MASTERING THE ELEMENTS
How Breitling is seeking world domination, realm by realm.
Watch industry head honcho Georges Kern is a master in delivering a message. At the beginning of 2018, the CEO (and part-owner) of Breitling started to lay his groundwork for the brand, six months after having officially taken up the post. His ambitious plans included moving the brand away from niche-aviation territory and into a more expansive, lifestyle-centred space; streamlining collections; and expanding in China.
Fast forward to the end of the year, and Kern had rolled out watch lines featuring designs that were new but anchored in Breitling’s 134-year history, categorised by four distinct pillars – Land, Sea, Air and Professional. It has also signed on numerous famous faces for its various squads: Aside from its Cinema Squad, for instance, its campaigns also feature a Surfers Squad, led by Kelly Slater. Breitling is also steadily growing its presence in China, having built more than a quarter of its goal of 80 stores in the country. We take a look at how the brand has been developing three of its key pillars.
In markets such as Japan and Singapore, a big Breitling bestseller has nothing to do with the brand’s famous aviation history, but with the sea – consider the Superocean Heritage dive watch. An interesting, environmentally friendly partnership emerged from Breitling’s partnership with American surfing icon Kelly Slater, who is also the most famous member of the brand’s Surfers Squad.
What sets the Superocean Heritage II Chronograph 44 Outerknown apart is its black-and-blue woven strap, which is made from Econyl yarn – a material created from recycled nylon, partly sourced from fishing nets dredged up from oceans. This automatic chronograph watch, which is water-resistant to 200m, was made in partnership with Outerknown, a sustainable clothing company co-founded by Slater. The watch also comes in packaging entirely made from recycled materials.
“Elegance, style and motoring,” says Kern, are the inspiration for the new Premier collection, which includes a special, green-dialled edition for Breitling’s long-time partner, Bentley. Aside from chronographs powered by either the B01 in-house movement or B13 Valjoux 7750-based movement, the collection also includes a day-and-date model and a time-only automatic watch. These watches are the descendants of the brand’s Premier classic chronographs, which first appeared in 1938.
Until now, the last time a new Premier model was released was in 1964, said well-known American Breitling collector Fred Mandelbaum, who now serves as a consultant. He added: “After Georges saw the Premier models the first time we met, it took just 10 minutes for him to decide to make them again.”
Official press images weren’t yet available at the time of publication, but we must state for the record that one of the coolest novelties that has many journalists drooling is the new Aviator 8 timepiece. Styled like a Navitimer 8 – the lifestyle-driven version of Breitling’s Navitimer 1 tool watch – the Aviator 8 “Curtiss Warhawk” has a deep khaki-green dial and is inspired by the famous Curtiss World War II fighter plane, the P-40 Warhawk.
Even though Breitling is currently de-emphasising its hardcore aviation timepieces, it still knows better than to alienate its long-time fans and serious watch nerds. That’s why the Navitimer 1 B03 Rattrapante, which features a new in-house split-seconds chronograph movement – a technical achievement not many brands can boast – was also on show at Beijing, despite having been released in 2017.
BIG ON CHINA Breitling CEO George Kerns (third from left) has ambitions for China that include the establishment of 80 stores in the country. The brand’s launch of its flagship in Beijing saw celebrities (from left) Peter Lindberg, Brad Pitt and Daniel Wu gracing the event.