Breitling CEO Georges Kern Discusses the Evolution of the Brand

Lindsay Judge   |   06 - 06 - 2020

Breitling recently unveiled its latest novelties during its first-ever Summit Webcast.

 

Breitling CEO Georges Kern hosted the event and began by addressing the current coronavirus crisis with a clear message of hope and looking forward to better days. He says: “There is a light at the end of the tunnel concerning the coronavirus. Many countries have reopened their stores already and we are expecting more to reopen very soon. I’m confident that the situation will positively evolve, even though it will take a while for the traffic to come back to our stores, as many people have been staying at home, there will be more disposable income and hopefully, customers will spend their money on Breitling!”

 

Since joining Breitling, Kern has completely transformed the brand. In his words, Breitling has seen a “revolution”, with a whole new product offering, new segmentation, new advertising campaigns, new stores, new sports alignments and a completely new message. Kern’s vision is for Breitling to be a “less formal, more approachable brand that is much younger, cooler and more dynamic.” He has minimised the number of watches on offer to make it clearer and simpler for customers while ensuring that each customer’s needs are met. To do this he introduced the concept of “Air, Land and Sea” brand universes and the Breitling collections are divided among these three categories.

 

 

While many stores are still closed globally, the new watches can already be purchased online. “As you know we have introduced e-commerce in the US and in Asia, including China, and we will soon launch in Europe, but in addition, the products are also available on the retailers’ e-commerce sites. I think a lot of businesses have seen a strong digital acceleration during the lockdown,” says Kern. “Before I took over at Breitling, the brand was not digital at all, so this is something we have been pushing a lot. I think this moment is a milestone in terms of the digital transformation of everyone. We have a home office, we have video conferences and digital summits, and we have also seen sales dramatically increase online. But offline will always be the main platform for us. People want the physical 360-degree understanding of the brand, but the share of online sales will most certainly increase. Will it go up to over 10 per cent? We will have to see. But I do think physical retail will remain number one. Humans are social, and they like to see, communicate and experience, and while digital can replace a lot in the decision-making process, in the buying phase, the act of visiting physical stores will remain huge.”

 

So even during store closures, it was crucial for Breitling to continue to raise awareness of its latest novelties and look to the time in the future when customers return to the stores to buy these products. “I believe that after Covid-19, things will be very different from before Covid-19,” Kern says. “I think that consumer behaviour will change. Luxury is evolving and many things that we have been introducing for the past two years, including our expression of inclusive luxury, being a relaxed brand, being more informal and meaningful, will become even more important in the future. Cool brands of the past might not be cool brands in the future and vice versa. I think we had a very good development before the coronavirus and because of our values and our change of image, this will continue in the future.”

 

Breitling is looking forward to a successful second half of 2020 and there are many more exciting novelties in the pipeline. “What we’ve been working on for the past two years is simplifying the product lines and making the collection readable,” says Kern.

 

The Novelties

The Breitling Chronomat

 

 

The Chronomat was first introduced into Breitling’s offering in 1984 and now, almost 40 years later it has been redesigned with a modern appeal, inspired by the original. Georges Kern says, “I think that the Chronomat is the perfect product.” The new Breitling Chronomat is an all-purpose sports watch that can be worn from day to night. It recalls the design of the 1980s and features a replica of the eye-catching Rouleaux bracelet from the past. The iconic strap comes with a butterfly clasp that expresses a modern-retro style. This watch introduces a new generation of chronograph timepieces at Breitling thanks to its versatility and stylish appeal meaning it can be worn for every occasion.

 

Every Chronomat in the collection has a signature rotating bezel highlighted by rider tabs that not only protect the crystal but make the manipulation of the bezel easier. The rider tabs at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, true to the original, are interchangeable, so the wearer can use them either for a “count up” or “count down” function.

There are several materials and colour offerings available. The first has a 42-millimetre stainless-steel case with a choice of a silver, copper, or blue dial with black contrasting chronograph counters. It is also available with a black dial with silver contrasting chronograph counters.

 

The Chronomat Bentley celebrates Breitling’s partnership with the great British luxury car brand. It has a 42-millimetre stainless-steel case with a green dial and black contrasting chronograph counters. This watch features a “BENTLEY” engraving around the transparent sapphire caseback. The Chronomat Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition has a blue dial featuring tone-on-tone subdials and the Frecce Tricolori logo on the dial. This is limited to 250 pieces.

 

Those looking for something that extra bit special can opt for the Chronomat B01 42 fitted with an 18k red gold crown and pushers and a bezel with 18k red gold rider tabs, numerals, and indexes. This model has a silver dial with silver tone-on-tone subdials and a 42-millimetre stainless-steel case. Another striking two-tone Chronomat features either an elegant blue dial with tone-on-tone chronograph counters or anthracite dial with black contrasting chronograph counters. It is highlighted by an 18k red gold ratcheted unidirectional rotating bezel and an 18k red gold crown and pushers. And last but not least, the Chronomat B01 42 comes with a striking 18k red gold case presented on a black rubber strap with an 18k ed gold folding clasp. It has an anthracite dial with black contrasting chronograph counters.

