Breitling at AATime
Breitling chronographs and watches are made in the north west of Switzerland, in the French speaking region of the country. Historically, Breitling watches have been used in aviation, as they have larger than average faces which allow for the display of additional information on sub dials.
Breitling watches are unusual in that many of the models have mechanical and not quartz movements. This means that they are resistant to electrical and magnetic fields and electromagnetic pulses, whereas a quartz watch's mechanism can be destroyed by these phenomena. Many models also feature an automatic winding mechanism, which is powered by everyday movements in the wearer's wrist.
The company was founded in 1884, when Léon Breitling set up a workshop to make chronographs and precision instruments for industry. In 1914, Léon died and his son Gaston took over the company. The following year, in 1915, Gaston created the first chronograph wrist watch designed to be used by aviators. The successful creation of pilots watches culminated in 1936 with Breitling becoming the official supplies of timepieces to the RAF.
In 1942, the Chronomat was lauched. This was the first watch that had incorporated into its design a circular slide rule. This was followed in 1952 by the Navitimer, which was capable of performing the calculations needed for a flight plan.
The major innovation for Breitling occurred in 1969, when they invented the first ever automatic winding mechanism, in conjunction with Buren and Heuer-Leonidas.
In 1979, the Breitling name was taken over by Ernest Schneider, who happened to be both a pilot and a watch manufacturer with an interest in electronics. He took over the company from the founder's grandson, Willy.
In 1995, Breitling launched the Emergency Chronograph. This instrument has a built in emergency transmitter for civil aviation use, that broadcasts on the 121.5 MHz distress frequency which can be picked up by search aircraft. They have since launched an alternative version for the military that broadcasts on the 243 MHz military frequency. Breitling sponsored the first round the world balloon trip by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones in 1999 in the "Breitling Orbiter 3", and achieved much publicity due to the fact that both pilots were wearing the Breitling Emergency.
In 1998 the Breitling B-1 was launched, which was fitted with custom made microelectronics. In 2001, Breitling introduced "Superquartz", a quartz movement that is ten times more accurate than traditional quartz movements. In 2002, they opened a mechanical movement manufacturing factory called "Breitling Chronométrie" in the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds where the founder Léon established the business over 100 years earlier.
What can be considered as proof of authenticity? This is a difficult question to answer definitively as the following items can themselves be faked by unscrupulous forgers. However, at the very least, you should get the original packaging, paperwork, box, instruction manual and a warranty certificate or an insurance valuation including the serial number, which you can verify with the insurers concerned. You may be able to get the serial number in advance to confirm with the manufacturer that the item is genuine.
Even if you satisfy all of the above criteria, there is still no guarantee that the item is genuine. If it seems too good to be true, it's usually fake. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).