I’ve always been an aviation buff and a watch aficionado.
After taking a vintage T-33 “T-Bird” through a loop or two and later experiencing a “Top Gun” F-18 aerial combat exercise, I asked a few pilot acquaintances of mine what kind of watch they each wore. I wondered what could handle the multiple G’s entailed in barrel rolls, loops, and going supersonic.
The usual answer was the Swiss watch maker, Breitling. Not to sell short Rolex or any of the other quality Swiss timepiece manufacturers out there, but from the 1930’s the Royal Air Force was a regular customer, with Breitling analog clocks gracing the cockpits of RAF Spitfire fighters and Lancaster bombers.
When Breitling came out with their Chronomat watch in 1942 it became a military favorite for its accuracy and durability. It just so happens that a more modern version of the Chronomat is my favorite watch! Later, the Breitling Navitimer incorporated a circular slide rule into its dial and became the first true in-flight all-in-one computer. Breitling’s Navitimer Cosmonaute was the first Swiss chronograph in space continuing the tradition of aviation/space pioneering.
In fact, a Breitling even graced the wrists of the men aboard the first non-stop round-the-world balloon trip, made in the Breitling Orbiter 3. I know this because I had a nice chat with its pilot, Bertrand Piccard, at the 100th anniversary ball of the famed Explorers Club at New York’s Waldorf Astoria in 2004. (Point of potential interest: Bertrand’s great-uncle (and aviation pioneer, to boot) Jean Piccard, was an Explorers Club member, as was his friend Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. Guess who was the inspiration for Captain Jean Luc Picard, skipper of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation? I wonder if Captain Kirk owned a Breitling…
While digital watches have replaced the precision analog movements of yester-year for navigating aircraft, this does not stop people from loving the engineering and painstaking work that goes into crafting such a watch. Like we appreciate (or maybe even drive) a ’69 Shelby Mustang or a vintage Bugatti, both car and watch aficionados continue to appreciate and treasure the classic styles and mechanisms… and newer versions of the same.
So you can understand why, on a recent visit to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, I was drawn to the Breitling Boutique in the Shops of the Forum. Michael Bedrossian, the store’s sales manager, kindly showed me some of the latest offerings and my eyes were immediately drawn to the new Avenger series, and specifically, the Avenger Hurricane. Jet black and composed of the same super-tough material that makes up fighter cockpits, the hefty-looking watch felt feather-light on my wrist. I could imagine my hands at the controls of an F-22 Raptor doing Mach 2 while wearing this chronograph (unfortunately this is not likely to happen unless a friendly US Air Force general out there cares to lend me one).
Of course Breitling caters to the other extremes with its Superocean series watches rated to 1000 feet (3300 meters) depth. Other of their Professional series include the Exospace, the Aerospace, the Cockpit and Chronospace Military.
For the very adventurous, the Breitling Emergency is the first watch to sport a true dual frequency distress beacon. Fighter cockpits, high altitude balloons, the ocean’s depths, space, the list of places where Breitling ventures just goes on and on…
Breitling now crafts its own B01 in-house movement proudly installed both in classic lines such as the Navitimer, Chronomat and Premier, as well as their newer lines. The Colt offers a more affordable entry level timepiece for those who wish to own a Breitling. Be sure to buy at an authorized Breitling dealer or authenticate your watch with a trusted chronologist if buying second hand.
Thanks again to Michael Bedrossian for re-acquainting me with Breitling and updating me on their latest offerings.
Look for Michael at the Breitling Boutique at the Forum Shops at Caesars. Tell him I sent you.
Photos by Stella Burden-van der Lugt—All rights reserved.