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Breitling watches came out of innovation and the need to create useful tools for pilots. Since then they have grown and adapted through the times to make functional and beautiful timepieces. Breitling watches are designed to be used on land, in the sky or in the sea, as well as looking great day to day.
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The Breitling watch company (officially known as ‘Breitling SA’) are based in the city of Grenchen, Switzerland, and have been making luxury watches since 1884. Founded by Leon Breitling in the nearby town of Saint-Imier, the company was passed to Leons son, Gaston, in 1914, upon Leon’s death. The company remained in the ownership of the Breitling family until 1979. The company is now owned by CVC Capital Partners.
Breitling have always targeted two primary markets. Divers and aviators. Divers have been furnished with the Superocean model, aviators by the Navitimer. Diving watches are obviously made to be strong and resistant to water at considerable depths. Navitimers have a large number of complications (complications are any watch feature other than the display of hours, minutes and seconds. So dates, alarms and chronographs etc would be complications) to assist in the calculations of navigation etc.
In the 1940s, Breitling added a circular slide rule to the bezel of their chronographs. This bezel became most associated with the Navitimer model. The name ‘Navitimer’ stems from the two words describing its main purposes of the watch, navigation and timer. In 1961, following a request from Scott Carpenter, a Mercury astronuat, Breitling incorporated a 24-hour dial instead of the normal 12-hour dial. The was due to the lack of day and night in space. A commercial version of the watch was produced, called the Cosmonaute Navitimer.
First marketed in 1941, the Chronomat is STILL one of the best-selling models made by Breitling. Fitted with a circular slide rule, it’s design followed the contemporary military watch design of the period.
The Breitling Emergency watch contains a radio transmitter which broadcasts on the 121.5MHz distress frequency. This signal can be picked up at a distance of up to 90 miles. In 2009, two pilots were picked up after an activation of their Breitling beacon, following a helicopter crash in Antartica. The Emergency is available to ‘civilian’ customers, but they must sign an agreement stating they will bear the full cost of a rescue should the alarm be activated.
In 2002, Breitling designed the dashboard clock for the Bentley Continental GT. The following year, Breitling made chronographs for the Bentley Motor Company. In 2015, Breitling designed the Mulliner Tourbillon dashboard clock for the Bentley Bentayga, which spins 3 times every 15 minutes.
James Bond Breitling
In the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball, Bond is given a Breitling Top Time by Q which contains a geiger counter that enables Bond to track down two stolen nuclear warheads. After the movie was filmed, the very watch disappeared and later resurfaced in a car boot sale in England in 2012 where it was bought for £25. It later sold at Christie's auction house for over £100,000.