Hubert Burda Media

Georges Kern’s Vision for Breitling Is Simple


He repeated the word multiple times throughout the presentation, perhaps subconsciously, but it’s clear that Georges Kern has a vision for the new Breitling. “It’s all about simplicity. We are going to make the products more straightforward and less busy in terms of design,” said the CEO of Breitling.

It’s not something new for the Swiss watch brand, whose timepieces in recent times have been big and busy. As Kern constantly expounded throughout the presentation in Shanghai last month, Breitling did produce smaller, more classic watches. They were worn by some of the most popular celebrities during that time, including Miles Davis.

The late trumpeter frequently wore his Navitimer while performing and was regularly photographed with his Breitling from the 60s until his death in 1991.

A picture of Miles Davies from an exhibition. He is pictured wearing the Navitimer. Photo credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images
A picture of Miles Davies from an exhibition. He is pictured wearing the Navitimer. Photo credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

A Short History on Breitling

“There is phenomenal history behind Breitling. It is one of the brands with the strongest historical catalogue in the industry but very few people know that. Breitling invented the chronograph. It invented some of the most astonishing designs in the industry. Breitling was the first wrist watch worn in space by Scott Carpenter. This [history] is one of the key elements that we are going to focus on in the future,” said Kern.

It’s probably one of the reasons why Kern brought watch collector Fred Mandelbaum (@watchfred) with him to Shanghai. The latter is a fervent fan of the brand and has a large collection of historical Breitling timepieces, 60 of which he brought along with him to display to the crowd.

One of the 60 was the one worn by astronaut Scott Carpenter. It was the Breitling Navitimer with the 24-hour graduations. It was also surprisingly small.

“Many know Breitling for piloting. What people don’t know is that Breitling has been in automotive sports, skiing, cycling, diving and many other things,” Kern said.

Kern’s idea of the man who wears Breitling is simple. He’s young, dynamic, stylish yet discreet. If there was someone who encapsulated the Breitling man, Kern imagined that it would be Steve McQueen. “He’s the cool man who would wear a Breitling,” he said with a smile.

American actor Steve McQueen. Photo credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
American actor Steve McQueen. Photo credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The New Breitling

Its references will be trimmed and all the timepieces will be segmented into four lines – the Navitimer (aviation), the Superocean (nautical), the Premier (land, more elegant), and the Chronomat (all-purpose).

Underneath the hood, Breitling’s watches will be powered by either its in-house movement or the Valjoux variant. While the designs of its past collections did not reflect which movement was underneath the hood, Kern indicated that moving forward, you can differentiate based on the dial.

“Watches with the in-house movement will have the panda dial while those with the Valjoux movements will have the tone-on-tone design.”

The Navitimer 8 B01 with a black reverse panda dial and black alligator strap
The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01 with a black reverse panda dial and black alligator strap

 

Breitling Navitimer 8 Chronograph with blue tone-on-tone dial and stainless steel bracelet
The Breitling Navitimer 8 Chronograph with blue tone-on-tone dial and stainless steel bracelet

And while the large sizes will remain, Breitling will also be producing timepieces for the smaller-wristed Asian men. “I have the smallest wrist in the watch industry. Whatever I can wear, anyone in Asia can wear it. If I can’t wear it, then we are not going to make it. Simple,” said Kern, as laughter reverberated around the room.

As his tenure at IWC indicates, Kern knows what the world wants. If the new (and simple) Navitimer 8 collection represents the new (and simple) Breitling, then we foresee many people talking about and wearing the brand soon.

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