Breitling has just announced three retro takes on their iconic pilot’s watch — the mighty Navitimer — that evoke the golden age of jet travel. The Airline Editions capsule collection consists of tributes to three of the great airlines, Pan Am, Swissair and TWA. Each airline is the subject of nostalgic homage, in the form of a colourful, and undeniably cool, version of the Navitimer 1 B01. The context behind this capsule collection is quite interesting, as these are limited production, limited run watches, rather than a limited edition per se. The purpose behind this approach is to highlight specific historic stories or associations — something that Breitling has in spades. But onto the watches themselves. The Swissair edition is a black base dial marked by orange highlights of a tone that is particularly ’70s, along with a logo printed on the clear caseback. Pan Am is blue with a very similar orange, while TWA is orange details on a creamy, ivory dial and a nice vintage-style calf strap. Now, these watches are great and all, but I’ve got one problem. Why isn’t Qantas, Australia’s own flying kangaroo, in the mix?
In case you’ve been living under a rock this past year and a bit, ever since industry great Georges Kern took hold of the reins at Breitling, the big, bold brand of the skies has undergone a serious streamlining. Finding inspiration in their past and releasing focused collections that encompass four separate categories: air, sea, land, and professional. The latest addition to the revamped catalogue is the land-based Premier Collection, which not only reflects the design of Breitling’s first truly elegant watch – released in the 1940s – but also takes on its name. Home to four models, plus one special Breitling for Bentley chronograph, the collection starts with a duo of simple yet debonair three-handers. The Premier Automatic 40, a time-only model with small seconds subdial, and the Premier Automatic Day & Date 40, a slightly more complicated model with central seconds and a day/date display. Both feature 40mm cases and a water-resistance of 100 metres. Naturally, there’s also a pair of chronographs, with one powered by the brand’s impressive B01 column wheel chronograph movement and the other containing the venerable Valjoux 7750. While both use very similarly sized 42mm cases – varying only slightly in their thickness –… Read More
If you’re not familiar with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (AKA the FHH), it’s one of the industry’s peak bodies, founded in 2005 to promote fine watchmaking in Switzerland and across the world. It’s an organisation with 43 partner brands, the most recent being Breitling. This development should come as no massive surprise if you’ve been following the recent developments around Breitling, spearheaded by Georges Kern, who stepped away from Richemont to take Breitling’s top job. Mr Kern has worked his trademark magic on the blue-chip brand, seriously shaking up the Saint-Imier-based manufacture, including a streamlined product offering. And while membership of the FHH, and alignment with spreading the message of fine watchmaking seems like a nice symbolic gesture, there’s actually a very tangible reason why it matters. The FHH is the organising body of the SIHH, and many FHH members (in addition to Richemont Group brands that dominate the Salon) also exhibit at the Salon. Does this announcement mean that an announcement about Breitling showing at SIHH is just around the corner?
Last night we wrote a piece on Robert Downey Jnr’s watch collection, and we cast some aspersions on his Breitling ‘Pathfinder’. Our initial thoughts were that is was a fake (like his Speedy), because it said ‘Pathfinder’ in suspicious red letters and had an unusual logo on the dial. But then we wondered, to cover all possible bases, could this have been a movie prop piece? Or perhaps a prototype of some kind? After all, celebs get given all kinds of crazy things us mortals could only ever dream of. The plot thickened when a gentleman in the British Army messaged us saying that the Pathfinder Group was an elite group (of 28 men) in the 16th Air Assault Brigade. Turns out that they’re a reconnaissance group who are responsible for marking and clearing parachute drop zones and helicopter landing zones. The logo on the watches dial is likely the insignia of the one of the British Parachute Regiments. If you want to see how tough they are, check this out. Armed with this knowledge, the watch makes more sense. Breitling has a long history of making small batches of custom dials for military units, so, while we can’t find… Read More
This article first appeared in GQ Australia Editor’s Note: All’s well that ends well. I agreed to take a flight standing on the wings of a bi-plane for GQ, on the invitation of Breitling, and clearly I survived. Because I lived to write about it then, by publishing a pithily titled list of ‘5 things you should know…’ before you agree to do it yourself. And, yes, I live to repost it now, many years later. An incident occurred last week that reminded me of the sometimes unorthodox lengths Breitling will go to to reinforce their aviation story and I thought it would be a good time to revisit an experience I’ve had on the topic. 5 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WING-WALKING 1. It is the shortest possible route to divorce/breakup Do you have a pesky partner that no amount of subtle or outward meanness can dislodge from your bed/life? Just go wing walking. My wife cried herself to sleep the night before it happened, after pleading with me in the name of reasonableness, on the names of our unborn children and then in a morbid last-ditch effort, by sending me a screen shot of a wing-walker plunging to his… Read More
There are few watches that live up to their marketing hype, and even fewer that can claim to have genuinely saved lives. Breitling has long been considered the pilot’s watch of choice, but it was the Breitling Emergency that solidified the company’s commitment to aviators and adventurers around the world with one truly unique complication — the personal locator beacon. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, we explore one of the most unique watches ever made. The story began with Ernest Schneider, the man who acquired Breitling in 1979 when it was on the verge of collapse, and kept it afloat during the quartz crisis, thanks to a new generation of iconic Breitling models. An officer with the Swiss Army signal corps during World War II as well as a passionate pilot and engineer, he was involved in discussions at a NATO conference in the mid-1980s about emergency beacons and the high incidence of false activations which cost the relevant authorities significant time and money. It was at these talks that the idea of a watch with a personal locator beacon was born. Following the meeting, Breitling began working with Dassault Electronique to create reliable beacon technology that could be… Read More
The story in a second: Breitling shave 4mm off their big, bad Avenger Blackbird, making it a whole lot more wearable. As watch brands go Breitling isn’t exactly subtle. It takes a fairly tremendous amount of self-confidence to promote your watch as being tougher, more precise and generally more badass than a freaking aircraft carrier. Confused? Check out the video below, preferably on an big screen with big sound. Sure, the Avenger is probably better at telling the time than the USS Nimitz, but I suspect the Nimitz has the edge on the unleashing deadly payload front. But somehow it works. Breitling make unashamedly bold and masculine watches, and they make them well. Take the new Avenger Blackbird 44, even the name is cool, sounding like a backup character in the latest Marvel movie. But Breitling realise that not everyone has the forearm firepower that can handle a 48mm case (the sizing of the previous Avenger), and they’ve scaled it down to a large, but more manageable 44mm. Everything else is business as usual though – the titanium case with DLC coating backs up the promise of the Avenger’s ‘Blackbird’ claim. Dial and strap are also black, the only accents being the… Read More
One of the most interesting Breitling collections of recent years is the Transocean. It’s a family that consistently references Breitlings rich aviation legacy, but unlike most Breitlings, the Transocean celebrates civilian flight, rather than military. The result is a watch that is still masculine, but less Arnie and more Bogart. The Transocean Chronograph Edition (we’re calling it the TOC for short) continues this inspiration from the past. The TOC is inspired by a 1958 chronograph – we suspect either a Top Time or a Premier model. Whatever the source inspiration the result is a very fine looking timepiece. The TOC is a two-register chronograph with a sweet two tone cream dial, with applied gold indices and a date at 6. This dial is well complemented by the steel case with pump style chronograph pushers, and we think it looks great on a Milanese bracelet, though it’s also offered on leather. The subtle vintage touches continue the more subdued direction of their Basel collection. Breitling have added a nice touch on the rear of the watch – Breitlings manufacture Caliber 01 movement is hidden behind an officer style caseback, the sapphire display caseback has a protective steel cover. It’s a nice… Read More