Breitling: An Historical Timeline

by Cyndi Whittel

Dealing with Breitling watches daily, I often get customers interested in Breitling’s history. Here is an outline of the history of the Breitling company.

The year 1884: In St-Imier, the Jura mountain range of Switzerland, Leon Breitling opens a workshop specializing in the making chronograph pocket watches and precision counters for scientific and industrial purposes.

Then in 1892 The young captain of industry created the watch factory G LEON BREITLING SA, MONTBRILLIANT WATCH FACTORY at LA CHAUX DE FONDS Leon Breitling relocates in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the center of Swiss watchmaking of the day.

Later in 1914: Leon Breitling dies. His son Gaston Breitling takes over the company. Gaston Breitling joined the family firm. Death of his father LEON.

1923: Breitling develops the first independent chronograph push piece. Start and return to zero functions had previously been controlled using the winding-crown.

Gaston Breitling inherited a passion for chronographs and systematically works to make the family firm a success story. This special edition, patented with the name VITESSE, was a huge success with the police: it enabled them to time drivers breaking the speed limit. Moving with the times and fashion, BREITLING accelerated the development and production of wristwatches with chronograph functions.

In 1932 Willy Breitling, son of Gaston Breitling, becomes head of the Breitling business. Willy takes over for his father as the head of the company.

In 1934: Breitling develops a watch with a second return to zero push piece. This invention, made it possible to measure several successive short times with an added function using the first push piece, and gives the wrist chronograph its definitive form.

The Year 1936 Breitling Bentley launched a chronograph for aircraft cock pits.

The Year 1942 Launch of the CHRONOMAT BREITLING, the first watch chronograph equipped with a log scale calculator.

In 1952, Breitling launches the Breitling Navitimer with optimized calculator function. Breitling created the Navitimer, a wrist instrument equipped with the famous “navigation computer” which was capable of handling many if not all calculations called for by a flight plan. This “super” chronograph quickly becomes a favorite among pilots all around the world.

The Year 1962: Astronaut Scott Carpenter wears the Cosmonaute chronograph during his orbital flight aboard the Aurora Seven space capsule. This was the Launch of the COSMONAUT, with a 24 hour rather than 12 hour single circuit of this dial.

BREITLING chronograph (Cosmonaut) goes into space and is worn by astronaut Scott Carpenter on board the AURORA 7 capsule.

The Year 1969 The brand that used above all, VENUS launches in its mechanical non automatic hand-wound models, was one of the pioneers of the automatic chronograph developed in collaboration with HEUER-LEONIDAS and HAMILTON-BREN. With a combined DUBOIS-DEPRAZ chronograph module, they created the micro-rotor Chrono mat. Breitling introduces the self-winding chronograph. This technical feature represents a breakthrough for all of the Swiss watches industry.

The Year 1979: Ernest Schneider, from SICURA took over the Breitling firm and registered it under the name MONTRES BREITLING S.A. in GRANGES.

In 1983 This was the year of the Creation of the GMT NAVITIMER. Launch of Eric Tabarly products as well.

1985 the END OF LIFE system for divers was created ( which reaches depths of 3300 feet/1000 meters). Launch of the Breitling NAVITIMER CHRONOMAT.

1987 Launch of the WORLD model with indicator for four different time zones.

1988 Launch of the J-CLASS model specially developed for yachting enthusiasts.

1999 Certification and Control for chronometre norms. BREITLING backed the project of the Swiss and British team, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, who completed the first non-stop round the world trip by hot air balloon, landing on March 21st after a flight lasting 20 days.

2003 At the Int’l Automobile Salon in Geneva, Switzerland BREITLING presented 2 brand new models in association with the BENTLEY model. Breitling was BENTLEY’S partner at the Le Mans 24 hour race.

I hope this time line has been interesting to Breitling enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds around the world. In the future I hope to update the time line to reflect 2004-present.

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