The history of Breitling watches
From his apprenticeship as a watchmaker, the man was almost obsessed with the idea of perfecting the measurement of short periods
From his apprenticeship as a watchmaker, the man was almost obsessed with the idea of perfecting the measurement of short periods of time using special watches. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that once his training was complete, he set about creating his own chronograph (stopwatch). This set the blueprint for Léon Breitling’s career. The first chronographs bearing the inventor’s name appeared in 1884, manufactured in his home country, in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. In 1892, in the neighbouring village of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the young manufacturer created the G. Léon Breitling SA Montbrillant Watch Factory. Specialising in chronographs proved to be a wise choice.
In 1914, the same year his father died, Gaston Breitling began his career in the family company. Gaston, who had inherited his father’s passion for chronographs, worked systematically on making the family firm a success. One of his special models, patented and named “Vitesse,” proved to be very popular with the police, since it made it possible to measure excessive speed and allowed them to catch speeding motorists. Giving in to demand, Breitling increased its development and manufacture of chronograph wristwatches with a stopwatch function. It is probably because of him that the family name is included on the dial. His death in 1927 left a great void.
In 1932, the third generation took over the helm, once his son Willy Breitling had received in-depth technical and sales training. In 1936, the firm launched a chronograph for aircraft cockpits; in 1947, the legendary “Chronomat” with rotating slide-rule and, in 1952, the “Navytimer” with optimised calculation functions. In 1962, a Breitling chronograph went into space on astronaut Scott Carpenter’s wrist. In 1969, the watch brand which mostly used “Venus” rough movements in its hand-wound models, was a pioneer of automatic chronographs (“Chronomat” with micro-rotor).
In 1979, a few months after the death of Willy Breitling, the history of the original Breitling company came to an end. In 1982, Ernest Schneider registered the company Montres Breitling SA with its headquarters in Granges. His son Théodore now runs the traditional company, with every watch without exception possessing an official chronometer certificate.