Most watch events in London take place somewhere within the pleasant half-mile stroll between the Dorchester and Claridge’s. But this week, in anticipation of the first ever “Breitling Summit”, journalists from the UK – and it appeared pretty much every territory in the world – were assembled at Spring Studios in Kentish Town, only a few miles to the north, but a world away from Mayfair.
We were ushered into a large room dominated by what another journalist said was the biggest cinema screen she had ever seen. It was certainly big. And then Breitling CEO Georges Kern began to speak, and we were taken on an even bigger journey through everything Breitling was, is and will be.
He went over his considerable achievements in his first year in charge, and re-emphasised the commitment to simplified lines of the four categories of Land, Air, Sea and Professionals, announcing new watches in each segment. The partnership with Bentley, which has been running since 2002, has also been renewed, and they are launching a new B01 Chronograph in Bentley Racing Green.
The watches that got the biggest reaction were from the striking new Breitling Premier collection. This reintroduces a name from the 1940s and is a beautifully designed range of automatics, day-dates and chronographs. The flagship is the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 models, equipped with the in-house Breitling Manufacture Calibre 01. The range really builds on the classic Breitling style that has shown itself in occasional models over the last few years, and to these eyes at least it is great to see more of that here.
During the presentation Kern wheeled out his top team to add their own rallying cries to what they are all achieving together at Breitling. And we were confronted by beautiful images of planes and watches and movie stars. The incomparable photographer Peter Lindbergh appeared on screen to tell us how much fun he’d had shooting Charlize Theron, Brad Pitt and Adam Driver for Breitling’s Cinema Squad campaign.
But the real star of the show was Kern himself. For most of the time he was the one doing the talking. And at one point during the address he showed some footage of him being taken up in one of the many fighter planes that Breitling messes around in. He was shown looking shaken up as the plane did some loop-the-loop type manoeuvre, complete with bleeped out CEO-swearing.
When the video ended, Kern turned to us and said: “I may not be a pilot…”. The message was clear. I can laugh at myself, but I am prepared to do whatever it takes to make this company a success. And who would doubt him.
When he welcomed us, Kern had said: “I am particularly pleased that this event is taking place in London, a city known around the world for its remarkable energy. I cannot imagine a better place to stage this first Breitling Summit.”
By taking us to an unfamiliar part of London, he wanted to shake us out of the ideas of business as usual. The message was this: I am in charge, and with me, Breitling is flying.