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12/19/2023
 4 minutes

Breitling – Precision and Performance From Aviation-Inspired Luxury Watches

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
2-1-Brand-Breitling

Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Breitling is without a doubt a heavyweight in the luxury watch world. The brand shares a close affinity with aviation and has an interesting history to look back on. It has long been a favorite choice among enthusiasts, seasoned collectors, and novices alike. We’re taking a closer look at the manufacturer’s most important models and sharing everything you need to know about the watch brand with a capital “B.”

The History of Breitling

Breitling was founded by Leon Breitling in 1884, and is best known for its pilot’s watches, many of which typically boast large diameters and busy dials. Quite early in the company’s history, Breitling focused on the development of chronographs, which would later become the brand’s best asset. As early as 1936, the company began supplying the Royal Air Force with onboard clocks for its aircraft. Later, US Army Air Force troops were equipped with icons like the Breitling Chronomat and Navitimer. Breitling has continued to expand its range over the years, and now offers a wide variety of pilot’s, dive, and all-around watches in various sizes and colors, including some that combine analog and digital displays. Georges Kern has been at the helm at Breitling since 2017. He has since become the face of the brand and has given the traditional halls a breath of fresh air.

The new Breitling Chronomat GMT
From the beginning, Breitling has focused on crafting pilot’s chronographs. The Chronomat was first released in 1942.

Breitling: Iconic Watches

Breitling is responsible for creating some of the most iconic pilot’s watches of all time. In 1942, the Swiss luxury brand released the Breitling Chronomat for the first time. This distinctive, hand-wound chronograph with its slide rule bezel is considered the forerunner of the legendary Breitling Navitimer, which debuted ten years later. Thanks to an even more complex bezel, the latter model enables wearers to make sophisticated calculations like fuel consumption, rates of ascent and descent, and average speeds. Both the Breitling Chronomat and Navitimer remain part of the brand’s portfolio to this day and continue to be popular options. However, the Breitling Superocean proves that the luxury watch manufacturer can craft more than just stylish pilot’s watches. This diver was first introduced in 1958, and hasn’t left the lineup since. It likewise remains one of the manufacturer’s most popular models. Anyone looking for the perfect blend of tool watch design and luxury finishing will be over the moon with the 40-mm Breitling Chronomat GMT. Other popular models include the Breitling Premier, a slightly more elegant chronograph option, and the Breitling Datora, which is the closest Breitling comes to making a traditional dress watch. The Breitling Emergency is something a bit more out of the ordinary, and can add saving lives to its repertoire. I’ll finish off this brief model overview with the Breitling Avenger, which is available as a three-hand watch as well as a chronograph. This pilot’s watch is at least as iconic and popular as the Chronomat and Navitimer, and has the advantage of a recent redesign. A look at the current Breitling portfolio reveals how varied the luxury manufacturer’s range truly is.

Die neue Breitling Avenger wurde einem Re-Design unterzogen
The new, redesigned Breitling Avenger

Does Breitling have entry-level models?

Even though Breitling is primarily known for making complicated watches, the luxury brand also has a lot to offer the novice collector, especially in recent years. Breitling shines when it comes to quality. The timepieces are well-made and leave very little to be desired. While the manufacturer does turn to modified third-party movements on occasion, their key models like the Breitling Navitimer are powered by in-house calibers. The B01 caliber is particularly popular, and is the workhorse behind several Breitling classics, as well as models from other renowned brands like the Tudor Black Bay Chrono. Most Breitling watches are priced between $4,500 and $9,500, and the more popular models like the Navitimer and Chronomat enjoy good value retention, provided you buy on the secondary market. For example, the latest version of the Breitling Navitimer B01 43 on a stainless steel bracelet has an official list price of $9,700, but you can find it on new on Chrono24 for around $7,800. While you may have to contend with slightly higher service costs given the complexity of Breitling watches, overall, it’s a fantastic luxury watch brand for seasoned collectors and novices alike.

Der Luxusuhrenhersteller hat sich vor allem in den letzten Jahren zur einsteigerfreundlichen Uhrenmarke entwickelt
The luxury watch manufacturer has become more suitable for beginners in recent years.

Breitling: Brand Perception

Breitling is synonymous with robust, masculine watches that look at home in a cockpit, but the brand’s portfolio stretches far beyond this stereotype, too. Aviation enthusiasts will certainly find their watch paradise at Breitling, but thanks to great all-rounders like the Breitling Chronomat GMT 40 and divers like the Breitling Superocean, there is plenty to tempt other tastes as well. There are also a number of successful women’s watches that don’t shy away from one or the other gemstone decoration. Breitling is at the forefront of sustainability in the watch industry. The manufacturer can put the first eco-friendly, foldable, and reusable watch box made 100% from upcycled plastic bottles to its name. Moreover, Breitling supports numerous projects and organizations that are dedicated to the well-being of our planet.

Breitling Navitimer
This luxury manufacturer is known for its pilot’s chronographs.

Breitling vs. Rolex: The Rivalry

Where there is Breitling, there is Rolex. Like the aviation specialist, Rolex is a heavyweight in many spheres of the watch industry. Nevertheless, the two luxury brands could hardly be further apart. While Breitling could be crowned king of aviation, Rolex is top dog underwater. Then again, you can’t deny the two brands’ similarities. Both have exciting histories, both have several iconic models in their lineups, and both offer wide-ranging collections vying for the attention of watch enthusiasts. Given the sheer volume of high-quality classics both manufacturers offer, it’s hardly surprising that they’re among the most popular watchmakers in the world, and that fans repeatedly draw comparisons between them. Find out who comes out on top in our head-to-head: Rolex vs. Breitling: The Ultimate Brand Comparison.


About the Author

Donato Emilio Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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