Today Breitlings are a rather upmarket offering, popular with pilots and those who aspire to the glamour of flying. This is no accident. Breitling have targeted that market for at least the last 75 years. In recent years they sponsor air races, aerobatics contests and teams along with other mechanical action sports. The logo is a pair of wings spanning a stylised “B”.
The company has its origins in Switzerland in 1884 but I think the marque’s attraction to aviators started in the 1940’s when they added a circular slide rule to the bezel of their chronograph models for use by pilots. In 1961, Scott Carpenter one of the original astronauts in the Mercury space program approached Breitling with idea of incorporating a 24 hour dial instead of the normal 12 hour dial. This was needed because of the lack of day and night during space travel. Breitling complied, and produced the 24-hour Navitimer which Carpenter wore on his 1962 space flight.
This basic but nice chronograph is the Top Time, features a tachometer ring and little else; no date and only two register, the left side sub dial is a dedicated seconds indicator. It uses the Valjoux 7730 movement that was produced, with small modifications, from 1948 to 1978.
Breitling did not produce their own movements. I don’t think that any manufacturer produced their own chronograph movements. The market was taken up by Ebauche manufacturers like Valjoux, Lemania, Landeron and Venus. Even the might of Omega, Longines and Rolex used these Ebauche movements.
In 1969 Breitling, along with Hamilton/Buren and Heuer released what is a contender for the world’s first self winding chronograph. The other condenders where Zenith and Seiko.
My Top Time does have a connection with fame beyond being a Breitling. In the 1965 film Thunderball, James bond was issued with a specially modified Top Time that had a bulky case and doubled as a geiger counter. The dial and movement is identical to mine, save the black dial. In June 2013 it sold by Christies for $160,383!
I didn’t pay anywhere that much for mine and I didn’t even know its James Bond connection when I bought it. A friend of mine came to me with it; not only a chronograph, but a Breitling chronograph……I wanted it!