With an almost unprecedented history in the field of horology that Breitling have constantly aspired to specialise in, the chronograph, it is amazing that this 126 year old brand has taken this long to catalogue it’s history in such a wonderful medium as this impressively detailed book. However, I have a theory about this: The final chapter in this 336 page slab of high quality paper is entitled “A movement for the future”. This, of course, refers to the B01 movement of which five years of development came to fruition last year when the exquisite timepiece of the same name was released. Breitling are justifiably proud of this achievement. This is a major evolution of this historically rich manufacture. I guess I would have waited as well.
My first impression of this, quite literally, weighty tome is one of exceptional quality and design. The attention to detail is meticulous, the materials are of the highest quality and you are left knowing you are handling something special which has had passion and enthusiasm lavished upon it. Very much like the brand’s timepieces.
One small criticism became evident almost straight away though: There is no Contents list and no Index. I was initially leant the book as a source of reference for an article (Thank You Sam at Andrew Michaels). This made the process of finding what I wanted to research quite difficult. The book has a chronological order but locating the exact detail about an exact timepiece is more frustrating than it needs to be.
Also, one warning I must offer is that this is one heavy book. It weighs in at about 3Kg. This can become a little fatiguing after prolonged reading, which you may easily find yourself doing. This is a book that has to be read with your sitting position in mind. I wouldn’t even attempt to try reading it on a train. However, I do think Breitling have tried to compensate for this because the cover has a rubber-like matt finish coating, which at least facilitates grip.
Once these small discrepancies have been realised then the book can be fully appreciated for all of its glossy pictured, in depth history catalogued, technical documentational and ornamental glory.
Visually, the exterior of the book is as impressive and well thought out as the interior. The aforementioned black “rubberised” cover is perfectly offset by a silver and white script. The edges of the book have been coloured silver. It’s a great juxtaposition of something that has been designed to read and yet look great on the coffee table.
So, onto that interior.
After a brief introduction by Herve Genoud, the author, we are taken through the significant historical events and timepieces from this long established brand. The chapters run in time-line order from the dreams and aspirations of Leon Breitling, as he setting up in St Imier towards the end of the 1800’s, to the advent of the in-house B01 movement. Thus:
“Chapter 1, Taking Off” – Early history
“Chapter 2, An instrument for modern times” – First ever separate chronograph push button. The first ever timepiece with independent start/stop and reset buttons, etc
“Chapter 3, From wrists to cockpits” – The 1930s. On board chronographs – Chronomat, Duograph, Datora, etc
“Chapter 4, The Navitimer Years”
“Chapter 5, Advent of the Chronomatic”
“Chapter 6, Regaining Momentum” Purchase of Breitling by Ernest Schneider in 1979. Chronomat, Aerospace and Emergency Introduced.
“Chapter 7, Chronometer Certification” – Chronometrie factory. Newest models
“Chapter 8, A movement for the future” – B01
In addition to the wonderful prose and hi-res images, that make up these chapters, are randomly placed mini-references. These are:
“Breitling fuselages” – The cases
“Breilting instrument panels” – The dials
“Breitling Controls” – The pushbuttons and crowns. Diver’s and sliderule bezels.
“Breitling for Bentley”
In conclusion: I feel that this book perfectly represents the Breitling brand. It’s joys and delights lie in its oversized, over-designed, meticulously finished, highly detailed almost impractical design. This book is not cheap (135 euros at time of writing) but I do not feel that it is not overpriced. Any one thing is only worth as much as somebody is willing to pay for it. If you are a fan of this exceptional brand you have, no doubt, already paid what is considered by many people to be too much for a watch. However, I’m sure you were perfectly happy to pay that amount. That is because you knew you were getting that much more than simply something to tell the time. Something to cherish. What you are getting here is that much more than simply something to read. Something to cherish.
All words and pictures by Richard Atkins (unless otherwise stated). Please ask if you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article.