As one of the most popular starter watch brands in the market, Breitling has established itself as a household name with a reputation for precise and high quality movements at a much cheaper price relative to other luxury timepiece brands. Founded in 1884, the company was created by a man named Leon Breitling in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, a skilled watchmaker who specialized in crafting timepieces and intelligent measuring tools. Leon Breitling’s goal was for his company to specialize in the field of timers and chronographs – a specific type of clock that’s used as a stopwatch. At the time, there was a huge need for chronographs for many different industries such as industrial, military, science, and sports. Back then, there were no computers or iPhones, so a device to accurately and precisely measure time was desperately needed. In 1914, Leon Breitling unfortunately passed away and the company was passed on to his son Gaston. The following year, Breitling achieved their founder’s dreams and manufactured their first chronograph wrist watch.
A few years later in 1923, the company improved on the chronographs with a new innovation that would separate the reset function from the stop and start function. About a decade later, the Breitling brand perfected this innovation by creating a design that would involve a second independent push-piece, thus paving the way for the design that is still used to this day in all modern chronographs.
Due to the wild success of Breitling’s iconic chronograph design, many of Breitling’s competitors quickly began to copy this design and use this invention in their timepieces as well. In 1935, the Breitling brand passed down to Willy Breitling. Despite all the success and momentum of the brand from its innovation in chronographs, things took a turn for the worse for the brand when the children of the Breitling brand were not interested in continuing to run the family business. Due to the Breitling heir’s lack of interest in continuing to operate the business, the Breitling factory in La Chaux de Fonds closed in December 1978. Willy Breitling, who was already in poor health during the closure of the factory, died the following year. That same year, Ernest Schnieder, the owner of a company called Sicura, bought the name Breitling from the founding family. Schnieder then moved the production of Breitling timepieces to his Sicura factory and the Schnieder family retained ownership of the Breitling brand until 2017 when Theodore Schnieder sold his majority stake (around 80%) CVC Capital Partners for over $870M. A year later, Theodore Schnieder sold his remaining shares (about 20%) to CVC. As of today, Breitling is a household name known for its innovations in the world of chronographs and their signature movements. We will now cover two different Breitling models, SuperOcean and Navitimer, and what to look for when shopping for those models.
Breitling SuperOcean and SuperOcean Heritage
The first model of Breitling that we’ll cover is the SuperOcean and SuperOcean Heritage models. As one of Breitling’s most famous timepieces, the SuperOcean/ SuperOcean Heritage is not only one of Breitling’s most popular timepieces, but it is one of the most popular timepieces in the entire watch market in the sub-4k range. Very often these timepieces are the first luxury timepiece of a new enthusiast entering the market due to the timepiece being very aesthetically appealing and it being a very high quality timepiece in terms of the movement and reliability. Due to it being such a popular watch with a very reasonable price-point, the SuperOcean/ SuperOcean Heritage has a HUGE following. When it comes to these timepieces, the most popular sizes are going to be the 42 millimeter and the 45 millimeter.
Typically, if someone has a wrist size that is 7.5 inches or smaller, the 42 millimeter is better and if their wrist is larger than 7.5 inches than the 46 millimeter is for them, although this isn’t a perfect formula and plenty of people with sub 7.5 millimeter wrists wear a 46 millimeter just fine. One thing to be VERY careful of when looking at listings to look at the case size. One scenario that is very common for a buyer in search of a Breitling SuperOcean/ SuperOcean Heritage is a listing for sale that is much cheaper than the other listings on the market. The mistake many buyers will make is to get excited thinking they have come across a killer deal and they will make an offer before they even read the listing carefully. Usually in these situations, the devil is in the details, and that detail is usually case size. Typically, a listing much cheaper will be more of an awkward size for most male buyers (although could be a great pickup for someone with a much smaller or larger wrist than normal!). It’s common to scan the listing and see the size is a 38 millimeter or 48 millimeter, or to not see the size listed at all, which in that case you of course would ask the seller. Either way, these are great picks for anyone looking for their first luxury timepiece.
Next, we’ll cover arguably Breitling’s most popular model, the Breitling Navitimer. Originally launched in 1954, its name comes from two words that were used to describe its purpose: navigation and time. In 1961, one of the original astronauts in the mercury space program, a man named Scott Carpenter, reached out to Breitling with the idea of incorporating a 24 hour dial as opposed to the traditional 12 hour dial. The reason this idea was suggested was because of the lack of night and day in space. Breitling was able to deliver and manufacture the 24 hour Navitimer which Carpenter wore on his 1962 flight.
Ever since then, the Navitimier has become an extremely coveted model of Breitling. In the modern day, there are several different Navitimer models: Navitimer World, Navitimer 8, Navitimer 01, Navitimer B01, Navitimer Heritage, Navitimer Rattrapante, and the Navitimer GMT. These are obviously a lot of models, but when shopping for a Navitimer, just know the most popular models that will typically bring the highest premium are gonna be: World, Navitimer 01, Navitimer B01, and GMT. The reason for that is those models all contain a similar looking dial that tends to be the most popular. When it comes to the movements, the B01 is the most desirable followed by the 01. In terms of sizing, you really want to go the 43 or 46 millimeter if you’re looking for a timepiece that will hold its value.
To conclude, we covered the history of Breitling as well as two of its most popular models. Armed with this knowledge, you can now confidently buy your first Breitling.
Until next time,
Matthew Thomas Pourroy
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