Breitling was founded by Léon Breitling, a skilled watchmaker who was known for crafting excellent timepieces and intelligent measuring tools in his St Imier workshop. It wasn’t long before the innovative features that Léon developed for the pocket watches he designed earned Breitling a formidable reputation.
During Breitling’s formative years, Léon focused his work on chronographs as they were in high demand due to the industrial, military and scientific applications that rose at the time. In addition to the athletics applications. Léon Breitling was granted a patent in 1889 for a simplified model that stood out from the rivals at the time because of its sleek design that had an uncomplicated manufacturing process and was easy to maintain.
Unfortunately, Léon Breitling passed away in 1914. The family business was handed to his son Gaston who has the same pioneering spirit, innovative flair and insatiable passion as his father when it came to chronographs. He launched one of the world’s first ever wristwatches with a separate push-piece above its crown in 1915. This marvel was a true demonstration of the ingenuity that Gaston inherited from his father.
However, Gaston Breitling passed away in 1927 unexpectedly, leaving his son Willy in charge of the business. Willy was only 14 years old, so he was not yet old enough to run the company and fill his impressive shoes. An external company was brought in to manage the company for the next five years until Willy had matured enough to run the business on his own.
An unprecedented watch prototype was debuted by Breitling in 1952 and it remains iconic to this day –the Breitling Navitimer. Interestingly, its name is a portmanteau of “navigation” and “timer”. It became popular with pilots, airlines and aircraft manufacturers as it was equipped with the flight-specific side rule and remains incredibly popular in the industry ever since.
In the 1970s, Willy Breitling became ill and struggled to maintain his health. His sons Gregory and Alain were very young and uncertain about the future of the watch industry. His entrepreneurship led him to sell the remaining assets, familiar brand names and established watch models in 1979 to Ernest Schneider. He was also a watchmaker and pilot and his family kept control of the Breitling for almost 40 years.
During the Schneider family’s ownership, the company was registered as Breitling Montres SA in 1982 and the headquarters were moved to Grenchen. Breitling celebrated its 100thanniversary in 1984 and to coincide with this they released a redesigned Chronomat which was characterised by its bezel riders and its automatic chronograph calibre. This design was based on that of a watch they had released the previous year for the renowned Italian flying squadron Frecce Tricolori.
Breitling became a part of CVC Capital Partners in 2017 and George Kern assumed the role of CEO. He already had an established career in the watch industry and is looking forward to continuing to build upon the rich traditions of Breitling, whose roots go right back to a small workshop in St Imier in 1884.
Club Laurus has several Breitling watch models available at discounted prices for its members, as a reward for their membership.