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watch specialist breitlings

Kes Crockett | Watch Department

Taking place on March 21st, the upcoming Luxury Watch Sale at Fellows features an exciting selection of watches. These cater for a variety of tastes. Among the 256 lots up for grabs we have fantastic array of over 30 Breitlings. Today we will take a closer look at the brand and some the models available.

History of Breitlings

Horology, perhaps more than most industries, places significant importance on the history and heritage of the brands themselves. With the existence of companies such as Vacheron Constantin, who have been in continuous production since 1755, it is understandable that many manufacturers build a story around their past, no matter how contrived. Breitling however, are one watch house with genuine credentials and important technical contributions to the world of watches.

Founded in 1884 by master watchmaker Leon Breitling, the focus of the company was to create watches and other high accuracy timing instruments which could satisfy the growing needs of society following the industrial revolution. The primary focus of Leon Breitling was in the genre of chronograph watches, and their use especially in the field of aviation. The year 1915 saw Breitling’s first wrist chronograph, two years after Longines introduced the 13.33Z. Both the Breitling and Longines utilised a monopusher design but Breitling were looking to improve on this and did so by creating the first chronograph to use a separate push piece. This would make their watches easier to use in the sky and allow pilots to focus their attention on the more import tasks of take-off and landing.

Breitlings Post 1920s

Breitling’s continued work on both wrist watches and aeronautical timing instruments was noticed around the world and in 1935 they were contracted to make chronographs for the Royal Air Force. By 1940, and now under control of Leon Breitling’s grandson Willy, WW2 was well underway. With the Nazis making great efforts to restrict Swiss exports, including watches to allied forces, Willy improvised and built a makeshift runway near the Breitling factory, allowing him to get his merchandise to the people who needed it most.

1952 saw the birth of Breitling’s most iconic watch, the Navitimer. A slide rule bezel was featured, allowing aviators to make important in-flight calculations. The luminous hour markers and hands ensured legibility in the darkest conditions. There were no conditions darker than space, which created its own unique inconvenience. Without the rising and setting of the sun, it wasn’t possible to know whether it was day or night back on earth, so a simple modification to the hour wheel of the movement enabled the use of a 24-hour dial. Problem solved. In 1962 Lt. Commander Scott Carpenter orbited the earth with this tweaked timepiece named the Navitimer Cosmonaute. 

Until this point in time all chronograph watches had been of the manual wind variety. However, the public was moving towards automatic watches and companies sought to meet this demand. Zenith and Seiko would go it alone, whilst Breitling, Heuer-Leonidas, Hamilton-Buren and Depraz and Co. all teamed up to work together, and ‘Project 99’ was formed, resulting in the Calibre 11.

Breitlings Post 1960s

It is still a topic of much debate as to which of the above-named manufacturers were first to the automatic chronograph finish line. Whoever it was, 1969 proved to be an important year in chronograph development as all four groups announced their new innovations.

Just ten years later after almost a century of ownership, the Breitling family would sell their shares to Ernst Schneider. His family owned the watchmaker up until 2017. Whilst the Schneider family still own a 20% stake, the majority 80% share is owned by private equity company CVC Capital Partners. One of the more notable facts about Breitling is that in its entire history since 1884, it has only had five CEOs. Each seemingly passionate about the brand and eager to move the industry forward.

One of the more recent Breitling highlights was the release of the ‘Emergency’ wrist watch in 1995. The watch is equipped with a micro-transmitter. This allows the wearer to send a distress signal if they found themselves in serious trouble. It has saved over a dozen lives. A serious watch with rumour of significant fines for misuse, but a model we have seen a number of over the years in our auctions.

Breitlings under the hammer

With so many examples available this March, it is hard to pick a favourite. Below is a small selection, but many more Breitlings, and host of other brands can be seen here.

From top left to bottom right: Lot 12 – Breitling Chronomat, Lot 16 – Breitling Avenger GMT, Lot 17 – Breitling Navitimer, Lot 23 – Breitling for Bentley B06, Lot 35 – Breitling Premier, Lot 41 – Breitling SuperOcean.

The Auction

The auction will take place on Monday 21st March and starts at 10:00am. You can view the full auction by clicking here.

Viewing Times (Photo identification is required)

London

15th March 2022 12pm-7pm
16th March 2022 9.30am-1.30pm

Birmingham

18th March 2022 10am-4pm
21st March 2022 8.30am-10am

Virtual viewings are available by request.

Valuations

Our valuations are free, with no obligation to sell with us. Our experts will value your item with an estimate, so you can find out what it could achieve at auction.

The process is simple, so you can get a valuation now:

Fill in a form online. In addition, you can book an appointment to visit our offices in Birmingham and London. Moreover, you can book a virtual valuation appointment.

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