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There is no other watch brand more associated with precision and adventure than Breitling. Dubbed as “instruments for professionals”, generations of pilots, divers, scientists, and explorers have relied on robust Breitling watches to keep time.
Since its inception in 1884, Breitling has carved its very own place among watch brands, but their watches can certainly be enjoyed by all. Whether for land, sea, or air, Breitling makes top-notch luxury watches that combine technical precision, excellent quality, and legendary design. Aside from its unmistakable aesthetic, Breitling holds the distinction of having every current watch COSC certified.
Whether you’re looking for historic favorites like the Navitimer, a robust tool watch like the Avenger, or an elegant everyday timepiece like the Transocean or Premier, there’s a Breitling watch for your taste and lifestyle. Explore our selection of authentic, pre-owned Breitling watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.
Léon Breitling, a watchmaker and businessman, founded his namesake company in 1884 in Saint Imier, Switzerland. His mission was to develop the most precise watches on the market, and so the company focused on creating chronographs for use in science, sports and industrial purposes. In 1892, the company relocated to La Chaux de Fonds, which was the hub of watchmaking at the time.
When Léon passed away a decade later, his son Gaston took over. Noting the progress of aviation in WWII, and seeing the need for precision tools for pilots, he shifted the company’s focus to creating pilot’s watches. During this period, Breitling introduced innovations that we see in chronographs until today. In 1915, they created a push-piece at 2 o’clock to start, stop and reset the chronograph functions. Eight years later, they revised the design with separate start and stop functions, letting the time-keeper add successive or lap times without returning the hands to zero. This new feature was made useful for pilots and sporting events.
By 1932, Gaston retired and his son Willy took over the company. Willy continued on innovating the chronograph function, and helped Breitling secure partnerships with the United States Army and the British Royal Airforce.
When the 1950s came, Breitling had already established themselves as the choice supplier of superior pilot watches. This was further cemented when they created the Breitling Navitimer in 1952. The Navitimer featured the slide rule – incorporated into the rotating bezel, it allows the wearer to calculate air speed, flight time, distance, fuel consumption and rate and time of climb and descent.
In 1969, Breitling made another groundbreaking horological advancement. Along with three of their cohorts, Heuer, Burne, and Dubois-Depraz – they developed the world’s first self-winding chronograph movement. This was a true watershed moment not only for the brands involved but for the watchmaking industry.
In 1979, Willy Breitling sold the company to Ernest Schneider, an engineer and amateur pilot. Under his leadership, Breitling took on a new era of revolutionary technologies. They marked the resurgence of the mechanical chronograph with the Chronomat (1984); created the Breitling Emergency, with a built-in emergency transmitter (1995); and since 1999 has made each one of their mechanical and quartz watches certified by the COSC – making them the only watch company in the world to have every watch certified as a chronometer.
Since 2017, Breitling has been under the leadership of CEO Georges Kern. He has since streamlined the structure of the brand into aviation, land, and sea offerings, and have drawn from its rich heritage when creating new releases.
To this day, the brand continues to uphold Leon Breitling’s mission to develop the finest precision watches in the market.
Breitling has roots in creating tool watches, or watches made for specific functions. With their expertise in chronographs, they have created precision timepieces for every industry imaginable – from science and sports, to aviation and diving.
Today, Breitling offers a robust catalog of timepieces with distinct functionalities and designs.
The Breitling Chronomat is the brand’s first chronograph watch. Created specifically for engineering, mathematical, and industrial use, it was for the Chronomat that the rotating slide-rule was built and patented. It was the Chronomat that inspired the birth of the most famous Breitling of all, the Navitimer.
The Chronomat has been produced in many forms, including an automatic chronograph watch in the 1960s, and a quartz non-chronograph in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the Chronomat was updated as a pilot’s watch without the circular slide rule. It has since been marketed as Breitling’s all-purpose timepiece.
The Breitling Navitimer is the brand’s most popular timepiece. Built especially for aviation use, its name comes from the combination of the words “navigation” and “timer”. It is characterized by its iconic slide rule, which enables pilots to access crucial calculations for a safe and well-controlled flight. The Navitimer has been the choice timepiece of companies like Boeing and groups like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
In its seven-decade history, Breitling has introduced numerous versions of the Navitimer chronograph. These include versions with added complications like GMT, perpetual calendar, and split-seconds chronograph functions. In 2019, Breitling introduced the time and date only Navitimer 1, which retains its characteristic slide rule even without the chronograph function.
The Breitling Superocean is the brand’s first diver’s watch. Deep-sea diving and sea exploration began to flourish in the 1950s, and so did the need for proper diving watches. In 1957, Breitling put their dive stakes on the ground with the Superocean. With a depth rating of 200 meters, it had the highest water resistance among divers at the time.
Over the decades, Breitling has fine-tuned the Superocean to keep up with the times. The highest depth rating for a Superocean is now 2000m (6560ft), which is more than the rating of most dive watches. They also included a helium escape valve for extra resistance to underwater pressure.
