At this year's prestigious Basel World – the global showcase
event of the watch and jewelry industry – Breitling introduced the B55-Connected. A new watch that represents a breakthrough by connecting traditional mechanical watches and the smartphone generation. / Orna Gattegno Schneid "Functionality is very important to us and we never cease to innovate. That's the reason we made an attachment to new technology making it possible to connect the watch directly to a mobile phone and improve the watch's performance," says Jean-Paul Girardin, Breitling's vice-president. The new watch is called B55-Connected and is due to be released for sale at the end of the year, joining a long list of the Swiss company's unique and prestigious models. A prototype of the new watch was ntroduced at Baselworld, the watch and jewelry industry's global showcase event, held in March 2015.
What is Breitling's place among the world's watches and what differentiates it from
the others ? Brietling has been on the market for 131 years and we continue concentrating on mechanical chronograph watches. That is and continues to be our expertise. We're one of the few independent family companies in the world and we zealously protect our independence. Our close cooperation with the aviation world is unique.
Our adhesion to the Breitling tradition is what aids us in preserving the brand's values and also preserving accuracy, functionality and design which have always been and still are our guiding principles over the years.
We don't only sell watches, we build confidence and a strong connection with our customers.
Does Breitling intend to expand production beyond 150,000
watches a year? It's very important for us to grow and enter other market segments, but at the same time we don't want excessive expansion out of a desire to preserve the quality of our watch production. We're considered a strong brand on the world market. Europe is our main market with the United States the second in size. We're also strong in Asia, particularly in Japan, although we've also been successful in China. In the last year espescially we've felt a demand for our designed watches, so that our market in China is beginning to grow.
Are you disturbed by the problem of imitations in China? A significant change is taking place in China. They're currently considered one of the countries with one of the largest number of patent applications. Apparently, they're beginning to understand the importance of the term, 'intellectual property.' It's very easy to discern an imitation of Breitling and clients certainly know the quality difference.
What characterizes Breitling's customers? Our slogan is 'Instruments for Professionals.' Breitling is a prestige brand and is naturally designed for affluent customers who can afford to invest money in a high-quality instrument. Our watches appeal to people who are young, assertive and professionals in leadership positions, or attract people who purchase a watch as jewelry. Another market for the company is airlines, particularly pilots and air crew members.
Breitling watches are distinctive because of the relatively large face compared to other watches, which facilitates clear display of data in addition to the time. Many of our models are based on automatic mechanical winding based on hand movement, so although most of our clients are men, many women who prefer large watch faces also wear our timepieces. All Breitling watches are made in Switzerland, from Swiss components. Brietling has submitted all the watch models it manufactures for examination by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres – the first leading watchmaker to do so.
How is sales volume maintained in an era when many people bypass wrist watches in favor of smartphones? We're convinced that because it is impossible to wear a mobile phone on the wrist, there's still demand and desire to wear a watch. Because functionality is very important to us, we considered how new technology can connect a watch to a mobile phone, creating a hybrid situation where the watch's performance is improved. That's exactly in the spirit of the Breitling brand.
What's the frequency of customers purchasing Breitling watches and have they become
collectors items? The Navitimer, introduced in 1952,is still popular. Breitling watches are also sold at auctions. Because we do not see ourselves only as the sellers of watches, but as developing long-term relationships with clients, it's nearly impossible to determine the exact quantity of watches a client seeks to buy. There are collectors who buy a watch every year while others are satisfied with one model. The watch's price is 6,000-8,000 euros, and yet there are luxury models whith prices reaching 20,000 euros.
What's the process of designing and producing a new model? The company's owner, Theodore Schneider, is the only person who provides specifications for a new model. The house designer is then responsible for planning and manufacturing. Testing is extensive.
Where is the company headed? The next generation of the Schneider's are very involved. They've entered the management system with a passion to preserve Breitling's traditions and they're our future leaders. After all, we're the only Swiss company independently managed by family. Breitling – 131 Years of History
In 1884, in the village of St. Imier, Switzerland, young Swiss watchmaker Leon Breitling opens a workshop specializing in making chronographs and precision counters for scientific and industrial purposes. In 1915, a year after his father’s passing,
Gaston Breitling createed the first wristwatch chronograph – a watch used by pilots in WWI.
With Gaston’s son Willy at the helm, the company becomes the official supplier to the Royal Air Force in 1936. Breitling takes off! Chronomat is launched
in 1942 and in 1952, the company released Navitimer, a wrist instrument with a
'navigation computer' able to calculate flight plans. It becomes popular among
pilots. Ernest Schneider, who bought the company in 1979, launched Chronomat in 1984 – a bestselling chronograph. In 1995, Emergency is introduced, a watch with a micro-transmitter.
In 2015, the B55 Connected is unveiled – a watch that interfaces with smartphones
using Bluetooth technology.
Jean-Paul Girardin, Breitling's vice-president.
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