It takes imagination, avant-garde technology and an appetite for risk, to conquer the skies and the interstellar. These are the very makings at the core of Breitling. Its watches boast an extraordinary history seeped in the world of aviation that goes wayback to 1884, when the watchmaker Leon Breitling founded his workshop in the Jura mountains of Switzerland, devoting himself to the demanding field of crafting scientific chronographs and precision counters for industrial use. Little did the ambitious watchmaker know, that this handiwork was going to spark a revolution in the world of aviation, and create one of the most elite luxury brands in the world. Crafted for sports, scientific and industrial usage, Breitling has become synonymous with the constant quest for innovation.
Breitling’s first accomplishments ensued at a time when sport, automobile and aviation pioneers were in dire need of reliable instruments, a gap Breitling watches filled perfectly with the very first chronograph wristwatch, that instantly became the pilot’s number one choice, causing the watchmaker to focus on aviation.
Since then, Breitling watches have been an aviation industry favourite. The British Royal Air Force has sported Breitling timepieces since 1936. The Breitling Cosmonaute Navitimer was the first watch to go to space, worn on the wrist of astronaut Scott Carpenter during the Aurora 7 space capsule. The history of Breitling is full of firsts. Like the first step in the development of wrist chronographs, which became possible since Leon Breitling invented the chronograph watch. Breitling introduced the first time two chronographs with a unique reset button in 1896 that became the house favourite with aviators to measure their flight times, eventually leading to sales of over 100,000 timers and chronographs mostly for aviation.
In the true spirit of innovation, Breitling kept upping the ante on chronographs since creating the first independent chronograph pushpiece, an innovation that completely transformed the calculation of flight times. Breitling made major improvements by developing the return-to-zero push-pieces by 1934, buttons that reset your Chrono to zero, giving it the kind of stop/start functionality that remains industry standard to this date. Subsequently, the brand released the Breitling Aerospace, a digital chronograph by 1934, a lightweight titanium piece with a groundbreaking electronic chronograph function.
While a fine reputation for precision timing led to a longstanding relationship with the Royal Air Force, who would use Breitling instruments on their triumphant fighter jets during the World War II, the Swiss watchmaker revolutionized aviation once more with the Chronomat. It was the first wristwatch to feature a circular slide rule, a nifty addition on the bezel allowing pilots to calculate fuel consumption, air speed, rate of descent and the conversion of air miles to nautical miles. Later, the concept that eventually evolved into the Navitimer, the renowned timepiece that expanded Breitling’s client base to the US armed forces along with pilots across key international airlines.
Another first in its history of watchmaking, after conquering the skies, Breitling built a timepiece that has been to space and back. The legendary Breitling Navitimer, unveiled in 1952, was leap years ahead of its time and designed to survive all of the calculations required for a flight plan, quickly becoming a hit among pilots. Ten years hence, came the ground-breaking 24-hour dial to help astronauts distinguish between day and night in space.Yet another industry-first was the release of the Breitling Emergency, the first wristwatch equipped with a distress beacon capable of transmitting a distress frequency that can be picked up for 90 nautical miles, thus enabling a Breitling timepiece to actually save lives.
This was followed by the patented Breitling Vitesse stopwatch – the epitome of extreme accuracy. The Breitling Vitesse was so accurate that it was used by police officers to clock speeding motorists. Today, the prices of Breitling watches are as astronomical as their technology, for their most famed timepieces. The cult object in aviation circles, Breitling Navitimer watch prices in India are upwards of Rs 5.5 lakh for the base models, while the Breitling Chronomat timepieces that signified the rebirth of the mechanical chronograph are upwards of Rs 7 lakh for the base models.To this day, Breitling is one of the few Swiss watch houses that is still a family-run business. It is also perhaps the only remaining major brand that equips all timepieces with chronometer-certified movements – the hallmark of precision.