History of Breitling

From 1884 to the present day Breitling still retains a mixture of style and precision.

1884: In St. Imiez, in the Jura mountains of Switzerland, Léon Breitling opens a workshop specializing in making chronographs and precision counters for scientific and industrial purposes.

1891: German Otto Lilienthal, known as the “father of aviation”, flies more than 50 meters (165 ft) in his glider.

1892: In response to his company’s significant growth, Léon BREITLING relocates in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the centre of Swiss watch making in those days.

1903: On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk (North Carolina), Orville Wright achieves the first powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine: 12 seconds over a distance of 36.5 meters.

1909: On July 25, 1909, Louis Blériot, “conqueror of the Channel” successfully flies from Calais to Dover in 37 minutes, in a Blériot XI.

1913: On September 21, 1913, Adolphe Pégoud, nicknamed “king of the air”, loops the first ever loop in aviation history.

1914: On the demise of Léon Breitling, his son Gaston takes over the firm.

1915: Gaston creates the first wristwatch chronograph and subsequently provides pilots with the first wrist instruments.

1918: The spectacular progress made in aviation during World War I does much to hasten the end of the conflict. It is the end of the era of the formidable “Red Baron”, Manfred von Richthofen.

1919: On June 15, 1915, John Alcock and his co-pilot Arthur Brown land their Vickers Vimy at Clifden, Ireland. Having left Newfoundland exactly 16 hours and 12 minutes earlier, they become the first to fly over the Atlantic.

1923: Breitling develops the first independent chronograph push piece. Start and return-to-zero functions had previously been controlled using the winding-crown.

1927: On May 20 and 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh flies the “Spirit of St. Louis” across the Atlantic from New York to Paris in 33 hours, 30 minutes.

1932: Gaston’s son, Willy Breitling, takes the helm of the family firm.

1934: Breitling develops the second return-to-zero push piece. This invention, making it possible to measure several successive short times with an added function using the first push piece, gives the wrist chronograph its definitive form.

1935: On January 12, 1935, Amelia Earhart flies solo across the Pacific from Honolulu to Oakland. This feat takes aviation’s popularity to dizzying heights.

1936: Breitling becomes official supplier to the Royal Air Force. This marks the start of a long-standing record of cooperation with international aviation.

1938: Boeing presents the first pressurized commercial plane, the Boeing 307.

1940: Igor Sikorsky demonstrates his mastery of free helicopter flight by keeping his VS-300 in the air for over 15 minutes, on May 13, 1940.

1942: Breitling launches the Chronomat, the first chronograph to be fitted with a circular slide rule. In parallel, the company broadens its professional clientele to include the American armed forces. July 18, 1942, sees the test flight of the world’s first jet aircraft, the Messerschmitt 262. Equipped with arrow-shaped wings, an aerodynamic fuselage and an ejection seat, it is considered to be the forerunner of modern aircraft.

1947: At 10.30 am on October 14, 1947, the Bell X-1 flown by Chuck Yeager breaks through the hitherto inviolate sound barrier. The era of supersonic flight dawns.

1952: Breitling creates the Navitimer, a wrist instrument equipped with the famous “navigation computer” capable of handling all calculations called for by a flight plan. This super chronograph quickly becomes a firm favourite among pilots around the globe. By this stage, BREITLING is already supplying the major international airlines with cockpit counters. The De Havilland Comet, the first ever-civilian jet aircraft, inaugurates the era of jets on May 2, 1952, with a regular London-Johannesburg flight.

1957: On December 20, 1957, the first series produced Boeing 707 takes off from Seattle. Twice as fast as other commercial aircraft, it offers hitherto unrivalled levels of comfort.

1962: Astronaut Scott Carpenter wears the Cosmonaute chronograph on his wrist during his orbital flight aboard the Aurora 7 space capsule.

1965: Entry into service in the US Air Force of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird; this high-altitude strategic reconnaissance plane, able to reach three times the speed of sound, quickly pulverizes all speed and altitude records.

1969: Breitling invents the self-winding chronograph movement, in cooperation with Büren and Heuer-Leonidas. This technical feat represents a major breakthrough for the entire Swiss watch industry. The year of superlatives. On February 9, 1969, the Boeing 747 or Jumbo Jet makes a successful test flight. Weighing 315 tons, able to carry 400 passengers or 50 tons of freight and 178 tons of fuel, it is the largest civilian aircraft ever built. Barely a month later, on March 2 in Toulouse, the Franco-British Concorde supersonic plane takes off for the very first time.

1974: The European Airbus project takes shape with the entry into service within Air France of the A-300, the first twin-engined wide-bodied jet airliner.

1979: Ernest Schneider – a pilot, watch manufacturer and microelectronics specialist – takes over the Breitling brand from the founder’s grandson, Willy Breitling.

1981: Aeronautical innovations continue with the first stealth bomber, the Lockheed F-117. This aircraft, capable of avoiding radar detection systems, is secretly put into service from 1983 onwards, but its existence will only be officially recognized in 1988.

1984: Breitling launches the Chronomat, in close cooperation with the “Frecce Tricolori” elite flight team. With its sturdy case and famous bezel with rider tabs, the Chronomat marks the return of the chronograph and quickly becomes the best-selling line in the Breitling collection, a position it has held ever since.

1985: The Aerospace, an innovative multifunction electronic chronograph crafted in titanium, immediately appeals to many pilots.

1986: Aboard the experimental Voyager plane, Jeana Jaeger and Dick Rutan achieve the first non-stop round-the-world flight without refuelling, in only 216 hours.

1993: On March 4, 1993, the Saab Gripen began operating within the Swedish Air Force. It is the world’s first 4th-generation fighter plane in service. Described as a “multi-role” aircraft, it can be used for interception, attack and reconnaissance missions.

1994: Entry into service of the B-2 stealth bomber made by Northrop Grumman.

1995: Breitling presents the Emergency, a multifunction instrument watch with built-in micro-transmitter broadcasting on the 121.5 MHz aircraft emergency frequency.

1997: A major development in military aviation, with the first flight of the F-22 Raptor from Lockheed Martin; this 4th-generation fighter aircraft, which is also a stealth bomber, is the most sophisticated plane ever built.

1998: Breitling launches the B-1, the most versatile multifunction chronograph ever to emerge from its workshops. Designed in cooperation with aviation professionals and fitted with a microprocessor specially developed for Breitling, the B-1 embodies significant progress in the field of Swiss microelectronic engineering.

1999: The last aviation record is set on March 21st 1999. After 20 days of flight, the experimental Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon, flown by Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard, touches down in the Egyptian desert. It has achieved the apparently impossible: a non-stop round-the-world balloon flight.

1999: 1st Round the World Balloon Flight by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones in the Breitling Orbiter 3 – Duration of the flight was 19 Days 21 Hours 47 Minutes.

The history of Breitling began in 1884, when the company was founded by Leon Breitling, continued by his son and grandson Willy, who in 1934 invented a second return-to-zero push piece, making it possible to measure several successive short times, with an add function, using the first push piece, giving birth to the modern mechanical chronograph. It remains Breitling’s biggest selling instrument. Since the 80’s when the company was taken over by Ernest Schneider, Breitling has only increased in popularity among the new generation, fascinated by the adventurous image, the rugged oversized cases and complicated dials. Year after year, the House expands its historic collections, which include some of its best sellers like the Crosswind, Chronomat, Wings, Navitimer, Montbrillant and Rattrapante, to name but a few. Included among Tarrytown Jewellers Pre-Owned watch collection are many Breitling’s, on bracelets and straps. Call us or drop us an email, to own a premier watch at a discounted price today.