Breitling is a brand of Swiss watches produced by Breitling SA, a private company headquartered in Grenchen, Canton of Solothurn (originally founded in Saint-Imier, Bernese Jura by Léon Breitling in 1884). The watchmaker offers high-end Certified Chronometers designed primarily for aviation use. Breitling's watches offer aviation functions, though their chronograph functions have become more of status symbols than practically applied tools. They typically have a large face (e.g. the Breitling for Bentley Motors edition has a 48 mm Case Diameter) for better visibility and to allow display of more information on the analog dials. Many models feature an automatic winding mechanism that is purely mechanical (i.e. using no electronic components). Many Breitling watches are equipped with additional functions such as the flyback function, split-second, moon phase, date display and other complications.
All Breitling watches are manufactured in Switzerland and are made from Swiss components. Raw movements are obtained from ETA and Valjoux and are modified in the Breitling Chronometrie Workshops, before undergoing COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) certification. As of 2009, Breitling now makes a manufacture movement, designed, manufactured and assembled completed in-house.
Quartz models such as the Breitling Aeromarine Colt start at $2,055.00 on a rubber strap, while typical prices of mechanical, steel cased models are $7,300 (US) for the Breitling for Bentley Motors model. The expense is due to the exclusivity of the Bentley trademark, as well as the 38 jewel self-winding movement as these steel cased models are more expensive than some of Breitling's Titanium or Gold models. Some special edition models also include diamonds on various parts of the watch. I.E. Diamond Bezel, Diamond Bracelet, etc.
Breitling was a sponsor of Team Bentley during their Le Mans 24 Hours campaign, running from 2001-2003. To commemorate this event, Breitling created the Limited Edition Breitling Bentley 24 Le Mans Watch.
In the 1940s, Breitling added a circular slide rule to the bezel of their chronograph models for use by aircraft pilots. This became the famous Navitimer model. During the 1950s and 1960s, a version of the Navitimer was offered by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association with the AOPA logo on the dial.
In 1961, Scott Carpenter, one of the original astronauts in the Mercury space program, approached Breitling with idea of incorporating a 24 hour dial instead of the normal 12 hour dial. This was needed because of the lack of day and night during space travel. Breitling complied, and produced the 24 hour Navitimer which Carpenter wore on his 1962 space flight. Breitling then proceeded to produce the 24 hour version as the so-called Cosmonaute Navitimer - under both Breitling and AOPA logos.
The Breitling Emergency version contains a radio transmitter for civil aviation use which broadcasts on the 121.5 MHz distress frequency and serves as a back-up for ELT-type airborne beacons. (For military users, Breitling has equipped the Emergency with a miniaturized transmitter operating on the 243.0 MHz military frequency.) Under normal conditions—flat terrain or calm seas—the signal can be picked up at a range of up to 90 nautical miles (167 km) by search aircraft flying at 20,000 feet (6,000 m). As of 1 February 2009, the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System will no longer monitor the 121.5/243.0 MHz frequency; however, the signal transmitted by the Emergency was never strong enough to be picked up by satellite, and Breitling has announced that, as these frequencies will still be monitored by aviation, particularly during the localization phase of a rescue attempt, there are no plans to modify the signal's frequency.
Reuters reported that in January, 2003, two British pilots, Squadron Leader Steve Brooks and Flight Lieutenant Hugh Quentin-Smith, crashed their helicopter in Antarctica and were rescued after activating their Breitling Emergency transmitter watches. The two pilots were in their lifeboat when a Chilean Otter aircraft found them after homing in on signals from their watches.
The Emergency is available for customers who do not hold a pilot's licence, but they must sign an agreement stating that they will bear the full costs of a rescue intervention should they trigger the distress beacon. The model was heavily advertised by the Breitling Orbiter 3—both Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard were wearing the Emergency. Breitling sponsored the Orbiter 3 project, which in 1999 successfully became the first balloon to completely orbit the Earth without landing. A commemorative Orbiter 3 version of the Emergency watch was subsequently produced, limited to a production run of 1,999. Also, Bear Grylls wears an Emergency with yellow face and rubber strap in many episodes of Man vs. Wild.
Aditional Breitling models:
Breitling Chronomat Evolution
Breitling for Bentley Motors: Features a 30 second chronograph
Breitling Super Avenger (48 mm)
2007 Breitling Super Avenger 48mm w/Diamond Bezel
Breitling SuperOcean Heritage Chrono 125th Anniversary
Breitling base movements
Breitling Movement Base movement
B01 Calibre Breitling, first and only in-house movement
B10 ETA 2892-A2
B11 Lemania 1873
B12 Lemania 187
B13 Valjoux 7750
B17 ETA 2824
B18 ETA 2892-A2
B19 ETA 2892-A2
B20 Valjoux 7750
B22 ETA 2892-A2
B24 Valjoux 7754
B26 ETA 2892-A2
B30 ETA 2892-A2
B33 ETA 2892-A2
B34 ETA 1185/86
B35 ETA 2892
B36 ETA 2892
B38 ETA 2892-A2
B39 ETA 2892-A2
B40 ETA 2892-A2
B41 ETA 2892
B42 ETA 2892
B43 Valjoux 7758
B44 ETA 2892
B45 ETA 2834-2
Note: The ETA 2892 movements used in Breitling chronographs have been modified by the addition of a chronograph module by Dubois/Depraz.