The Cockpit B50 watch in action
Roll up the shirt sleeve of a pilot and you’re likely to find a Breitling staring back at you. This luxury brand has carved itself a stronghold in the world of aviation, combining the kinds of technical precision, durable cases structures and Swiss-made movements that you’d expect to withstand high altitudes and G-forces.
It’s also blessed with an illustrious history, one that manages to support the brand’s bold claim of being the ultimate supplier of “instruments for professionals”. It was founded by Léon Breitling in 1884 with the aim of mastering choronographs and precision timers. By 1915, his son Gaston had invented the first independent chronograph pushpiece at 2 o’clock. The family obsession with chronographs continued with Gaston’s son Willy, who invented the second independent chronograph pushpiece in 1934. However, it was the outbreak of the Second World War that altered the brand’s course and by 1950 it was named the “official supplier to aviation”.
The Navitimer 46mm blue edition with a Caliber 01 movement
With its focus on high-performance, high-quality watches, Breitling might be forgiven for scrimping a little on the aesthetics. Fortunately, the brands is just as focused on style as it is substance. Its most iconic designs are resolutely masculine, including the original 1952 Navitimer that promised pilots accuracy during airborne navigation.
Today, a new incarnation of the Navitimer is available in a larger-than-life 46mm size, with a choice between a steel bracelet and a leather or crocodile strap. Pieces also feature an open case back with a watch lover’s dream sight – the Breitling Caliber 01 movement. This Swiss-made, self-winding chronograph movement is enough to make many watch fans shiver with excitement. No, seriously.
Two Galactic 36mm Automatic Ladies watches
Other iconic pieces in Breitling’s arsenal include the Chronomat aviation chronograph, available in 41 and 44mm sizes with a military-style fabric strap and in smaller, 36mm case sizes for women. And let’s not forget the Breitling Transocean 1915, which was relaunched this year as a limited edition series to mark the 100th anniversary of the timepiece.
But don’t let the masculine outward front of Breitling fool you…the brand also does some striking ladies watches, especially in the Chronomat, Transocean and Galactic ranges. Case sizes are obviously smaller, but there’s an emphasis on details too, like diamond-set bezels, two tone steel and rose gold PVD plating and soft mother of pearl dials.
As well as its daily-wear items, Breitling continues to focus on high-specification watches in its Professional Series. One of the highlights is the 2013 Breitling Emergency II (pictured above), which has a built-in frequency Personal Locator Beacon to help those stranded in search and rescue operations. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, but most definitely clever. It also includes Breitling’s SuperQuartz movement which is ten times more accurate than a standard quartz. Whatever you do, don’t tell your partner that it is available in a black titanium ‘Night Mission’ version with anti-glare for stealth…you’ll never hear the end of it.
Even after all this innovation Breitling has no interest in slowing down. As well as opening new boutiques across the UK it also launched its version of a connected smart watch – the B55 electronic chronograph calibre – at the end of last year. Breitling is a force to be reckoned with!