In 2007, to commemorate the half-century of the original Superocean, Breitling introduced the Superocean Heritage line.
With design cues taken from the 1950s Superocean, the Superocean Heritage comes with a steel bezel with minimal markers, a crown without guards, large sword hands, and a mesh “Milanese” bracelet.
A decade later, the Superocean Heritage II was introduced, updating the design with a shock- and scratch-resistant ceramic bezel, and a Super-LumiNova luminant-filled pip at 12 o’clock on the rotating bezel.
The Breitling Transocean is the brand’s line of watches for the global traveler. The mid-1950s saw the flourishing of global exploration by air and sea, and the popularity of intercontinental travel. Breitling created the Transocean for the new wave of passengers looking to jet set around the world.
The Transocean is characterized by a polished and elegant design, well-suited for a traveling executive. Despite its refined form, the Transocean was a shock-proof, anti-magnetic, and “super-sealed” automatic chronometer.
It was discontinued shortly after its release but was revived in 2010. The modern Transocean line features a distinctively vintage design, powered by the in-house caliber B01.
The Breitling Colt is a collection of robust timepieces originally built for the armed forces. It is characterized by a robust build, broad unidirectional bezel, 200m depth rating, and its signature rider tabs. The dynamic but readable design made it popular among mainstream audiences, and with an attractive price point, it was soon established as Breitling’s entry-level model.
The Breitling Professional Series is a collection of models representing the hardest use watches of the brand. It is composed of quartz and automatic workhorse watches made especially for adventurers and professionals.
Breitling Aerospace Evo – First introduced in 1985, then updated in 2015, this multi-functional watch features an analog / digital display and an array of functions: a 1/100th-second chronograph, countdown timer, second time zone, alarm, an audible time signal analagous to a minute repeater, calendar functions, and a battery end-of-life (EOL) indicator.
Breitling Emergency – Introduced in 1995, the Emergency was the first wristwatch with a built-in emergency micro transmitter. With a 121.5 MHz international air distress frequency, the first Emergency model was designed to accurately home in on pilots or passengers following a plane crash. The watch also has numerous functions such as a chronograph, timer, and calendar.
Breitling Endurance Pro – Introduced in 2020, this sports watch is aimed at people who lead high-performance lifestyles. It features a robust, lightweight, and hypoallergenic case made of Breitlight, the brand’s trademark polymer. It also runs on the brand’s Superquartz movement, which aside from being chronometer certified, are specially adjusted to compensate for variations in temperature.
The Breitling Avenger is an aviation watch designed to withstand the most extreme conditions. To differentiate the Avenger from Breitling’s other aviation watches, it was given a bulkier bezel and dial, exceptional build quality, and a more industrial look.
The Avenger was updated in 2013 with the Avenger II, which features improved technical capabilities such as a depth rating of 300 meters, and a power reserve of 40 to 55 hours. Under the Avenger II is a sub-collection called the Seawolf – a super diver with up to 3,000-meter water resistance.
The Breitling for Bentley is a collection of watches born from the collaboration between Breitling and British luxury automobile brand Bentley. The two companies first came together to design the dashboard clock for the first ever Bentley Continental GT. This was followed by a line of watches inspired by the aesthetic of Bentley timepieces. Most Breitling Bentley watches feature a knurled bezel reminiscent of Bentley’s characteristic grille. The collection is composed of models with chronograph, world time, and tourbillon functions, all powered by in-house calibers.
The Breitling Galactic is a collection of robust sport watches with elegant touches. Most commonly embellished with mother of pearl dials and diamonds, the Galactic adds a spot of dressiness to its rugged construction. Models come in time only, big date, and chronograph versions.
The Breitling Chronoliner is a collection of modern pilot’s chronographs with a vintage nuance. Its standout feature is the hard and scratch-proof ceramic bezel featuring a star-shaped cut-out, to facilitate the wearer while rotating it. The Chronoliner is also equipped with a GMT function, enabling the wearer to keep track of three time zones at the same time.
The Breitling Premier is a collection of classic dress watches inspired by historical timepieces from the 1940s. They are characterized by refined cases, narrow bezels, and thin hands suited for everyday elegance. As its name suggests, the Premier line is targeted towards fashion-forward and affluent clientele. It was introduced in 2018 with four core references in time only, day-date, and chronograph formats.
Breitling uses a dual reference number and serial number system to keep track of its manufacture and sale. The watches are first given identical reference numbers, which are used to identify their design, material, and movement. Then, each individual watch is given a unique serial number to differentiate that piece from the rest of the production.
Both the serial and reference numbers can be found on the underside of the Breitling watch. Serial numbers are randomized, unique numbers used by the brand to mark one watch. Meanwhile, reference numbers carry more meaning – each digit denotes information about the watch’s type, design, movement, and certification.
The Breitling reference number is most commonly a 12-digit code composed of numbers and letters. Each digit can be interpreted as follows.
1st digit – denotes the case or bezel material. Composed of a single letter.
