Breitling is one of the great horological success stories of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the late 1970s, however, it looked like the Breitling story was over. The firm that had been making chronographs since the 1880s had closed, and looked like it would become yet another casualty of the havoc wreaked on the Swiss watch market by cheap quartz watches from the East, and a devalued dollar to the West.
But at the very moment it seemed that the last rites should be pronounced over this horological corpse, the seeds of its current renaissance were sown. Breitling was taken over by the Schneider family and gradually, during the 1980s, began to reassert itself. It was a remarkable comeback.
Today, Breitling is one of the best-known watch marques in the world. Three decades of prudent family management have built a business focused on communicating a simple message: big sturdy watches, usually chronographs, many with an aviation inclination, all of which are COSC-certified. And, as is often the case with a firm that is strong in current production, there has been an upturn in the prices achieved at auction.