Made by Breitling

Made by Breitling

Movement

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Breitling is a chronograph specialist that has played a key role in the technical development of this complication, including by inventing the two independent pushpieces and by presenting the first selfwinding chronograph (1969). Throughout its history, the firm has distinguished itself by its reliable, sturdy and accurate movements. In 2009, it took a decisive step by unveiling a high-performance caliber endowed with a brand-new architecture and which introduced Breitling into the highly exclusive circle of watch manufacturers to possess their very own mechanical chronograph movement. To ensure complete mastery of the quality of its mechanical movements, Breitling built an ultramodern factory on the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds and named Breitling Chronométrie. Moreover, all Breitling's electronic models are equipped with SuperQuartzTM movements that are ten times more accurate than the standard quartz equivalents. Breitling has chosen to explore new paths in manu- facturing its own chronograph movement. Inspired by an avant-garde concept used in other cutting-edge sectors and duly adapted to watch industry, the firm has developed an industrial production-chain system that revolutionizes traditional movement assembly. Each movement is individually monitored by an ultra-sophisticated software program that automatically directs it towards the appropriate work station, along a route alternating between fully automated stations and others requiring manual intervention. All the adjustment phases are also integrated within this process, which means that each movement emerging from the chain is ready to face the stringent tests conducted by the COSC. Breitling thereby guarantees the reliability of its "instruments for professionals", including in large-scale production. To guarantee absolutely reliable read-off by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute) test instruments, each movement must be fitted with a white working dial and a black seconds hand. The movements are individually wound once a day using a machine that turns the crown according to a predetermined number of rotations. Precision is measured by a robot that reads the position of the seconds hand. Each individually numbered movement is tested during 15 consecutive days and nights. The controls are performed in five positions and at three different temperatures (23° C, 38° C et 8° C). To earn the much-coveted title of an officially certified chronometer, the movement must meet seven extremely rigorous eliminatory criteria, including a mean daily variation in rate of less than -4/+6 seconds - corresponding to a 99.99% degree of accuracy. Only 5% of the watches produced in Switzerland are chronometer-certified.

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Case

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Breitling cases are designed to accompany professionals on their most extreme missions. They must therefore provide maximum protection in case of impacts, and each detail of their construction has been developed and tested to withstand intensive use. Breitling uses only top-class metals such as the 316L antimagnetic stainless steel alloy, or grade 2 titanium. Particular care is devoted to the parts most exposed to external influences, such as the crowns and pushpieces. Water resistance is guaranteed by highly sophisticated systems. Breitling cases are also distinguished by their technical complexity, their high-end aesthetic appeal and the quality of their finishing.

Breitling cases are made by a stamping (swaging) process that is performed cold for steel and gold and hot for titanium. The case-middle blanks are first cut out from a metal bar. A series of swaging operations at increasingly high pressure serves to give the case its final shape. Before each new stamping, the case-middle is heated to around 1100° C in order to let down and restabilize the metal. Then comes the machining - involving turning the round parts, milling-cutting the complex geometrical shapes, drilling holes for the crowns and pushpieces - smoothly associating the hand and machinery including five-axis high-speed "machining centers". After the added parts are welded to the cases, the latter are treated to a set of subtle and contrasting finishes - polishing, satin-brushing or beadblasting - in a lengthy process combining mechanized work and the polisher's dexterity. All the parts added to the cases (bezels, backs, crowns and pushpieces) are manufactured and finished with the same concern for technical and aesthetic perfection.

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Dial

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Featuring aesthetic sophistication, a refined play on hollowed and raised surfaces, as well as meticulous finishing, the dials of Breitling chronographs and watches require mastery of cutting-edge production methods combining traditional skills with ultra-modern technologies. Each detail has been designed to enable optimal read-off of information at a glance, just like on an instrument panel. The dials are blanked from a brass plate into which various holes and apertures are drilled. They are then polished and "colored" by means of lacquering or electroplating (based on the principle of electrolysis), which involves immersing them into several successive baths through which an electric current is run. For the Navitimer dial, Breitling makes use of a refined "épargne" process applied to a pure silver or gold base and ensuring peerless radiance and readability. The counters are hollowed and "snailed" (decorated with spiraling lines) and then colored. The various markings are printed using ink-coated silicon pads in a process entailing several firings in the furnace. The Breitling symbol is stamped from an 18-carat gold strip to within 1/100th of a millimeter, and then sandblasted, blanked and polished to create subtle contrasts. The manual placing and riveting of the Breitling symbol and the applied hour-markers calls for extreme dexterity. The operations are completed by the application of a luminescent substance using a nozzle pen connected to a high-pressure pipe.

