Buying Guide: New & Used Breitling Watches
Breitling enjoys a reputation for manufacturing reliable watches for the most demanding situations. Based in Grenchen, Switzerland, the luxury brand was founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling. Breitling is well-known for its precision chronometers for aviators and divers, its major contributions to the modern chronograph.
Main Features of Breitling
The chronograph, commonly known as a stopwatch, is used to measure elapsed periods of time. For over 130 years, Breitling has worked to shape the chronograph's function and design.
In 1915, Breitling created the first wristwatch chronograph with an independent push button, enabling pilots to focus on their task at hand. In 1934, the watchmaker took this concept even further, filing a patent for the first chronograph with two pushers. One started and stopped the mechanism, while the other reset it. These innovations shaped the modern chronograph—independent pushers for starting, stopping and resetting a chronograph have become the de-facto arrangement that almost all brands use today.
Breitling's focus on aviators saw the debut of its famous Navitimer watch, featuring a column wheel chronograph mechanism in 1952. Today, Breitling continues to innovate with its diverse collection of watches, while maintaining a respect for its incredible history.
Top Models of Breitling Watches for Sale
The Breitling Chronomat is an aviator watch born from necessity. When the Chronomat was introduced in 1942, it was the first wristwatch to feature both a chronograph mechanism and circular slide rule. Slide rules are mechanical computers, which aid people in performing complex calculations. The modification of the slide rule to a circular format—and the application of it to a wristwatch—was extremely convenient for pilots who needed to regularly perform these complex calculations. The Breitling Chronomat has been through many design iterations, and today features a sleek and refined style that pays tribute to its 1942 roots.
The Chronomat's popularity with aviators eventually led to the development of the Breitling Navitimer, which features an improved bezel slide rule designed specifically for pilots. This legendary chronograph was introduced in 1952 and remains extremely popular due to its integrated flight computer bezel. The Navitimer's bezel is a mechanical computer, like an abacus, without any integrated electronics. It can perform complicated mathematical operations, allowing pilots to determine their fuel consumption, rate of climb and average speeds. In addition, the bezel has a scale for converting between standard miles, nautical miles and kilometers.
Adding to the legitimacy of the Navitimer, the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association named the Navitimer its official watch in 1954. Breitling continues to develop the Navitimer today, with a variety of models featuring different case sizes, metals and dial designs.
The Breitling Emergency is the first wristwatch to include a personal locator beacon, capable of signaling a network of satellites to aid in the location of the wearer anywhere in the world. The satellite network is known as the Cospas-Sarsat Program, an international cooperative that forwards signals generated by distress beacons to local authorities. Prior to the Breitling Emergency, distress beacons were large devices specifically made for aviation or maritime use.
The Emergency features a miniaturized dual frequency transmitter and integrated antenna, making it easily usable by any individual in any situation. Breitling has stated that there have never been any false alarms generated by its Emergency, and that the wristwatch has saved the lives of over 20 people. To purchase the Emergency, a disclaimer must be signed, stating that the owner understands that they will be liable for any costs associated with activating the distress beacon in a false alarm situation.
Breitling is famous for their pilots' watches, but their expertise is not limited to the skies. In 1957, the Breitling SuperOcean was introduced. It remains an iconic diving watch. Designed as a utility watch for both military and professional divers, the SuperOcean's popularity quickly spread to recreational divers.
In the 1960s, Breitling released the "slow counter" version of the SuperOcean, featuring a chronograph mechanism that indicates the elapsed minutes in place of the usual elapsed seconds hand. The reason for this was simple—seconds are not critical when determining dive time. In addition, an indicator at six o'clock is used to show whether the chronograph mechanism is running, reset or stopped.
Recently, Breitling launched the '57 Capsule Collection, featuring case and dial designs reminiscent of the original 1957 models, with no date window. The SuperOcean is an extremely capable dive watch and deserves a place on the wrist of divers of all skill levels.
With the success of the Breitling Navitimer already under its belt, Breitling looked to diversify its collection by introducing the Top Time in 1964. The Top Time was marketed towards a younger audience—perhaps, someone who looked up to the pilots flying during the golden years of aviation. While the Top Time was originally marketed towards a new generation of watch wearers, it gained wide popularity when Sean Connery wore one as James Bond in Thunderball.
Breitling for Bentley
In 2002, Bentley Motors asked Breitling to design a timekeeper for the dashboard of its new Continental GT, resulting in the longest lasting partnership between an automobile manufacturer and watch brand. Breitling's association with Bentley Motors goes back even further than 2002. Willy Breitling, the grandson of Breitling founder Léon Breitling, was known for his affinity for Bentley automobiles. He was often seen driving his Bentley cars on Swiss mountain roads, no doubt timing his drives with a Breitling chronograph. Breitling for Bentley lives on as Bentley special editions, which are part of the brand's core collections.