terrain, elevation, and altitude of the search plane. No matter what, between the 1995 introduction and 2010 when the original watch was discontinued, around 40,000 Emergency watches were sold.

During that time around 20 people were rescued, thanks to the use of an  Emergency watch. From hunters in Alaska to helicopter pilots in the Antarctic, the Explorer delivered on its promise. It was phased out because the emergency frequency was being depreciated in favor of a higher frequency 406Mhz. Breitling needed to innovate again.

Breitling_Orbiter_3 – © Raimond Spekking

The Breitling Orbiter 3

In another first for Aviation, Breitling completes a balloon flight around the world in 1999 after 2 unsuccessful attempts.

On March 1st of 1999, The Breitling Orbiter began its round-the-world trip from Château-d’Oex in the Swiss Alps.

It crosses the same meridian on March 20th in Mauritania, marking a successful journey around the world.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum takes the Breitling Orbiter 3 capsule into its Milestones of Flight exhibit.

It is enshrined next to the Wright Brothers’ plane, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager’s X-1, and the Apollo 11 capsule[4]

All electronic models COSC certified

Breitlings’ SuperQuartz technology had its debut in 2001. SuperQuartz is reported to be 10 times more accurate than a standard quartz watch. This resulted in all of Breitling’s electronic models being certified by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute).

A New Emergency II

Because the 121.5 Mhz frequency is still in use along with the 406Mhz, Breitling maintained it for the Breitling 2013 Emergency II. It would be the only wristwatch with a built-in double frequency personal locator beacon (PCB).

The new watch would offer both the 121.5Mhz and the 406Mhz frequencies The 406Mhz frequency is more reliable, more secure, and offers more information to help reduce false alarms.  Dual-frequency distress beacons provide greater homing accuracy.

The Endurance Pro

Breitling released the Endurance Pro in 2020. It was designed for athletes and casual sports. This chronograph blends high precision and innovative technology with vibrant colors.

Breitling Today

In 2015 Ernest Schneider passed away, and the brand was taken over by his son Théodore who had been a director at Breitling for years. In 2016 Théodore sold 80% of the business to CVC Capital Partners out of the United Kingdom. The deal involved Théodore retaining a 20% stake in the company.

Nevertheless, previous majority owner Theodore Schneider will remain with Breitling because, as part of the CVC Capital Partners deal, he agreed to re-invest for a 20% stake in Breitling.[5]

A Blog to Watch Breitling sold to CVC Capital Partners for Over $ 870 million –

Theodore Schneider retained 20% control of Breitling until November 2018, when he sold these remaining 20% to CVC[6] – Breitling SA –

Georges Kern left IWC to take the helm of Breitling in 2017 and is still at the helm of Breitling today. Breitling continues to innovate and produce historically accurate pieces of their most famous models.

The move appears to have been successful. The financial times reports in April 2022.

According to a report by Morgan Stanley last month, Breitling’s annual revenues surged to an estimated SFr68onm, ($73onm) in 2021 – an increase of 55 percent over the past two years. [7]

In October 2021 Partners Group Holding AG agreed to buy a stake in Swiss watchmaker Breitling SA from CVC Capital Partners. The investment firm now owns a sizable minority stake and will be aiding CVC in growing Breitling. The details of the deal were not disclosed.

The luxury watch market is expected to keep on growing and Breitling will be there.


  1. – The Quartz Crisis: The almost downfall of the mechanical watch.
  2. – The quartz crisis and its significance for the watch industry.
  3. – Why The Sinn 903 Isn’t Just A Navitimer Homage
  4. – Instruments for Professionals.
  5. – Breitling sold to CVC Capital Partners for Over $ 870 million –
  6. – BreitlingSA –
  7. The Financial Times – Breitling Chief’s grounded approach speeds watchmaker’s growth. –

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