Baselworld 2019: Breitling Impresses At What May Be Their Final Baselworld?
After a year under Georges Kern's leadership, Breitling has deployed its strategy efficiently and successfully. Baselworld 2019 is the latest step forward for the brand that embraces its glorious past, yet firmly turned towards the future.
Every day, Breitling's strategy becomes clearer and clearer. Collections are becoming more and more refined. The target is larger and younger. Since Georges Kern’s arrival as CEO in July 2017, Breitling is on a mission: revive its past to write its future, using methods taking inspiration from the world of fashion.
The Grenchen brand’s history cannot be restricted to aviation. The three current collection axes demonstrate this clearly. Still the “Navitimer” remains emblematic and embodies the ‘Air’ collection. This year, Breitling launched a re-edition of the ref. 806 from 1959. The timekeeper revives with precision all the major traits from her forbear: a 40.9mm case, distinctive unidirectional bezel, and its 94 ‘pearls’, the tone on tone black sub-counters of the chronograph, the beveled lugs with an alternating brushed and polished finish, and the famous circular calculator scale.
Even the winged logo is back! Yet an all-new hand-wound B09 caliber, COSC certified, beats at the heart of the timekeeper. We will probably see it again in the next re-editions to come. The ‘Air’ family also iterates the successful Navitimer 38, launched last year, in a 41mm case execution – by popular demand! Finally, the first capsule collection is introduced, limited in time but not numbered – a concept derived directly from fashion, with 3 Airline editions.
The Premier is the ‘Earth’ collection: dressy, chic and modern… like the brand was in the ’40s. Based on the collection's design from 1943, the Premier is powered by the manufacture caliber B01, chronograph with date, COSC certified. 2019 initiates the partnership with another mythical brand: Norton and their iconic bikes.
The Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Norton Edition proudly flaunts his modern and rugged style with his black dial and white sub-counters at three and nine o’clock. The inverted ‘panda’ dial effect is striking. The tachymetric scale adds sportiness, while the Arabic applied numerals – a first on this collection – confer a real elegance. A timekeeper for the urban adventurer with a strong style asserted further by a brut leather strap (available also on a steel bracelet) for a vintage feel.
Let's ride! Bikers can choose one of the 77 Norton Commando 961 Café Racer MKII Breitling limited edition. This brand association works perfectly, and this is only the beginning of the collaboration as new surprises will be unveiled in the months and years to come. The Premier collection is also enriched by a new Day-Date with a deep black dial. Ultra-modern and elegant in 40mm. Breitling comes back in full force in the dress watch category while keeping true to its assertive yet relaxed image.
After the Superocean Heritage last year, the waters are now populated by a new Core collection Superocean coming in no less than five different sizes and ten color iterations. From the powerful and ultra-sporty Superocean 48 in titanium with black DLC coating and ceramic bezel to the feminine Superocean 36 in steel, every wrist will find his Breitling diver as 46mm, 44mm and 42mm are also available.
Against popular belief, it is indeed this ‘Sea’ collection that leads the pack – squad is more appropriate now – of the brand with the stylized ‘B’ insignia. With all of these different diameters and colors, the Superocean opens up to even more potential customers. Pricing is aggressive ranging from CHF 3450 TTC for the 36 to less than CHF 5000 TTC for the 48. Ultra-sporty watches, rugged, equipped with the manufacture caliber 17, COSC certified, of course.
Baselworld or Summit?
Breitling being at the same time in the Hall 1.0 of Baselworld (right in the middle, no less!) AND holding its Global Summit in a large room – with the largest projection screen in Europe, 25 meters long! – not far from the fair, the question is indeed legitimate. The Breitling Summit’s model is interesting in many ways. It is the third one after London and Beijing in 2018. The concept is new and enables to bring together 200 to 400 journalists or retailers in one single point.
With their undivided attention, products, strategies, brand values are presented in a strong and impactful manner. Georges Kern can transmit his key messages, as was the case in Basel. Breitling has a glorious past, a radiant future and is an inclusive brand. It is the ideal opportunity to highlight all the meaningful associations Breitling is involved in – Outerknown, Kelly Slater’s ocean preservation initiative, Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse 1000 sustainable solutions or Qhubeka, a South African charity providing bikes to communities with limited transportation access. With the help of his Tri-athlete squad, Breitling has offered 500 bikes to the latter. The message is strong, the format is well oiled, the experience works. Is Baselworld still relevant? The question is on every lip. The near future will surely tell.
One thing is certain: Breitling is on a mission and as Georges Kern said in his closing statement at the Summit: “This only the beginning!”.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)