Breitling is a Swiss watch brand with an outstanding reputation for creating high end aviator watches. The company has a long and rich history. Through the decades, Breitling has created some amazing lines of luxury watches which are still popular among luxury watch enthusiasts today. We looked into the history of the company and made some fascinating discoveries that many fans of the brand are not aware of. Knowing the journey of the brand along with its significant milestones and contributions to the world of horology only enhances the appreciation and enjoyment of your favorite models, whether you’re a collector or simply a fan. Here are 20 things that you didn’t know about Breitling watches, but will probably be happy to learn.
1. Most Breitling watches are made for larger wrists
Breitling has earned a reputation for creating oversized watches which fit the best on people who have large wrists, or those who like the feeling and presence of an oversized watch. While they do make a few models that are just 36 mm for those with thinner wrists, and some moderate sized watches measuring from 40 mm to 42 mm, the majority of them are larger sized.
2. Breitlings have been featured in film
Breitling is a brand that is established among high society circles as a luxury brand of choice for some. These watches have also appeared on the wrists of several film characters. A Breitling Chronograph was worn by super star Raquel Welch in the film “Fathom. The character James Bond was sporting a bespoke Breitling of the Q line for the film Thunderball and it can be seen in several scenes.
3. Famous celebrities are Breitling owners
There are several rich fand famous personalities who love Breitling watches and wear them publicly. Tom Cruise and Bratt Pitt enjoy wearing their Emergency models. They are joined by Bruce Willis, Leonardo DiCaprio and John Travolta in their appreciation of the model. Other notable celebrities seen wearing a Breitling include Herbie Hancock ,Sir Alan Sugar and Jeremy Clarkson.
4. Bear Grylls wears a Breitling
Another fan of the Breitling Emergency watch is Bear Gryll’s, the famed survival guide who goes it in the rough on his televised outings to show people how to survive in emergency situations. A few more films that this watch can be seen in are “Blood Diamond,” “Born Survivor” and in “Die Hard 3” with Bruce Willis. It’s clear that this watch has a lot to offer in terms of aesthetics and sending a message through visual imagery. It stands as a symbol of high tech functionality.
5. The Breitling Emergency watch can save your life
Here is an interesting fact about the Breitling Emergency watch model that many people are not aware of. This high tech watch actually contains a built-in transmitter that can sed a distress signal through a special frequency. Rescue teams can pick up this signal from a distance of up to 90 nautical miles. While some wouldn’t want to wear a high end luxury watch out in the elements, this particular model has been built to hold up under adverse situations, and the greater part of its value is in is ability to save your life in an emergency situation. It’s an amazing thing when you can summon help from a luxury watch.
6. A Bretling was the first chronograph to go into outer space
Breitling takes a unique place in history by having one of their Navitimer models worn by astronaut Malcolm Scott Carpenter when he flew in the Aurora 7 capsule. The watch was a Cosmonaute. This edition was specially designed with a 24 hour graduation which allowed the astronaut to determine day from night during his space travel. The mission was flown on May 24th of 1962 and this watch also allowed the crew to determne the spaceship position by calculating the position of the sun along with the exact time, and this is something that Breitling watches excel in, precision timekeeping.
Famed navigators have also made Breitling their wrist watch of choice throughout the decades. One example of this is Sir Richard Branson, the famous billionaire who circumnavigated a global trip in his hot air balloon in 1999. Another notable personality who wore a Breitling is Juha Kankkunen, a former rally driver who was wearing a Breitling when he broke the world speed record on ice in Northern Finland in a Bentley Continental Supersports car.
8. Breitling is the inventor of the chronograph wristwatch
The very first wristwatch to feature a chronograph complication was designed and produced by Breitling. Although the chronograph had already been invented, it had never been placed in a wristwatch. This was an amazing innovation in the world of horology and it earned Breitling a special place in the history of horology. Their first chronograph wristwatch was offered in 1915, and improved the watch in 1934 with a model featuring a return to zero pushpiece for resetting the chronograph to zero. The brand made a new platform with the Breitling Aerospace line which is a digital chronograph in 1985.
9. The Transocean Chronograph Unitime changed the world
The first Breitling world timer Unitime, was released in 1951. This amazing watch was far ahead of its time and proved to the world that Breitling was among the most impressive when it comes to chronograph innovation. They revisited he Unitime in 2012 with a self-winding chronograph movement with the mechanism placed under the dial and the ability to adjust as well as set all of the indicators backward or forward through the crown. This was a big convenience for travelers who could simply rotate the bezel to the new reference city at 12 o clock to trigger the appropriate date and hour display for the new location and to reset the watch automatically.