A – Steel bezel/case
B – Steel bezel/case/gold riders
C – Rose gold bezel/steel case
D – Yellow gold bezel/steel case
E – Titanium bezel/case
F – 18kt bezel/titanium case
G – White gold bezel/steel case
H – 18kt rose gold bezel/case
J – 18kt white gold bezel/case
K – 18kt yellow gold bezel/case
L – Platinum bezel/steel case
M – Blacksteel bezel/case
N – Carbon case
P – Platinum bezel/steel case
R – Red gold bezel/case
T – Palladium bezel/case
V – Black titanium bezel/case
X – Breitlight® case
Y – Ceramic bezel/steel case
2nd and 3rd digits – denote the movement or caliber used. Composed of two digits or letters.
10–49 – Mechanical movements
50+ - Quartz movements
4th digit – denotes whether the movement is COSC Certified or not
0 – non-COSC certified
3 – COSC Certified
5th and 6th digits – denote the model type. Two digits composed of random numbers.
7th & 8th digits – denotes the case finish.
10 – Satin/brushed/titanium finish
11 – No special finish
12 – Polished finish
13 – Satin and polished finish
53 – Diamond bezel
9th digit – denotes the dial color.
A – mother of pearl, white, beige, ivory, arctica
B – black, anthracite, diamond black, royal ebony
C – blue, moroccan blue, meteor, neptune blue, peacock blue
E – rhodium
F – slate, slate-grey
G – silver, silver storm
H – champagne, amber, desert dune
I – yellow
J – smoke grey
K – red, burgundy, sunset, rose
L – green, turquoise, laurel green, spruce
M – graphite, titanium
O – coral
Q – bronze, havana, grey violet, burnt oak
10, 11 & 12th digits – three digits of random numbers used to denote the dial design.
While the reference numbers provide a lot of information, they don’t contain the production date of the timepiece. In addition, Breitling serial numbers are not dated like those of Rolex or Omega watches.
However, sometime in the 2000s, Breitling began stamping their watches with production dates.
Breitling watches have built a peerless reputation for precision and impeccable craftsmanship, making it one of the most sought-after watch brands in the world. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Breitling.
Throughout its history, Breitling has specialized in innovations meant to deliver accurate, precise, and aesthetically appealing watches. This makes Breitling watches difficult to replicate. If you see any sign of substandard craftsmanship, such as misspellings or poor finishing, it is likely that the timepiece is fake. For more telltale signs of a counterfeit, here’s How to Spot a Fake Breitling Watch.
Moreover, we always advise clients to buy only from a reputable watch dealer, who can provide a guarantee of authenticity on the timepiece.
Breitling watches offer a combination of a rich heritage, impeccable craftsmanship, and innovative features that make them valuable as a collector. They tend to hold their value well as people will continue to invest in a name like Breitling due to these qualities and success in the market.
Breitling recommends a maintenance service every 2 years, which involves cleaning the case and bracelet, checking water resistance, and changing the seals and quartz batteries. In addition, they recommend a complete service every 4 to 6 years, which involves disassembly of the watch, and cleaning and exchange of standard movement parts. These are general recommendations, but there can be signs that your watch needs maintenance sooner rather than later. Here’s our guide on Signs It’s Time for Watch Maintenance.
Even robust timepieces like Breitling watches require routine maintenance and repair. At SwissWatchExpo, we provide a full range of services, from basic maintenance to major repairs and restorations, performed by master watchmakers at our state-of-the-art service center. Every watch that is sent to us is handled by expert watchmakers from start to finish. Here’s more information about our stringent Repair Services.
SwissWatchExpo provides estimates free of charge. The cost of the repair or maintenance service will depend on the model of your Breitling watch and its current condition. When you send us your timepiece, it will first be examined by our master watchmakers, who will draw up an estimate of the work to be done. Only when you approve the cost estimate will the process commence.
Breitling has the distinction of introducing some of the first and most well-known tool watches, particularly those from the golden ages of travel and aviation. For this reason, many watch collectors seek vintage Breitling models from decades ago.
With the brand’s reputation for quality and reliability, it’s not impossible to find a vintage Breitling watch in great working condition. Purchasing a pre-owned Breitling watch allows for the opportunity to discover these rare references or models that are no longer in production.
Breitling’s current production is also composed of excellent timepieces that carry the legacy of the brand, while being upgraded with the latest technology. Many of these are also available in the pre-owned market. In fact, there are watches being sold that have been kept in their box completely unworn. Choosing to purchase second hand means you can enjoy a significant price discount while still owning an exclusive and valuable piece.
If you would still like your watch as brand new as possible, pre-owned watches can be bought in mint and excellent condition – even unworn and in its original packaging. At SwissWatchExpo, we commit to delivering the watches in “like new” condition. All of our pre-owned Breitling watches, vintage and contemporary, are fully restored and guaranteed genuine, to give you peace of mind, and a timepiece you’ll be proud to wear on your wrist.
If you’re in the market for a Breitling watch, our experts are ready to help find the right piece for you.