George Kern became the CEO of Breitling in July 2017 and introduced changes that involved changing the company logo and the watches' overall look. The first thing he did not like was how the watches' steel shone bright, and he had to instruct that they are dulled. By 2018, he aimed for a brand that catered to different customers besides the pilots, it had a reputation for; thus, George got rid of the logo's wings. George explained that the brand needed to be redirected to the excellence of its origin. Therefore, we were curious to know the history of the Breitling logo he wanted to go back to, and here is what we discovered; let's start with the founding of the company.
Patents Push The Company To Great Heights
Leon Breitling is referred to as a Swiss watchmaker, but he was originally from Germany, where he was born in 1860. However, his parents moved to Switzerland looking for work, and Leon was not left behind. He also found a job as an apprentice in watchmaking, where he gained skills good enough to push him to establish his own business. In 1884, Leon founded his watchmaking business in Jura Mountains near Saint-Imier. At the time, chronographs were in high demand in different fields, including aviation, military, athletics, and science. As a result, Leon saw it as an opportunity to make his mark in the chronograph industry by building his reputation with high-quality chronographs.
Leon's business won various designs and technical awards of a new simplified model for which he had applied a patent. That show of excellence was enough to create a growth spurt in the firm such that in 1892 they needed to move from the studio to his first factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The second patent was for a movement whose power reserve was eight hours, quite a major feat in that era. Leon was not settling for less, and he still was in pursuit of excellence; therefore, in 1893, he wowed his physician clients with a chronograph whose accuracy was two-fifths of a second and a model with pulsograph. Consequently, within ten years, the company had sold at least 100,000 of the chronograph and stopwatches.
Still, as Bespoke Unit published, Breitling wanted to revolutionize the chronograph design for optimum convenience and functionality. Hence as automobiles began making their way in the market, Leon also seized the opportunity to get a patent for a timer that would measure speed between 15 and 150 km/hr. While he achieved that in 1905, by 1930, the Vitesse stopwatch was used by police to calculate the speed of motorists. Before long, speeding tickets began being issued within Switzerland.
Changes in The Chronographs Cause Evolution of the Breitling Logo
According to Logo Realm, the first Breitling logo only featured the company's name in an elaborate script. However, the company continued making advancements with the chronograph under the leadership of Gaston Breitling. In 1915, Gaston introduced the first wristwatch chronograph, after seeing how important it was for soldiers to have them. Since then, wristwatches were not available, the British Army soldiers would use a wristlet to strap the pocket watches to their wrists; trying to fumble for the watches during the war could cost them their lives. Gaston also patented a wrist chronograph that featured a 30-minute and second-hand counter.
There are no exact timelines about the logo changes, but the next modification involved writing the word "Breitling" in a simpler font, and above it, there was the script "B." However, it is speculated that the stylized "B" was used in the 1940s. In 1936, Willy Breitling, Gaston's son, introduced on-board flight chronographs, which the Royal Army Force found essential hence equipped their cockpits. That innovation resulted in a business relationship between the Royal Air Service and Breitling; it has been the official supplier since then. Later the pilot chronographs were added slide rules, crucial instruments in the aviation industry where accurate mathematical calculations must be effectively done. As a result, in 1952, Breitling introduced the "Navitimer" a combination of "Navigation" and "timer." Breitling also added wings to the logo, signifying that pilots and aviators could also use their watches.
Navitimer watches also brought with them a few changes, according to Symbol. Before 1952, all Breitling watches were marked on the underside of the dial; hence it was nearly impossible to see that Breitling made them. At first, the watches bore the signature of Montbrilliant before changing to the Breitling signature in 1932. However, Willy Breitling realized the difficulty in reading the Breitling signature, thus introduced the stylized "B" on the dial, but the Navitimer stuck to the stylized airplanes on the dials.
Paving The Way to The Current Breitling Logo
In the 1980s, Breitling also added a ship's anchor to the logo; it passed through the stylized "B," and the wings were on either side. With this logo, the company communicated that its watches were for use on land, air, and sea. The company name "Breitling" has always remained at the bottom of the image. Below it, the founding year "1884" has never been erased. The logo stuck, and the only changes were in the colors used; although it mainly preferred black and white, sometimes gold and silver were used.
In 2018, CEO Georges Kern decided to go back to the once-used logo of a simple "B" in a cursive script. He explained, as published by Peak Magazine, that just because a brand is associated with aviation, it does not need to show the pilot's helmet. He got rid of the wings to push Breitling to be a commercial powerhouse and become a general brand, not just one known for making aviation-themed watches. The change did not sit well with most customers, but some saw sense in removing the wings, saying the "B" had a cleaner look that added to the aesthetic appeal.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith