Plaza Watch International - - Baselworld Roundup -

Bre­itling’s main man Jean-Paul Gi­rardin is on record as sug­gest­ing that no­body should ex­pect any­thing too rad­i­cal from the watch com­pany. He likens it to the car in­dus­try, which is in­creas­ingly seg­mented and spe­cialised. So too with watches: Bre­itling’s field is the tool-like, ev­ery-so-slightly ma­cho and, typ­i­cally, rather shiny. All of which means it loses sales to po­ten­tial mar­kets – women, for ex­am­ple – but keeps its soul, so to speak. Per­haps that ex­plains why its Chro­mo­mat is still a best-seller for the com­pany, de­spite it hav­ing been launched 30 years ago next year, or why its Nav­itimer is now the old­est me­chan­i­cal chrono­graph in con­tin­u­ous pro­duc­tion. They were built to do a job and still do it. So why change them? Think of Bre­itling, per­haps, as the watch equiv­a­lent of that other fa­mous Swiss prod­uct, the Swiss Army Knife. Small won­der, in­deed, that the technophile Bre­itling has been among the lead­ing com­pa­nies in in­vest­ing in au­to­mated man­u­fac­ture and as­sem­bly line-type prod­ucts such as its Sam­ple Man­age­ment Sys­tem, one bor­rowed from the med­i­cal world.

It hasn’t hurt sales: the updating of its pris­tine, lab-like man­u­fac­tory means it can now dou­ble its pro­duc­tion from the cur­rent 150,000 or so pieces per an­num, half of which are me­chan­i­cal chrono­graphs, all cer­ti­fied as such. New launches – from Bre­itling’s gi­gan­tic aquar­ium-fronted Basel­world stand – have in­cluded its new Emer­gency 2 (now with two trans­mit­ters), a devel­op­ment of the 1995 watch, and three new mod­els for Bent­ley with Bre­itling chrono­graph move­ments. Of course, Bre­itling – a fam­ily-owned, in­de­pen­dent com­pany – is not de­pen­dent on up­take by avi­a­tors and ac­tion men. Re­cent years has seen it dip into ar­chive, with its Su­per Ocean Her­itage, and re­fine­ment, with its Transocean Chrono­graph Unitime, fea­tur­ing the Cal­i­bre 5, rein­vent­ing the way world timer mech­a­nisms work to make them, in short, prop­erly use­ful. Again, de­spite be­ing very dressy, func­tion­al­ity comes first.

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