When a force of nature like Breitling CEO Georges Kern is faced with a global pandemic that keeps watch journalists and retailers across the world stuck at home, what does he do? This week, the dynamic watch chief showed us the answer by hosting the brand’s first Summit Webcast. Since 2018, Breitling has been holding its Summits in various cities, with Kern taking to the stage to present novelties to journalists and retail partners, in a style somewhat reminiscent of tech keynote events. With the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the brand took the show online instead.
In the 19-minute pre-recorded webcast, he took viewers through a snappy and memorable overview of the brand’s novelties for 2020. Footage of Kern speaking was effectively spliced with close-up shots of the watches, and videos featuring ambassadors such as its “squads” of surfers and actors, as well as new ambassador Yao Chen. Since taking the helm in 2017, Kern has consistently kept Breitling in the spotlight with his knack for marketing and driving the creation of products that combine brand heritage with broad lifestyle appeal. This winning formula is shown, once again, in the new timepieces showcased in the Summit Webcast. Here’s how Breitling is ticking three major trend boxes with them.
1) An “all-purpose” steel watch with a distinctive bracelet
One of the most popular watches by Breitling, the Chronomat has been around for a long time: In 1984, it was launched to mark the 100th anniversary of Breitling, taking inspiration from a 1983 Frecce Tricolori chronograph watch made in collaboration with the Italian aerial squadron of the same name. Standing out with its mechanical chronograph movement and larger size in an era when slim quartz watches were all the rage, the Chronomat went on to be a mainstream hit. Over the years, it has underwent various makeovers, and now, the brand has updated the timepiece with details from the original 1984 edition. In the press notes for the new Chronomat B01 42, the brand emphasises the “all-purpose” versatility of this sports watch, declaring it “at home both on the red carpet and at the beach”.
The vintage- and aviation-inspired touches include the onion crown and the “rider tabs” on the undirectional rotating bezel (the tabs at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock are interchangeable, so you can also use the watch as a countdown timer, regatta-style). But our favourite part of this refreshed take is the return of the highly distinctive Rouleaux (French for rollers) bracelet — featuring rounded, brushed links and polished rings — that replaces the somewhat ho-hum five-link bracelets that have been fitted on the recent incarnations of the Chronomat. In a raging sea of steel sports watches with integrated bracelets, the 2020 Chronomat has enough character to hold its own. The 42mm watches are available in steel or in a two-tone steel and red gold finish, and various dial colours.
2) A spectrum of colours
In horology, the term “rainbow” can be highly divisive. So called because of the multicoloured gemstones on their bezels, rainbow watches are either loved or loathed by enthusiasts. This year, Breitling offers its own, very fun take on the rainbow watch, with a limited edition of the new Superocean Heritage ’57. Against a black dial and a black ceramic bezel, the hour markers and hands stand out cheerfully with Super-Luminova coatings in yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, red and orange. It’s fitting for a timepiece that’s part of a range inspired by the relaxed Southern Californian surfing lifestyle of the 1950s and 1960s. By the way, not to worry if you’re a rainbow-hater who’s still not convinced: The Superocean Heritage ’57 range, which is based on Breitling’s original 1957 Superocean dive watch, also includes classic black or blue dial options — with regular white hour markers.
That’s not where Breitling’s colourful palette ends this year, by the way: The Chronomat and Navitimer 35 (more on that below) ranges include variants with salmon dials, which feature a coppery finish that has become increasingly popular. British racing green also finds its way onto the dial of a special Bentley edition of the Chronomat.
3) Even smaller watch sizes
How times have changed. Just a few years ago, Breitling was still flaunting an unabashedly macho image, with events or parties that were incomplete without the presence of curvy models in flightsuits. But that was the pre-Kern era. In his online presentation, Kern states, “Today, Breitling is an inclusive watch brand for men and women of style, purpose and action. Our female squad members… are strong role models for modern women.” And believe you me, many of these modern women are fans of the classic Navitimer 1 B01. That said, its 43mm (or larger) diameter can be a tad overwhelming on smaller wrists.
Which explains why in 2018, Breitling launched the Navitimer 1 Automatic 38, a 38mm non-chronograph, three-hand version of the Navitimer. Now, the iconic pilot’s watch goes even smaller with the Navitimer Automatic 35. While the 38mm Navitimer had unisex appeal, the new 35mm Navitimer Automatic are being definitively put forth as “timepieces for the cosmopolitan woman”. There are four different versions of the new Navitimer Automatic 35: Steel with a blue or mother-of pearl dial, a two-tone finish in steel and red gold, or red gold. Under Kern’s watch, the world of Breitling is evolving to become one that more people will want to — and can be — be part of.