From Breitling’s role as a life-saver to the first space flights from the pre-Moonwatch era – hot off the press, here are 10 facts about Breitling you may not have been aware of.
1. The Breitling Cosmonaute was the first chronograph in space
The most famous chronograph that was used in a NASA mission is without a doubt the Omega Speedmaster Professional. However, what’s not widely known is that it was actually the astronaut Malcolm Scott Carpenter that made a Breitling Cosmonaute into the first chronograph outside of the earth’s atmosphere. The model was constructed with the unique demands in mind that outer space would place upon it.
Along with a slide rule for navigational calculations, the tri-compax-chronograph was equipped with a 24 hour display. This enabled a determination of the day time independent of the display and astronauts could ascertain the position of the spaceship by knowing the exact time and the sun’s position.
2. All Breitling quartz movements are certified by the COSC
Breitling has all of its quartz movements certified by the inspection body and can therefore officially name them chronometre. The 11 day certification process includes a test of the watch’s rate deviation, which (independent of the temperature) is only allowed to amount to a maximum of 0,05 and 0,2 seconds per day. Unlike Rolex, there’s a certificate included in the scope of every one of Breitling’s deliveries.
3. James Bond wore a Breitling
Sean Connery wears a Breitling Top Time chronograph in the movie Fireball. However, Major Boothroyd doesn’t just give him the timekeeper to determine the exact time (it’s a Bond watch people). With the aid of a built-in Geiger-counter, the smooth talking agent in the service of her British’s majesty could also measure ionized radiation levels. Up until today, this was the only time that James Bond wore a Breitling in one of his dangerous adventures on the big screen.
4. The Chronomat is the base design for the Navitimer
Quite rightly, the Navitimer is widely considered the definitive pilot’s chronograph. At its core, the typical look of the Navitimer with a grooved bezel and tri-compax arrangement originates from the Chronomat launched about a decade prior. Today’s Chronomat doesn’t have much in common with its past iteration and this is probably why this tidbit of info is often overlooked.
5. The Chronomat was originally constructed for mathematicians and scientists
The Chronomat was created during a period of time in which watches often were constructed to meet specific occupational tasks. Since Breitling is synonymous with aviation and the Navitimer later became the official timekeeper of the APOA Pilot Association, it’s often believed that the Chronomat was originally designed specifically as a pilot’s watch. Yet, its name somewhat gives away Breitling’s intended target group: the Chronomat was originally intended to aid mathematicians at work, as it comes equipped with two scales that synchronise with one another and which enable varying mathematical calculations.
6. Breitling presented its first manufacture chronograph movements not too long ago
Breitling is inseparable from high grade chronographs. Quite surprisingly, it took until 2009 for Breitling to launch its first in-house chronograph calibre. Prior to that, it exclusively incorporated ébauches from movement suppliers like Venus, Valjoux, and ETA. The B01 itself is a solid, accurate, and dependable calibre. The brand also guarantees a manufacturer’s warranty of a respectable 5 years for all its models that have incorporated the Breitling 01 movement.
7. Today, Breitling is not the same company that it once used to be.
At the end of the 1970s, Breitling found itself mired in financial difficulties and ultimately had to declare bankruptcy and sell off multiple assets. The proprietary rights to the name Breitling and Navitimer were sold to its competitor Sicura, who was known at the time for its mid-range diving watches and chronographs. As one of the few manufacturers that doesn’t belong to the three largest watch corporations Richemont, Swatch, and LVMH, Breitling continues to trek on with its sporty oriented legacy which is still today largely characterised by short-term measurement and aeronautics.
8. The Breitling Emergency has saved well over a dozen lives
As the worldwide first wristwatch with an integrated emergency beacond, the Breitling Emergency has been a timekeeper life-saver since 1995. In fact, in at least two cases the watch has proven to be the real deal. In 2003, two stranded British helicopter pilots were rescued in Antartica and almost ten years later an Alaskan hunter.
9. Breitling only creates oversized watches
Breitling has a reputation for manufacturing large sized timekeepers that are only worn by people with equally large wrists or those, quite simply, with a passion for oversized watches. However, Breitling frequently offers moderately designed watches with case sizes between 40 and 42 mm. Some of the models even clock-in at only 36 mm: particularly designed for thinner wrists.
10. Old Breitling movements are often not signed
In the 1940s and early 1950s, bridges of most Breitling movements weren’t branded. This affected most of the more basic models e.g. the ones in which the Venus 170 calibre was incorporated. The reason for the absence of a signature is quickly explained: most manufacturers never foresaw that devoted enthusiasts would rise up around their brands. The identification of signatures, labels, and serial numbers wasn’t always given a lot of consideration.