Breitling’s kinship with the world of aeronautics is aptly symbolized by the wings on either side of the ‘B’ in its logo. The association goes right back to the brand’s origins in 1884, when founder Léon Breitling rapidly made a name for his atelier by producing precision instruments ‘intended for sports, science and industry’.
The Sky’s the Limit
Pioneers of aviation could not help but be won over by his creations, to the extent that the Royal Air Force chose Breitling as official supplier for its fighter planes in 1930—the very same planes that would be deployed in WWII. The US Air Force followed suit, as did many civil and commercial aviation organizations, notably the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The largest association of its kind in the world, the AOPA designated Breitling’s Navitimer as its official chronograph as early as the 1950s. It success was quickly crowned with the status of Official Supplier to World Aviation. Breitling keeps these glory days alive by supporting the restoration of iconic aircraft such as the Breitling Replica Super Constellation—one of the three last flightworthy ‘Super Connies’ in the world—and a twin-engine Douglas DC-3, built in 1940, that still flies the company’s colors even after 75,000 hours in the air. The brand also sponsors the Breitling Jet Team, the world’s largest civilian aerobatics display team performing on jets.
This conquest of the skies is largely due to the fact that throughout its 130-year history, the brand has manufactured chronographs perfectly suited to furthering its aeronautical ambitions. As a result, the Breitling family is responsible for several major breakthroughs in chronograph complications. For instance, in 1915, it launched one of the first wrist chronographs with an independent pushpiece. It also separated the stop/start and reset functions, and perfected the chronograph’s second pushpiece. 1942, another key year, saw the launch of the Chronomat (a convergence of mathematics and chronograph), the first chronograph timepiece equipped with a circular slide rule. In an era that preceded the invention of electronic calculators, this truly revolutionary model enabled pilots to set and follow their flight plan in terms of distance, speed and fuel consumption. The breakthrough was consolidated 10 years later with the introduction of the Navitimer, which applies the same principles for the calculation of air navigation data. It is now the oldest chronograph to have been in continuous production.
A New Lease of Life
Ernest Schneider’s 1979 takeover gave Replica Breitling Emergency a new lease of life, consolidating the primacy of the brand’s mechanical and electronic instruments among pilots. This renewal also focused on modernizing iconic models from the company’s illustrious past. A perfect emblem of this strategy is the Chronomat, re-launched in 1984 with a Valjoux 7750 movement. In 2014, the brand celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of its renaissance with, notably, a special edition of the Chronomat Airborne, harking back to the spirit of the original developed and launched in partnership with the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian military’s aerobatics squad. Also new for 2014 is a reinterpretation of a classic model, the Navitimer, now available in a larger 46 mm diameter. It is also available in a version for travelers, with a second time zone and 48mm diameter. Breitling’s conquest of the air shows no sign of slowing down.