Breitling: Aviation Watch Mastermind – Brand’s Origin

Ryan Yip Brand's Origin, Watches Leave a Comment

Whenever I see the name “Breitling”, all I can think about is their sweet Navitimer 01. I mean, look at that beast, on point with its dial complication with a sleek combination of black, white, yellow and a hint of red. But, what made Breitling?

Breitling Navitmimer 01

Founded in 1884, Léon Breitling started his modest watchmaking business in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, specializing in sports, science and industrial related chronographs. In the year 1889, Breitling was granted a patent for a model that designed that stood out from the rest. After just a few short years, it outgrew its small studio at the time and decided to relocate to the then watchmaking nexus, La Chaux de Fonds.

In 1893, the company once again patented a movement with an astonishing power reserve of eight days, it is almost beyond science to do so back in the days. Moreover, in 1905, as automobiles were rising to be the preferred transportation method, Léon created a timer that allowed drivers and police to measure any speed between 15 and 150 km/h. Soon after this renowned invention, the first speeding tickets were issued in Switzerland.

Justice was served properly because of him.

The Gifted Successors Of Breitling

Unfortunately, Léon Breitling passed away around a decade after the relocation, leaving the business to his son, Gaston. During WWI, Gaston saw the increasing need for accurate timing devices from the pilots, he took note of it and made a timely decision to shift the brand’s focus to creating pilot’s watches.

His work was quickly paid off. In 1915, Breitling introduced its very first chronograph watch. In 1923, the Breitling brand made another invention that would soon change the world, they introduced one of the first watches to be able to measure multiple times in sequence.
*** Interesting fact: most of Gaston’s products were undesigned and the dials mostly showcase the customer’s name. I was not until later in the 1920s that name “Breitling” finally appeared on the watches.

However, legends often can’t escape their grim fate, in July of 1927, Gaston Breitling passed away unexpectedly. The company was managed by an external team for a while until Willy Breitling, Gaston’s son was old and mature enough to take the helm, what followed shocked the whole world once again.

In 1934, Willy proceeded to develop a wrist chronograph that has pushers, allowing a start, stop and also a reset of the timer. Although it may sound normal to include the reset function, before Willy’s invention, the world was stuck with only the first two. This was only the beginning.

2 years after the ingenious invention, he introduced an aviator chronograph specially designed with luminescent numerals and hands that could glow in the dark, as well as the rotating bezel. This marked the beginning of Breitling’s tunnel vision on the development of aviation watches.


Truly, a family gifted with the talent to watchmaking.

The Huit Aviation Department

Created by Willy Breitling in 1938, A French word for “eight”, reflecting their eight-day power reserve offered by most of their wrist chronograph so targeted for professional aviators. Their very special designs and lightweight cases soon caught the attention of military aviators. At that time, WWII was looming and the Huit Aviation Department received a huge order for chronographs from the Royal Air Force which performed so well throughout the war, granting them an undisputed reputation and massive respect.

Breitling is only doing better and better after and is now one of the top watch brands in the world. When it comes to aviation wristwatch, they are definitely at the top and is there to stay.

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