This has been a big year for Breitling so far. CVC Capital Partners, the private equity company that sold its controlling interest in Formula One Group to Liberty Media last year, has shifted some of those profits to acquire the watchmaker for a reported $870m. Prior to this purchase, this family business was one of the last remaining independent Swiss watch brands.
Breitling CEO Jean-Paul Girardin also confirmed a partnership with Tudor, which started several years ago with the idea to share resources in design and production. The new Tudor chronograph for example features Breitling’s in-house B01 movement and Breitling gets to use Tudor’s simpler mechanical movements where applicable. This will allow both companies to be more competitive with high-performance movements, said Girardin in a recent interview.
Breitling has been around for over 130 years and as early innovators can be credited with inventing the face of the modern chronograph. For improved performance the founder Léon Breitling separated the chronograph controls from those of the watch, which saw the introduction of the first independent pushpiece. It’s most noted association with the world of aviation dates back to the early 1930s when its trusted chronographs where mounted in Royal Air Force cockpits during WW2. Breitling played a key role in the boom of commercial aviation and its onboard chronographs were standard equipment right into the 1960s on jet aircraft of many companies. Today, fortunate owner of vintage planes might find a good use for a pilot’s watch, and so too in future might an Airbus pilot need of a back-up should his equipment fall in the hands of hackers. For the rest of us with a pure fascination of flight, they’re there to simply navigate our dreams.
The well-established masters of the chronograph also presented their much-anticipated new split second Calibre B03 movement at BaselWorld this year. Encased in an updated iconic Navitimer with its built-in aviation slide rule, the innovative activation and reset of the split second function of this ‘Rattrapante’ (or double chronograph) is achieved through a pusher integrated into the crown. “Simple solutions to complex problems,” says Girardin referring to the new features as well as the company’s approach to watchmaking.
At the same time Breitling released the new Colt Skyracer, which features their ‘SuperQuartz’ movement. Although this is clearly a brand listening to the demands of the market, it also highlights that the company, which prides itself on highly accurate mechanical movements is also a leader in electronics in watchmaking. Apart from its Exospace B55 connected chronograph launched last year, the brand’s Emergency released in 1995 was the first wristwatch to be equipped personal locator beacon, both featuring the thermo-compensated SuperQuartz.
Known for accuracy and reliability, Breitling is one of the few companies that has all of its in-house movements — including quartz — officially chronometer-certified by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute) and its SuperQuartz is 10 times more accurate than standard quartz.
Traditionalists may think it strange for a renowned manufacture of mechanical watches to me doing quartz movements but this particular Colt clearly speaks to a new consumer. Named after the plane flying the Breitling colors in the Red Bull Air Race, the company says the Skyracer is a model “dedicated to thrill-seekers”. Its super-light yet robust 45mm case is made of Breitlight, their propriety high-tech polymer introduced last year in Basel on the Avenger Hurricane.
At R28500, it is reasonably priced for a Breitling and you get a super accurate, stand-out piece with great brand history. This black-on-black pilot's watch features a unidirectional, ratcheted bezel and bold white numerals on ‘Volcano’ 24-hour dial. The crystal is glare-proofed sapphire. Its removable rubber strap has various measurement scales and according to the company is “useful to adventurers of all kinds”.