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Since 1884, Breitling has held its own special place in watchmaking history. Founder Léon Breitling wished to accomplish something different for his timepieces other than simply creating a different type of movement. Instead, he wanted to make a better way of timing intervals. Mr. Breitling lived during the rise of the automobile, and until his death, he wished to ensure every sport was properly timed.

While he continued his work creating chronographs in this 20s and 30s, it wasn’t until 1915 that Léon Breitling successfully created the first wrist chronograph pusher. It wouldn’t be another eight years until the company created the innovation of separating the stop/start functions from the function of resetting. It was this innovation that truly began the modern Breitling that we all know and love in 1934 – along with the arrival of Willy Breitling, Léon’s successor.

A Classic is Born

In 1942, the bloodline of a classic began. Breitling’s Chronomat was created. The modern version of the Chronomat is a far cry from this original version. Instead, it resembles the modern Montbrilliant, sliding calculator and all.

Much like the advent of the automobile sparked the founding of Breitling and Léon’s focus on chronographs, it was the advent of the passenger and military airplane in the early 1940s that sparked the sliding calculator on the new Chronomat and its successor, the Navitimer.

The sliding calculator’s inventor was mathematician Marcel Robert. Robert created a scale with the three most important units for pilots – STAT for standard mileage; KM for kilometers (naturally); NAUT for nautical miles. The sliding calculator served as an important tool for pilots to calculate fuel consumption, speed, and climbing speed.

In 1952, the modern Navitimer was born, taking its place as a natural evolution of the Chronomat. It was embossed with the logo for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association or AOPA. The name “Navitimer” is an amalgamation of the words “Navigation” and “Timer” playing on its heritage as a pilot’s timepiece. While the Omega Speedmaster may have been the first watch to the moon, Breitling has its own space history. Original Seven Astronaut Scott Carpenter wore a Navitimer on his orbital flight on the Aurora 7 space capsule, making it the first spacefaring chronograph. In 1969, Breitling built upon its heritage of innovation by creating the first self-winding chronograph movement.

Survival During the Quartz Crisis  

In the 1970s, all of this history may have been lost with the quartz crisis. Like many other traditional Swiss watch brands, Breitling was especially hard-hit. While they had created many innovations that are still used to this day, they did not have a quartz watch unlike rival watch companies from Japan, were slow to respond to the changing market. Instead, they weathered the storm by selling the rights of the design their 806 and 809 Navitimers to German brand Sinn for their 903 line.

New Breitling owner Ernest Schneider breathed life into the brand in the 1990s by recreating many models with sturdy and reliable Valjoux automatic movements. During this time, Breitling could have been lost, but Schneider thankfully saved the brand from obscurity.

True Rebirth

The year 2009 will go down in Breitling’s history as yet another year of rebirth – it was the year the B01 movement was released to the market. This new movement, naturally debuted on the Navitimer, was the first full in-house movement to come out of the brand since before the dark days of the Quartz Crisis. It started a chain of several in-house movements that permeate the brand today including the B04 dual timezone and B05 Worldtimer.

In addition, turning the very thing that nearly killed the brand on its head, Breitling has become known for some of the most sophisticated quartz watches on the market today with its Superquartz movement and Emergency line of watches. The Breitling Emergency stands as the only watch with an integrated dual frequency locator beacon.

Today, Breitling is one of the best respected Swiss watch brands in the world. From Navitimers to Transoceans to Chronomats to Colts, this brand has stood the test of time.

Breitling and Burdeen’s Jewelry

As a Breitling Authorized Dealer for well over a decade, Burdeen’s Jewelry has an intimate relationship with the brand. While other AD’s may have 50 to 60 pieces, Burdeen’s has well over 100 Breitling watches in stock at any given time. Plus, if you see one on the internet, on a watch forum or in a magazine, chances are, we can locate it for you and get it on your wrist.

We were a Breitling dealer before we moved into our flagship location, when we were in our humble strip mall location across the street, so it is one of our most treasured Swiss watch brands. We have hosted several customer events, including a successful event with customers flying in a World War II plane, Bentley events and more.

The Navitimer, Superocean, or Chronomat on your wrist means just as much to us as it does to you. To pick up your Breitling or to look at any of Breitling’s models, visit our 9,000 square foot location on Lake-Cook Road or call us at 847-459-8980.

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