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The History of Breitling Watches

Updated on January 9, 2019

Breitling Aeromarine


Breitling Designer Watches

Switzerland is renowned for being the homeland of quality designer watches and many of the brand names are famous worldwide. We are mostly familiar with the likes of Rolex and Cartier and wearing the status symbols show class, expense and good taste.

Breitling watches are famous for their style as being over-sized, or 'bulky' as well as for excellent time keeping. But the watches were not intended to be worn by actors or models when they were first designed, but for pilots and still remain the pilot's top choice of watch today.

The Breitling company was founded in 1884 by Leon Breitling in St Imier, Switzerland. He specialized in making chronographs and precision counters for scientific and industrial purposes. By 1892, the company was doing very well, so he re-located to La Chaux-De-Fonds as this was the centre of Swiss watchmaking at the time.

When Leon Breitling died in 1914, his son Gaston took over the watch firm and soon the Chronograph was designed especially for pilots. He invented the first independent Chronograph push piece in 1923, so there was no need for the manual winding crown. Then by 1934 the second 'return to zero' push piece was invented by Leon's Grandson, Willy following the demise of Gaston in 1932.

With the success of the Breitling empire, they became the official supplier of the Royal Air Force with their Chronographs and Chronometres for airplanes. They were highly regarded in the field of navigation. The Chronomat watch was created in 1942 as the first watch to be fitted with a circular slide rule bezel.

Ten years later the Navitimer was created. The Navitimer had a famous navigation computer which calculated flight plans. This was a huge hit and Breitling then began to supply the international airlines with cockpit clocks. The success of the business grew and grew when astronaut Scott Carpenter wore his Breitling on the moon. The model was named the 'Cosmonaute'.

But it wasn't until 1979 that the cleverly designed and revolutionary Breitlings started to move in the field of marketing. Former pilot Ernest Schneider was hired as the company CEO. In an attempt to commercialize the products in the 1980s, the watches were no longer aimed at pilots, but as a fashion statement. Other companies bought out watches in similar styles to copy the Breitling look. The big watches became stylish, worn by film stars and celebrities and popular by all.

Today the brands such as the Chronomat, Galactic and the Aeromarine are popular for men and women. They remain high quality watches with many more models coming onto the market, but they also still remain the firm favorite for pilots for their precision and time keeping rather than the fashionable look.


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