Founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling, the company that still bears his family’s name began as a small manufacturer of chronographs and precision counters for science labs and industry. As Brietling’s business grew (in 1892, he moved his young company to the Swiss watch making center of La Chaux-de-Fronds), so too did advances in aviation. It wasn’t long before Breitling timepieces and the aircraft industry were inextricably linked.

After Breitling’s death in 1914, his son Gaston took over the family business. One of Gaston’s first acts was to move the firm into wrist instruments. By 1915, Breitling had created the first chronograph wristwatch and it was soon providing pilots with wristwatches.

In 1923, Breitling developed the first chronograph with an independent pushpiece, making start and return-to-zero functions simpler and more intuitive. The flyback function was born. Gaston’s son Willy continued the refinement of the chronograph when he assumed control of Breitling in 1932.

Two years later, Willy Breitling oversaw the development of a wristwatch with a second return-to-zero pushpiece. This made it possible to measure several successive short times, improving the wristwatch’s functionality for pilots.

Advances like these and Breitling’s consistent focus on the needs of aviators led Royal Air Force to make Breitling its official supplier in 1936. Innovations continued throughout World War II — in 1942, the company debuted its Chronomat, the first chronograph wristwatch to be fitted with a circular slide rule on the bezel.

Other vintage Breitling models from the 1940s include the Premier, Cadette, Datora, and Unitime, whose dial was surrounded with city, country, and regional names from around the world ("S.Frisco," "Moscou," "Singapour," etc.) so that world travelers could easily compute international times.

One of the most collectible vintage Breitling watches was introduced in 1952. This was the mechanical, heavy-duty Navitimer, a serious wrist chronograph with enough bells and whi...

The Navitimer soared even higher in 1962 when Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter wore a version of the Navitimer that he had helped design on a three-orbit flight around the Earth. Carpenter’s tweak was to replace the wristwatch’s 12-hour dial with a 24-hour dial. The resulting Navitimer was called the Cosmonaute, which must have seemed ironical to NASA.

By the end of the decade, Breitling worked with watch makers Buren and Heuer-Leonidas to devise the first self-winding chronograph. It represented a major technical step forward that would benefit not just Breitling but the Swiss watch industry as a whole.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Breitling Chronomat 44 Flying Fish Black Dial On Bracelet Ab011010/bb08 UnwornBreitling B55Breitling Super Avenger Ii Breitling Chronomat 44 Ib011053/c790Breitling Ab0510 Transocean Unitime Pilot Ss Bracelet WristwatchBreitling Cockpit B50 - TitantiumMint Breitling Ltd Ed Ab0451 Massive Chronometer Chronograph 47j Box Tag PapersUltra Cool Breitling Bentley Massive A41390 Chronograph Box Papers Tag Mint Breitling Windrider Crosswind B13355 Men, 43mm With Genuine Diamonds, Paperwork Breitling Avenger Bandit 45mm Titanium,march 2017 Watch, E1338310-m534, Full SetBreitling A13370 Super Avenger Men's Watch Box And Paperwork! I Have A ReserveBreitling Professional Vb501022/bd41wrist Watch For Men Mens Breitling Evolution A13356 44mm Black Diamond DialBreitling Superocean 44mm A17391 Automatic 2000m Mens WatchBreitling - Montbrillant EclipseMens Breitling Superocean 42 1500m Mens Automatic Dive Watch A17364 Yellow DialExtraordinary,mens Breitling Colt Date Chronometre A17350 Automatic Diver's 500mBreitling Skyracer A27362 Sunburst Blue Dial Breitling Super Avenger W/ All Boxes And Papers. Recently Serviced!!!Breitling Superocean Heritage 46mm Automatic Stainless Steel Watch A17320 W/box Breitling Superocean Black Steel/orange. Limited To 250. Genuine Breitling A17390 Superocean Chronometer Massive Mens Watch Box Papers Breitling Chronomat Ref# D13048 18k Yellow Gold & Steel Wristwatch Breitling Avenger Blackbird 44 V17310 Black Watch Limited Edition Vintage Breitling Navitimer 1806 Chrono Matic Iraqi Military Watch & Steel StrapBreitling Navitimer Avi A13023 Automatic Chronograph Mens WatchBreitling Superocean Steelfish 2000m A17390Breitling Colt Chronograph A7338811/c905Breitling Skyracer 44mm Automatic Huge Watch Chronomat Evolution No Reserve LookBreitling Superocean Heritage 46 A1732024/g642 Black Bezel Chronometer Watch NrBreitling Aerospace Evo / Volcano Black Dial / Black Canvas StrapBreitling Hercules A39362Breitling Navitimer Montbrilliant Datora A2133012-g518ss Wrist Watch For MenBreitling Windrider Wings Automatic B10350 Watch (1152)Genuine Breitling Superocean A17360 Chronometer Mens Watch Box Papers Breitling Chronomat Men With Utc Auto, Black, With High-end Diamonds, DocumentsBreitling Aeromarine Superocean Steelfish 2010 Ref A17360 Divers 1500m Rare MintBreitling Bentley Flying B J28362 18k White Gold & Diamond Wristwatch Le 24/50Breitling Super Ocean Superocean Automatic Diver Watch Black Dial A17345Breitling Quartz Ii Colt Oceane Chronometre 500 M Stainless Steel Ladies WatchVintage Circa 1960s Breitling Navitimer 816 No ReserveBreitling Windrider Headwind A45355 Blue Dial 44mm Day Date Box Papers NrBreitling Windrider Chronomat A13048 Ss Automatic Chronograph Men's WatchBreitling Colt Chronograph A53035 Stainless Steel Black Dial Wristwatch & PapersGenuine 18k Gold Ss Breitling Wings Automatic Mens B10050 Watch W BoxBreitling Windrider Wings B10050 Automatic Mens Watch Ss 18k W/ White DialAuthentic Breitling Chronomat Chronograph Automatic Men's Diamond WristwatchBreitling Emergency Transmitter E76321 Titanium Men’s Superquartz Watch 43mmVintage Breitling Navitimer Jupiter Pilot Watch A59028Breitling Superocean Automatic 1000m 41mm A17340 Pre Abyss With Paper! 2 Straps!Breitling Chrono-matic 49 Black Steel Limited Edition 331/2000Breitling Colt Ocean A17050 Ss Automatic Men's Watch W/date Silver Dial & PapersVintage Breitling Chronograph Triple Date Calendar Moonphase Men WatchBreitling Colt Chronometre A74350 Excellent ConditionBreitling Avenger Ii Gmt Men's Watch A3239011/bc35-170a Black DialBreitling Colt Ocean 38mm Quartz Watch A64050Breitling - A17345 Superocean Professional Date 41.5mm AutomaticBreitling Shark 100 M Men Diving Watch Aeromarine A53065 Chronograph WhiteBreitling "colt Chrono Transocean" Quartz 100m/330ft Diver Watch A53340Breitling B13048 18k / Ss - All Original Including Band