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Hands

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Making a hand such as the famous Breitling chrono- graph center seconds hand adorned with the Breitling B calls for meticulous care and a number of different operations. Machining tolerances are minimal and handling is a truly delicate task. Few manufacturers today are able to master the finesse of blanking and quality of finish needed to meet the Breitling standards. This concern for even the smallest details is reflected in all the hands equipping the brand’s chronographs and wrist instruments. The hands are blanked from a brass strip in several successive stages - of which three for the Breitling symbol alone. They are then machined by diamond polishing. The pipe (tube) to which the hand will be riveted is machined from three-meter long brass bars using a computerized numerically controlled machine. After the drilling, the tiny pipes (with an interior diameter of 0.25 mm and an external diameter of 0.5 mm) are carefully checked. Riveting the hand on the pipe, with the help of a staking tool, is a meticulous task that demands both dexterity and precision. To verify the quality of the riveting, the rotation torque is tested during the chronograph reset operation, and the hand must be able to withstand up to 30 Ncm torque. The hand is then finished by electroplating involving several different phases: leaching, degreasing, pre rhodium-plating and rhodium-plating (or gold-plating), along with numerous rinses. Manufacturing the hands concludes with the application of the luminescent substance, followed by a thorough visual check.

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Crystal

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Breitling chronographs and wrist instruments are all equipped with scratch-resistant sapphire crystals that are glareproofed on both sides. This guarantees extreme sturdiness, combined with optimal readability of the information in all circumstances. Producing synthetic sapphires - the hardest stone after the diamond - calls upon extremely sophisticated skills and production means, and involves a large number of operations. Applying the glareproofing on both sides implies highly specialized expertise and equipment. Synthetic sapphire is made from alumina (an aluminum oxide). This material is brought to its fusion point at 2050° C, with the addition of oxygen and hydrogen. It takes around 15 hours for the "corundum" (crystalline alumina) to form on the rod somewhat like a stalagmite. The stones are then refired at a temperature of 1800° C in order to stabilize the material. The corundums are sawn by thin diamond-polished blades. Machining the crystal continues with grinding the diameter to within 2/100ths of a millimeter, and then surfacing, meaning adjusting the thickness. The cambered or domed shape of the crystal is achieved by grinding the lower and upper surfaces. After its angles have been beveled, guaranteeing a neat fit with the case, the sapphire crystal is chemically polished on both sides. It is then transferred to a sterilized laboratory (white room) where it is placed in a furnace to receive the glareproofing treatment applied by means of a highly elaborate vacuum-evaporation process. This treatment on both sides eliminates 99% of the reflections perceived by the naked eye.

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Bracelets

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Breitling bracelets are distinguished by their proven sturdiness, their comfort on the wrist, their exclusive design and their high-end finishing. So as to enable them to withstand the forces of traction and torsion (pulling and twisting) to which they will be subjected on a daily basis, the firm has developed highly specific production methods and technologies. Breitling also offers a wide range of straps fashioned from the finest hides and made using the full expertise of specialized craftsmen. Watches destined for sports or aquatic use are fitted with several types of supple and ultra-resistant rubber straps. The various types of links are sawn, drilled and profile-turned from four-meter long bars using computerized numerically controlled machines. They are then patiently hand-polished - the only guarantee of a high-quality finish - before being hand-assembled and then polished again. The links and pins are fusion-welded (without adding any material) at a temperature of 3400° C, thus guaranteeing exceptional durability. After a rigorous visual testing procedure, the clasp and the endpieces are fitted to the two bracelet sections.

