There aren’t many companies that count astronauts and World War II heroes among their clientele, but Breitling replica is one of them. For more than 100 years the Swiss manufacturer has been the unmistakable mark of adventurers, serving pilots, submariners, explorers and more boundary-pushing professionals. In that time it’s built a peerless reputation for precision and innovation – a reliable co-pilot, even if your most daring daily escapade is balancing two coffees in one hand.
As it strides forward into a new era, we take a look back at most memorable Breitling timepieces with Swiss movement and pair them with today’s equivalents.
1884: The Beginning
Léon Breitling founded his namesake company in the Swiss Jura in 1884. A talented watchmaker, he focused his immense skills on precision pocket chronographs – this being a few years before soldiers began rigging up timepieces on their wrists, and decades until the wristwatch became de rigueur. In fact, it wasn’t until 1915 (a year after Léon passed away and his son Gaston inherited the business) that Breitling unveiled what was, at the time, one of the first-ever wrist-worn chronographs with a separate push piece above the crown.
1943: Breitling Premier replica with steel case
Breitling’s future seemed uncertain when Gaston passed away suddenly in 1927. His son Willy was just 14, so for the first time an external team took over the business, steering it through the Great Depression. When Willy came of age, he took charge of his family legacy. Like his father and grandfather before him, he began on a path of innovation, and in 1934 patented the first wrist chronograph with two pushers – one to start and pause, and a separate to reset, a design that remains the standard today.
Large orders from the RAF followed, putting Breitling clocks in the cockpits of countless World War II heroes. Meanwhile, Willy diversified the business with the introduction of the Premier line in 1943. A departure from the brand’s combat-ready, performance-driven models, these were elegant, refined chronographs designed for everyday civilian wear – “a watch of impeccable taste”, as he put it.
The modern equivalent: the Premier B01 Chronograph 42, an elegant timepiece that combines style and technical capabilities with its alligator or calfskin leather strap and bi-compax chronograph panda look. A true piece of craftsmanship that perfectly blends modern and retro.
1952: Breitling Navitimer fake with black leather strap
By the end of the war, Breitling was firmly established as a cockpit chronograph-maker par excellence. In 1940 it had patented its Chronomat, which featured an ingenious slide rule integrated as a bezel, aiding pilots in performing quick, on-the-go calculations.
It was an immediate success, but the definitive edition came just over a decade later with the Navitimer. Perhaps the ultimate pilot’s watch, the 1952 Navitimer replica was oversized for the time, but vital for allowing the wearer to read and perform calculations clearly while under pressure: speed, distance, rate of climb or descent, flight time, fuel consumption, and myriad others. Quickly, it was adopted by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), whose winged logo featured on the dial, as its official watch.
In the decades since there have been countless Navitimers with different cases and movements, from the original hand-wound, column-wheel chronograph to the modern Breitling 01 self-winder, but all featuring the instantly recognisable slide rule.
The modern equivalent: the Navitimer Automatic 41, a piece that combines a rich history with contemporary sophistication thanks to its renowned circular slide rule and statement beaded bezel.