History of Breitling

written by YWH team 1 January 2016
History of Breitling
History of Breitling
Founded: 1844
Founding place: Saint Imier, Switzerland
Founded by: Léon Breitling
Current headquarters: Grenchen, Switzerland
Owned by: privately held
Official name: Breitling S.A.
quickspecs line

The history of Breitling starts in the 19th century when Léon Breitling (1860-1914) founded a workshop in 1884. It was located in Saint-Imier, Bernese Jura, Switzerland. According to Breitling’s website Léon devotes himself to an exclusive and demanding field: that of chronographs and timers.

When founder Léon dies in 1914 his son Gaston (1884-1927) takes over the business. In 1915, Breitling heralds the emergence of the wrist chronograph by inventing the first independent chronograph pushpiece. In 1923, the firm perfects this system by separating the stop/start functions from that of resetting. This patented innovation thereby made it possible to add several successive times without returning the hands to zero. Very useful for timing sports competitions and for calculating flight times.

Gaston Breitling dies in 1927 and five years later his son Willy Breitling buys the company. In 1934, Breitling creates the second independent reset pushpiece. In 1969, the brand presents, as they claim, the first self-winding chronograph movement.

The Swiss Ernest Schneider (15 April 1921, Fribourg – 28 May 2015) takes over Breitling in April 1979. In fact Schneider buys the brand name ‘Breitling’ and the name ‘Navitimer’ as the Breitling company is in a big crisis due to the competition of quartz movements. He is already the owner of the Sicura watchmaking firm in Granges, since 1960, but Schneider is not a watch maker. He has a military and engineering background and focuses on management. In May 1979 Willy Breitling dies.

In general, Breitling is known for their strong relation with aviation. Models have been developed in collaboration with pilots and pilots associations. Their connection with the British car brand Bentley is world famous: there are several Breitling for Bentley models and it looks like it is a sort of a co-brand.

Breitling is one of the few traditional Swiss watch making companies that is privately held but in June 2017 CVC Capital Partners will have 80 percent of the company.

The history of Breitling:


1860 – Birth of Léon Breitling
1884 – Opens a workshop in the Swiss Jura
1914 – Founder Léon Breitling dies
1914 – Léon’s son Gaston Breitling takes over the business
1915 – Invents first independent chronograph pushpiece
1923 – Separates the stop/start functions from that of resetting
1927 – Gaston Breitling dies
1932 – Gaston’s son Willy Breitling takes over the business
1934 – Creates the second independent reset pushpiece
1969 – Presents the first self-winding chronograph movement
1979 (April) – Ernest Schneider buys the brand name and rights and continues the brand
1979 (May) – Willy Breitling dies
1990 – Theodore Schneider takes over the company
1992 – Jean-Paul Girardin starts working for Breitling and later becomes CEO of Breitling
2015 (28 May) – Ernest Schneider dies
2017 – Company is sold to CVC Capital Partners, Theodore Schneider will keep 20%

The full list of oldest watch brands in the world might interest you…

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