Breitling is a brand of Swiss watches from the Canton of Jura. The watchmaker offers Certified Chronometers designed primarily for aviation use, though most frequently worn as high-end luxury watches. Breitling's watches offer aviation functions, though their chronograph functions have become more of status symbols than practically applied tools. They typically have a large face (e.g. the Breitling for Bentley Motors edition has a 48 mm Case Diameter) for better visibility and to allow display of more information on the analog dials. Many other models feature an automatic winding mechanism that is purely mechanical (i.e. using no electronic components). Many Breitling watches are equipped with additional functions such as the flyback function, split-second, moon phase, date display and other complications.
All Breitling watches are manufactured in Switzerland and are made from Swiss components. Raw movements are obtained from ETA and Valjoux and are modified in the Breitling Chronometrie Workshops (former Kelek S.A.) before (since 1999) undergoing extreme COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) certification.
Quartz models such as the Breitling Aeromarine Colt start at $1,650.00, while typical prices of mechanical, steel cased models are $7,300 (US) for the Breitling for Bentley Motors model. The expense is due to the exclusivity of the Bentley trademark, as well as the 38 jewel self-winding movement as these steel cased models are more expensive than some of Breitling's Titanium or Gold models. Some special edition models also include diamonds on various parts of the watch. I.E. Diamond Bezel, Diamond Bracelet, etc.
Breitling was a sponsor of Team Bentley during their Le Mans 24 Hours campaign, running from 2001-2003. To commemorate this event, Breitling created the Limited Edition Breitling Bentley 24 Le Mans Watch
In the 1940s, Breitling added a circular slide rule to the bezel of their chronograph models for use by aircraft pilots. This became the famous Navitimer model. During the 1950s and 1960s, a version of the Navitimer was offered by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association with the AOPA logo on the dial.
In 1961, Scott Carpenter, one of the original astronauts in the Mercury space program, approached Breitling with idea of incorporating a 24 hour dial instead of the normal 12 hour dial. This was needed because of the lack of day and night during space travel. Breitling complied, and produced the 24 hour Navitimer which Carpenter wore on his 1962 space flight. Breitling then proceeded to produce the 24 hour version as the so-called Cosmonaute Navitimer - under both Breitling and AOPA logos.
The Breitling Emergency version contains a radio transmitter for civil aviation use which broadcasts on the 121.5 MHz distress frequency and serves as a back-up for ELT-type airborne beacons. (For military users, Breitling has equipped the Emergency with a miniaturized transmitter operating on the 243 MHz military frequency.) Under normal conditions—flat terrain or calm seas—the signal can be picked up at a range of up to 90 nautical miles (167 km) by search aircraft flying at 20,000 feet (6,000 m). As of 1 February 2009, the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System will no longer monitor the 121.5/243 MHz frequency; however, the signal transmitted by the Emergency was never strong enough to be picked up by satellite, and Breitling has announced that, as these frequencies will still be monitored by aviation, particularly during the localization phase of a rescue attempt, there are no plans to modify the signal's frequency.
In an incident that demonstrates how the Emergency can be used to save lives, Reuters reports that two British pilots, Squadron Leader Steve Brooks and Flight Lieutenant Hugh Quentin-Smith, crashed their helicopter in Antarctica and were rescued after activating their Breitling Emergency transmitter watches. The two pilots were in their lifeboat when a Chilean Otter aircraft found them after homing in on signals from their watches.
The Emergency is available for customers who do not hold a pilot's licence, but they must sign an agreement stating that they will bear the full costs of a rescue intervention should they trigger the distress beacon. The model was heavily advertised by the Breitling Orbiter 3—both Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard were wearing the Emergency. Also, Bear Grylls wears an Emergency with yellow face and rubber strap in many episodes of Man vs. Wild.
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Note: The ETA 2892 movements used in Breitling chronographs have been modified by the addition of a chronograph module by Dubois/Depraz.