10. Some old movements are unsigned
Authenticity is a huge concern when it comes to high priced luxury watches and there are plenty of knock offs out there that may appear to be authentic, but are later discovered to be phonies. While some believe that the signature on the movement is necessary to confirm authenticity, this isn’t always the case with some of the older vintage Breitlings. From the 1940s and ’50s eras, there were several Breitling movements which were not branded. This occurred during a time when it was not believed that the brands that were using the movements would rise to become iconic, therefore they dispensed with this formality. Serial numbers, signatures and labels weren’t considered at the time of manufacture, and it’s important to know that the absence of such does not mean that your Breitling from this era is not genuine.
11. Breitling and TAG Heuer teamed up in 1969
Breitling and TAG Heuer are direct competitors, but they got together in 1969 to form a partnership that would result in the development of the Breitling Chrono-Matic, a popular chronograph of the brand. The design teams from each company got together to develop the prototype for the Caliber 11. This became the first automatic chronograph with a micro-rotor in the world, which was yet another milestone for Breitling who took the brand credit in a partnership that was called Project 99, and it also included Buren Watch and Dubois Depraz who came on board to develop the design concepts for the watch.
12. All of Breitling’s quartz movements are COSC certified
This is an unusual practice for quartz movements, but every one that Breitling uses has an inspection of the mechanism and this is why they can officially be named chronometer. It’s a lengthy process which includes 11 days of testing to ensure that there are no major deviations in timekeeping. This is just one of the impressive practices that makes Breitling a outstanding luxury watch manufacturer.
13. Breitling has been in business for over 100 years
The Breitling watch company was founded in 1884 by Leon Breitling, a skilled watchmaker. He was age 24 when he established his watchmaking business. Within ten years of opening its doors for business, he was able to move the business to a new headquarters and he was able to hire more than 60 people to work in the factory. Breitling watches were in high demand in the late 1800s and their popularity among watch enthusiasts has only increased.
14. Breitling was a family business for three generations
The story of Breitling is an interesting one. Leon Breitling started the business, and when his son was of age, he shared his father’s passion for watchmaking and the creation of chronograph watches in particular. Gaston inherited the Breitling company when his father died at a young age, quite unexpectedly. Gaston also had a son, but like his father before him, he also passed away while still a young man. There was a brief interruption in the passage of the business to the third generation because the son was not old enough to assume the responsibility. When he came of age, the third generation took over the Breitling watch business and ran it until it was sold to a buyer not related to the family, but with the same passion for carrying on the established traditions within the company.
15. The brand wasn’t placed on watches for 40 years
We were surprised to learn that the brand name Breitling was not included on any of the dials of the watches manufactured by the company until the late 1920s. If you are fortunate enough to come into possession of one of these early vintage models, don’t be put off by the lack of a signature or brand because they’re still very valuable time pieces.
16. Breitling watches were used by Policemen
Here is another interesting fact that we found to be quite novel. Breitling launched a patented stop watch in 1930. This model was called the Vitesse. The accuracy of the watch was so high that it was used by police officers to pace the speed of motor vehicles. This was before the times of modern radar and police really had no other way of monitoring the speed aside from eyeballing and making quick mental calculations based on speed and distance. In a way, the Vitesse stop watch was a revolutionary timepiece for the police force of the 1930s.
17. The company nearly went under twice
Breitling, like many other major watch companies has had its share of ups and downs. Although they’ve mostly enjoyed a long and successful venture, there were two occasions when the business nearly went out of business. The first was in the 1930s depression era. There wasn’t enough money circulating for luxury watch brands to make the kinds of sales that were necessary to keep them afloat. The second major crisis happened during the quartz crisis that happened in the late 1970s, but they managed to weather both of these events that took a major toll on the luxury watch industry.
18. Their association with the RAF helped bolster Breitling
After the 1930s Depression and the close call to financial failure, Breitling was fortunate to have an excellent new customer. The Royal Air Force ordered large numbers of chronographs from the company in 1939, to equip their aircraft. This not only gave Breitling a huge financial boost, but it also established them as the premiere brand in the manufacture of aviation time pieces.
19. They didn’t have their own chronograph calibre until 2009
We were also quite surprised to learn that Breitling used crhonographs that were made by other suppliers including ETA, Valjoux and Venus, which is not a bad thing at all, but there’s something special about a brand that manufactures its own movements. Their very first in-house chronograph calibre was manufactured and used in 2009 and was called the B01. This calibre also gained a reputation for being dependable, accurate and overall, quite solid.
20. The Breitling Chronomat was made for specific occupations
The Chronomat model was a specialty time piece that was designed for use in specific vocations. For example, the Navitimer is an aviation watch that would be adopted as the official pilots watch of the OPOA pilot Association. The Chronomat’s initial purpose was to assist working mathematicians with the synchronizing two scales and scientists also found this to be useful.