In the world of vintage watches, Breitling has been instantly recognizable by their iconic designs and excellent quality.
Breitling watches are now recognized by the vintage watch collecting market as some of the finest timepieces ever made, and overlooked for far too long. Worn by athletes, astronauts, and aviators worldwide, Breitling’s have always very much been professional watches for those demanding precision. This notion is surely supported by the brand’s logo — the winged B-initial – which clearly links the watch manufacturer to the industry in which they’ve played such an active role, aviation. With this in mind, it is rather fitting that Breitling was established in 1884, just under two decades prior to the first successful flight in modern history. Léon Breitling was the man behind this new watchmaking venture, situated in the midst of the Swiss Jura Mountains.
Like many of his peers, Léon Breitling found motor racing and the timing of speed fascinating, which is why he launched his manufacture with the mission of creating the ultimate stopwatch, to track elapsed time with the utmost precision. As a result, Breitling’s back catalogue is now absolutely packed with high-quality chronographs, and the brand is also credited with making great developments in the field of the particular complication. These include the first watch with an independent chronograph pusher — introduced by Breitling in 1923. Up until this point, stopwatches were typically operated via the winding crown, which did afford a more elegant design, albeit at the cost of lesser functionality. In 1934, a second pusher, capable resetting the chronograph to zero was introduced, thus creating the modern chronograph we know and celebrate to this day. The now seemingly commonplace mechanical breakthrough that was the implementation of two pushers and a crown, goes back to the ground-breaking innovation by Breitling.
As a proponent of both tradition and innovation, the family run firm that was Breitling rose to fame to become one of the most important watch manufacturers worldwide and ultimately one of most coveted manufactures of vintage watches. Under the leadership of the founder’s grandson, Willy Breitling, the manufacturer aimed for the sky, so to speak. Beginning in 1936, Breilting entered the aviation sphere with a chronograph that was manufactured for aircraft cockpits and used by a wide variety of notable aircraft manufacturers. This dash mounted chronograph earned Breitling a contract with the Royal Air Force as well as the United States Air Force, and would play an important role in the development of the brand’s next notable creaetion, The Chronomat. Introduced in 1947, and followed later by its sophisticated successor, the Navitimer, this watch helped Breitling become firmly established in the world of aviation, as the timepiece of choice to be found on the wrists of pilots. To this day, the circular slide rule found on the bezel of the watch remains an iconic feature of Navitimer.
Soon, the skies would no longer be the limit, as the Navitimer continued to attract attention in not only aviation circles, but those of aerospace, as well. In 1962, Breitling would craft a special model known as the Cosmonaute, to accompany Project Mercury astronaut to outer space. As per Carpenter’s requests, the Cosmonaute incorporated key Navitimer design elements, but also featured a 24-hour display, so that the exact time could be read with ease, and night and day could be effectively distinguished in the dark abyss outer space. Breitling was now reaching for the stars. This goes to show the innovative, boundary pushing nature that has come to define Breitling, and the many timepieces collectors now covet.