 

The watches are powered by the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01, an in-house mechanical movement that delivers a power reserve of about 70 hours. The hands of every Chronomat B01 42 are coated with Super-LumiNova®, a luminescent material that enhances legibility in all lighting conditions. All of the models except for the Chronomat Frecce Tricolori Limited Edition have a red chronograph second hand, which also contributes to easy readability.

 

The Breitling Navitimer Automatic 35

 

 

Historically Breitling’s offering of women’s watches has been hugely successful but it has been a while since they introduced a full line dedicated to women, so this is an incredibly exciting launch. The Breitling Navitimer Automatic 35 timepieces are designed for the cosmopolitan woman. This elegant 35-millimetre design is understated and stylish but doesn’t compromise on functionality. George Kern explains: “I think the Navitimer 35 is something special. The dial has a very beautiful, wide opening and it is unique because of the pearl bezel which is inspired by the Navitimer of the 1960s. We have also dramatically simplified the dial while, at the same time, retaining the watch’s identity We decided we needed a characteristically feminine watch, with mother of pearl, diamonds etc. in bicolour.

 

The collection has a stylish solution to suit any taste. There are four different versions, each powdered by the Breitling Caliber 17, which delivers a power reserve of about 38 hours. The first is offered with a 35-millimetre stainless-steel case with a choice of a blue dial presented with a blue alligator leather strap, a copper dial with a brown alligator leather strap, or a silver dial with a burgundy alligator leather strap. The straps feature a pin or folding buckle, and each version of the watch is also available on a stainless-steel Navitimer bracelet with a folding clasp.

 

 

The second version also features a 35-millimetre stainless-steel case with a white mother-of-pearl dial and diamond hour markers. It has a burgundy alligator leather strap with either a pin or folding buckle and is also available with a stainless-steel Navitimer bracelet with a folding clasp. The watch is also available in two-tone with a 35-millimetre stainless-steel case and a luxurious 18k red gold bidirectional rotating bezel. Its white mother-of-pearl dial is highlighted by diamond hour markers, and the watch is presented on a brown alligator leather strap with a pin buckle or folding clasp or a two-tone Navitimer bracelet in stainless steel and 18k red gold with a folding clasp. Lastly is the Navitimer Automatic 35 in 18k red gold with a white mother-of-pearl dial and diamond hour markers. This striking watch is delivered with either a brown alligator leather strap with an 18k red gold pin buckle or folding clasp or an 18k red gold Navitimer bracelet with a butterfly clasp.

 

But this is just the beginning for a new generation of women’s watches at Breitling says Kern: “What we want to do with our market coverage is to offer outdoor watches with the Superocean; within that line, the white dial is our number one reference. We introduced the Navitimer 35, which is more elegant, and there will be another product launch by the end of the year. Finally, we will have a beautiful setup that we need to attract more women to the brand. Right now, the women’s market does not yet represent a big share for us, because we had no product offering. We are looking forward to increasing that share in the years ahead.”

 

The Breitling Superocean Heritage 57 Capsule Collection

 

 

The new Superocean Heritage ‘57 Capsule Collection is for those who like to express a cool, laid-back style. Inspired by the cool mood of the fifties and sixties, this capsule collection is produced in a limited number of pieces for a limited time. Each watch in the collection is a modern retro interpretation of a classic sea watch that embodies the laid-back lifestyle associated with surfers and beachcombers. “In a digital age and in a time when people are feeling insecure, having strong roots in the past but being modern is crucial. The Superocean Heritage ‘57 is super modern, even though it is a product of the fifties,” says Kern.

 

The collection is available with two dial options. One has a classic black dial and is presented on a black vintage-inspired leather strap with a pin buckle or folding clasp, while the other has a blue dial and is equipped with a brown vintage-inspired leather strap with a pin buckle or folding clasp. Both are also available on a stainless steel bracelet. There is also a two-tone version featuring a bidirectional rotating bezel in 18k red gold with a black ceramic ring. The timepieces in the Superocean Heritage ’57 Capsule Collection are powered by the Breitling Caliber 10, which offers a power reserve of approximately 42 hours.

 

The Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition

 

 

The Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition shares some unmistakable design DNA with its cousins in the Capsule Collection, but it takes its cool credentials a couple of steps further. This watch is all about colour and features a rainbow-style colouring on the dial.

 

The hour markers and the hour and minute hands are coated with Super-LumiNova® in a rainbow gradient of yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, red, and orange. This makes the watch particularly easy to read in a range of lighting conditions.

 

Your Limited Edition can be matched to a vibrant Outerknown ECONYL® yarn NATO strap, which can be purchased separately in one of six colour combinations: blue with dark blue stripes and lining, light blue with dark blue stripes and lining, yellow with orange stripes and lining, grey with black stripes and lining, red with black stripes and lining, and green with black stripes and lining.

 

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