Time Navigation. A History of Breitling

For 400 years Switzerland has been considered to be center of world’s watch industry. One of the latest evidence about that was a small watch ring with a “Swiss” inscription was found in the tomb of Ming Dynasty.

The term Swiss Made is now widely recognized as a mark of high quality. Swiss watches are desired and admired around the globe. Their style is exclusive, elegant, and sophisticated. Today SUISSEPIC decided to have a look on the history of Breitling company.

Breitling is for sure one of the most successful Swiss watch brands. It has a long history of designing and producing innovative, professional-grade chronographs. The brand is also known as an official supplier to world aviation, as many generations of pilots chose Breitling watches for their first-class quality. Hence a corporate motto of the company became Instruments for professionals.

The history of Breitling started in Saint-Imier 1884 when Léon Breitling opened a workshop, where he created chronographs for science, sports and industry.


He developed quite fast and decided to relocate to La-Chaux-de-Fonds in 1892. Now this city is known as the center of Swiss watchmaking industry. Leon’s son Gaston got focused on supplying time pieces to aviators and introduced Breitling’s aviation concept, a wristwatch chronograph. In 1923 he created the first independent chronograph push-piece, which featured to start, stop and return-to-zero functions.

During the 1930s, Breitling specialized in chronographs for cockpits of airplanes. These devices were used successfully by the British Royal Air Force on fighter planes during World War II. Therefore, Breitling started its longstanding relationship with the international aviation. In 1942, Breitling launched its Chronomat with a circular slide rule following the tension of the era for military watches. The movement was the Venus 175 with 17 jewels.


50s are known as the era of innovation in Breitling’s history. Company presented two concepts for sky and water. In 1954, the famous Navitimer was developed as a navigation watch for pilots, who could use the slide rule to calculate remaining distances, fuel consumption. Hence the name combined two senses “navigation” and “timer”. In 1962 the Navitimer Cosomonaute went to space together with the famous astronaut Scott Carpenter, who was wearing the watch during his orbital flight on the board of Aurora 7 spaceflight. This watch was designed with a 24 hour dial instead of a 12 hour standard dial. 

Another splash of 50s was SuperOcean developed as diver’s watch, which featured a water-resistant case up to 20 bar (or depths of up to 200 meters). This model was dedicated to 25th anniversary of Breitling corporationBreitling’s Top Time was used by James Bond in the movie Thunderball in 1965.

In 1982, the company was officially registered under the name, “Breitling Monters S.A.”. Headquarters was relocated to Grenchen. A new corporate page under a new logo as an anchor with the letter B and the wings began.

Since 2003 the Breitling started collaborating with Bentley Motors to produce limited edition of time pieces dedicated to new Bentley cars and racing.

Following the trends of digitalization in 2015 Brietling synchronized its watches with smartphones. That year Exospace B55, a diver intellectual watch was presented to the public. As it follows from a corporate website, changes included time-setting, time zone adjustments, and alarms, which could be made using the wearer’s smartphone; two digital displays on the watch notified the wearer that they had received e-mails or text messages, and also alerted them to incoming phone calls and calendar appointments.

Breitling’s CEO Georges Kern, who started to run the company in 2017, performed big changes in marketing strategy aimed to transform public’s attitude to luxurious watches. Famous pin-up aviation girls, appeared in 40s with Navitimers, are no more used for products promotion. Respect to decades of watchmaking traditions, quality and to women of the world, as to key clients, are the things that became significant for global corporate vision of a business with estimated revenue of $365 millions.


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