Breitling presses on with its planned 2020 Summit, reconfiguring what would have been a physical show into an online press conference
18 May 2020
Since 2017 Georges Kern has been a man on a mission. In April of that year, Breitling, one of Switzerland’s last remaining independently-owned big-name watch brands, was acquired by Europe’s largest private equity group, CVC Capital Partners, previous owners of Formula One.
The watchmaker’s new proprietors wasted little time in securing the services of Kern, installing him as Breitling's new CEO within the space of three months – the former Richemont Group director had made a name for himself in the decade before by transforming IWC from a periphery watch player into one of luxury’s most visible lifestyle brands.
Making no secret of the fact that he’d been lured to Breitling in return for equity, Kern appointed Guy Bove (previously product development director at Chopard) as Breitling’s new creative director (though he's since left), installed Tim Sayler (headhunted from Audemars Piguet) as its new chief marketing officer, and began realigning brand Breitling in earnest.
Old product lines were slimmed down, back catalogues revisited, new collections launched, stores redesigned, marketing campaigns rethought, a ‘squad’ of Hollywood ambassadors signed-up – Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron and Adam Driver among them – and a global tour of promotional ‘Summits’ embarked upon.
Last month proved that not even a global pandemic could knock Kern off his stride. As Covid-19 threw the rest of the watch industry into disarray, triggering the final downfall of the sector’s oldest trade show, Baselworld, and forcing the likes of Patek Philippe and Rolex to postpone their product launches until further notice, Breitling pressed on with its planned 2020 Summit, reconfiguring what would have been a physical show in either London or Switzerland into an online press conference hosted by Kern.
At the time of writing, Breitling was still committed to Geneva Watch Days, an already once-postponed multi-brand get-together scheduled to take place in August. Before then, the brand used its latest summit to announce a Superocean capsule collection, a Navitimer for ladies, and a brand new Chronomat – all of which you can already purchase through the watchmaker’s website.
The new Chronomat Collection
With their colourful dials and eye-catching straps (keep scrolling), the Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition rainbow watches were always going to make the internet go pop. More important to Breitling, long-term, will be its new Chronomat line. The original, from 1984, is recognised as having helped see Breitling through a period in which the mechanical watch industry was reeling from the rise of the cheap-and-cheerful, battery-powered quartz watch the decade before. You’d have to wager that the new Chornomat will be as equally commercial.
The reconfigured collection retains many of the design details of its archetype: most notably, interchangeable rider tabs on a rotating bezel, allowing the wearer to use them to count up or count down, and a very 80s integrated ‘Rouleaux’ bracelet made up of pleasing-on-the-eye – and on-the-wrist no doubt – interconnected lozenge-like cylinders. The new 42mm Chronomat is powered by an in-house calibre – offering an impressive 70-hour power reserve – and is available in either stainless steel (£6,650) or 18k red gold (£15,950). Choose between a black, blue, silver or copper dial.
The Superocean Heritage ’57 Capsule Collection
Breitling demonstrated its playful side with the Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition ‘rainbow’ watches – not the sort of thing you can imagine the pre-Kern Breitling bringing out. There’s little point lingering on the eye-catching lifestyle watches, though, as only 250 were produced and they’ve already sold out.
You’ve got a little more time to nab a standard Superocean Heritage ’57, although how much time exactly isn’t clear. Launched as a ‘capsule collection’, the line will only be produced for a limited period. The timepiece takes for its blueprint Breitling’s first series-produced dive watch, the SuperOcean from 1957, uncapitalises the ‘O’ but retains wedge-shaped baton markers and a bidirectional rotating bezel (updated with an ultra-hard black ceramic bezel ring) with a distinguishing triangular marker.
There are two dial options: black, on a black vintage-inspired leather strap, and blue, with a brown vintage-inspired leather strap. Cases measure 42mm. The collection is powered by third-party calibres and is priced from £3,400.
The Navitimer Automatic 35
Continuing to broaden its church, Breitling’s Navitimer Automatic 35 is an elegant, out-of-the-box option for any mechanically-minded lady looking to branch out from the usual suspects (Rolex and Cartier, basically).
It’s available now, in a variety of materials, including stainless steel and 18k red gold. The 35mm watch is ringed with a classy beaded bezel and comes with a range of dial options: silver, blue, copper and mother-of-pearl, which is set with diamonds. The entry-level stainless steel option with a copper dial is a thing of beauty, on-screen at least. It’s yours for £3,520.