From a small village to the top of the world

Together they launched the pilots’ favorite watches in Scandinavia, it became a success story, and Breitling’s popular watches have had a fair share of the Nordic market ever since. 

By Britta Rossander

Jet team

Jet team

It was Stephane Dehner and Michael Owers who brought the watches to Sweden through their newly founded company, Breitling Nordic. The Breitling brand itself was born back in 1884 by Leon Breitling in the small Swiss village of S:t Imier. Leon chose to move his company to the “city of watches”, La-Chaux-de-Fonds, eight years later.

Breitling produced their first wrist-worn chronograph as early as 1915, and in 1936 the company became official supplier to the Royal Air Force. In 1954 the Navitimer model was born, a chronograph that became a favorite of pilots all over the world. Breitling also supplied the major international airlines with watches for their cockpits.

The Breitling Colt model in four different versions.

The Breitling Colt model in four different versions.

The company was bought in 1979 by Ernest Schneider, since there were no heirs when the last generation of Breitling passed away. Today Ernest’s son Theodore Schneider runs  the business, and Theodore’s son in turn is already involved in the company, keeping the succession in safe hands.

Many watch enthusiasts remember the 1995 launch of the Breitling Emergency with a built-in micro transmitter that could send emergency signals on the airlines’ frequency. It proved itself useful when two British pilots crashed in the Antarctic, used their watches, and were rescued when a plane had picked up their signal.

A new generation of the model, called the Emergency II, was introduced last spring. The new model is a masterpiece of technology with double frequency transmitters compatible with the specifications of Cospat-Sarsat, the international emergency system for satellites that issues warnings as well as guides rescue missions. This is the first wrist-worn device for double frequencies and will surely become an important instrument for survival in emergency situations.

Michael Owers, Breitling Nordic.

Michael Owers, Breitling Nordic.

– The unit is compatible with the new frequencies used for search and rescue missions in North America and Europe, says Jean-Paul Girardin, junior CEO and technical manager at Breitling.

– Developing the technology took us five years. The watch contains a rechargeable battery, a transmitter for double frequencies, and a unique antenna system.

In an emergency situation, the wearer has to activate the transmitter by removing the antenna covers on both sides of the case and pull out the tiny wires. The watch then starts sending signals on two different frequencies for 24 hours.

– Once the transmitter has been activated, the watch can’t be used again, says Girardin.

– It’s a “one-shot unit”. But if it’s a real emergency, not a false alarm, we replace the watch at no extra cost, Girardin tells us.

Stephane Dehner, Breitling Nordic.

Stephane Dehner, Breitling Nordic.

Breitling’s headquarters is today in Grenchen with two buildings on each side of a railway, connected by a tunnel under the tracks. In La Chaux-de-Fonds, where Leon Breitling chose to locate his business in 1892 is today the impressive Breitling Chronometeri where the company’s own chronograph movements are produced completely in-house – according to experts the best movements in existence.

Breitling Chronometeri makes movements that can tick away forever if the get the proper maintenance, and that is why after sale is one of the most important parts of the business. Breitling Nordic has realized this fact, and three years ago moved to their own large building outside Stockholm to be able to deliver the service they are now certified for.

Breitling’s HQ in Grenchen, Switzerland.

Breitling’s HQ in Grenchen, Switzerland.

– It cost us 25 million SEK and took nine months, but now we have the biggest and best service facilities in northern Europe, says Stephane Dehner with obvious pride when WTM comes to visit. The Swiss have inspected the facilities and were satisfied that everything takes place according to Theodore Schneider’s philosophy: “We will only deliver the very best”.

– The customers can feel complete confidence in turning to us, knowing that they will get the best service imaginable, says Stephane.

Breitling’s ladies’ models are often recognizable by diamonds on the bezel ring.

Breitling’s ladies’ models are often recognizable by diamonds on the bezel ring.

Galactic 36 Automatic - 275

Colt Lad_002

Breitling’s connection to aviation is long  and solid. Schneider and his son Theodore are both pilots. The company is involved in multiple flying activities and has their own air fleet, including the Breitling Jet Team. The team is made up of seven planes and is the only airshow team that uses jet planes. They tour all around the world, and have visited Sweden three times to perform acclaimed shows with classical music.

We know that the looks of the aviators’ watches were the main reason why the Scandinavian gentlemen like them so much. But now, Breitling has finally realized the ladies also have a desire for quality timepieces.

The Breitling Jet Team.

The Breitling Jet Team.

The first time I had a conversation with Mr Schneider, which was a long time ago, I was told that if a lady wanted a Breitling she had to buy a men’s model. Ladies’ watches weren’t high on the priority list. But since women have become an important customer group, the company has finally decided to make an effort in ladies’ watches. It became very obvious a few years ago when all the female staff at Breitling’s huge four-story booth at the Basel convention wore the Tranceocean 38 mm model with white leather wristbands. This fall the ladies’ range will be completed with a new model in the Colt Lady series.

Emargancy II

Emargancy II

Facts Emergency II

Transmission frequencies: 121,5 MHz, 406,040 MHz

Operating temperature: -20°C to +55°C

Movement: Breitling Caliber 76 with COSC certificate

12/24-hour analog and digital LCD display

Diameter: 51 mm

Material: Titanium case, wristband/link I rubber Diver Pro III/titanium.