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Casing up

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The performances of a watch product partially depend on the quality of the air in the premises where it was cased up. To ensure the smooth operation of its chronometers in even the most testing conditions, Breitling has equipped its production building with a sophisticated system enabling constant regulation and monitoring of the humidity rate and temperature in each area. This avoids the risk of watches showing traces of condensation when exposed to lower temperatures, such as would occur if they were cased up in an overly damp atmosphere. An air filter system eliminates any dust that might clog up the movement. All these are common enough measures in high-tech medical or electronic industries, but are resolutely pioneering in watchmaking. The dial is placed over and fixed to the movement. The hands are driven one by one into the arbors, with controlled force, using a machine equipped with a video screen showing a greatly enlarged image. This is followed by verification of their parallelism, of the correct centering of the chronograph hands after resetting, and of the date jump. The movement / dial / hand unit, complete with its casing-ring, is firmly fitted inside the case. The crown is then inserted and the movement is secured by screws. The oscillating weight is put in place and screwed in using a dynamometric screwdriver serving to precisely define the tightening torque. The caseback is then closed and locked using a machine, before being laser-engraved with the individual number allotted by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC); each model is thus indissolubly linked to a given movement.

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Quality control

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To guarantee products complying with the highest technical and aesthetic parameters, not only does Breitling work with the finest suppliers and entrust production to the most expert watchmakers using the most sophisticated equipment, but the firm has also instated comprehensive and stringent test procedures. Each part is subjected to a number of rigorous tests, and each stage in production is followed by a control aiming to ensure respect for all the criteria established by the brand. Only such high demands can guarantee the impeccable quality of watches “Made by Breitling”. All components of the movements or exterior undergo extremely severe entry controls dealing with their technical, dimensional and aesthetic aspects. Cases are subjected to a water-resistance test at pressures of up to 400 bars, followed by a condensation test. The shape, color and levelness of the hands, as well as the workmanship displayed in the dials and straps/bracelets, are all thoroughly verified. The assembly and casing-up processes also involve a whole host of tests. Once cased up, watches are subjected to a further battery of controls, including an airtightness test. Rating precision is measured using equipment with strictly defined parameters. Specialists scrutinize the entire set of functions: pushpiece handling, bezel rotation, efficient automatic winding, length of the power reserve and calendar operation. Visual controls under a magnifying glass guarantee the aesthetic perfection of all exterior parts. Before being dispatched from the factory, watches undergo a final control covering both visual and functional aspects.

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Research & development

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Throughout its history, Breitling has distinguished itself by countless innovations and technical improvements relating to both movements and watch exteriors. The firm pursues this constant quest for optimization through an extremely active "Research & Development" unit staffed by the finest specialists. Breitling Chronométrie, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, boasts one of the best-equipped laboratories in the entire watch industry. The Breitling Chronométrie laboratory has all the ultra-sophisticated equipment required to accompany the development of new movements as well as research into this high-tech domain. This array inclu- des a scanning electron microscope providing x40,000 enlargement, a high-speed camera, equipment for chemical analyses and a number of devices serving to test movements' resistance to shocks, to variations in temperature and magnetic fields, as well as their behavior in wearing conditions and their long-term reliability. In developing a new model, each part of the exterior must also undergo extremely severe homologation tests aimed at verifying the various key components' resistance to certain phenomena: that of the sapphire crystal to impacts, that of the dial to ultra-violet rays or to corrosion, and that of the bracelet to traction, jolting, etc. Engineers check the smooth operation of the rotating bezel and of the chronograph pushpieces, and dimensional tests are also conducted using 3D measurement apparatus.

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Customer service

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A Breitling watch is a highly sophisticated precision instrument operating 24/7 under a wide range of circumstances. It must therefore be maintained in a regular and ultra-professional manner in order to safeguard its performances and its reliability over the long term. Breitling regards customer service as an integral and essential part of its overall quality policy. The brand runs a large global network of authorized technical centers, staffed by perfectly trained watchmakers. All those involved are bound by a Customer Service charter implying respect for the entire set of criteria demanded by Breitling. This approach guarantees fast, efficient and personalized handling. The complete overhaul of a mechanical Breitling chronograph is a long and meticulous process. The movement is entirely dismantled and the parts that are subject to the greatest stresses and strains - such as the mainspring - are systematically replaced. All parts are carefully inspected, replaced if they are worn, and then washed before being patiently reas- sembled and lubricated. The case is also completely taken apart and the most exposed components are changed, particularly the water-resistance gaskets. Polishing experts restore the original glow of the case and bracelet, while preserving the initial shapes. After a series of ultrasound baths, the case is reassembled. The dial is fitted with new hands. The re-cased-up watch undergoes a water-resistance test as well as a three-day quality control notably focusing on its precision, automatic winding mechanism, power reserve and chronograph functions - as well as a strict aesthetic appraisal.