When Georges Kern first entered the Breitling factory in the Swiss town of Grenchen, the first thing he ordered was to thoroughly dull the steel of the watches.
“A Breitling can not shine but I almost had to wear sunglasses to look at it, and that’s not elegant,” explained the politics graduate-turned-businessman, who has enjoyed a stratospheric career trajectory. “It was clear that the brand had to be redirected to the excellence of its origins.”
Last summer, the prestigious IWC watchmaker (at just 32 years of age, he was the youngest ever CEO of the company) made the leap to Breitling, coinciding with its acquisition by CVC Capital Partners.
The massive re-launch event that took place in Zurich has marked the before and after chapters of Breitling. Kern summarised his concept in the two words that make up the new slogan of the house: “Legendary future”.
On stage, accompanied by the British actor Richard E Grant, and before a large audience of industry, media and celebrities from around the world, the company’s new CEO undressed his plans, just as he formally undressed the classic “B” logo, which has been stripped of its legendary wings.
“We have returned to the origins because that’s when the company started at the beginning of the last century,” explains Kern. “Breitling has always been associated with aviation for its chronographs, but also for other exciting areas such as motorsports or skiing. From now on, we’re going to open up more than ever. ”
At 52 years old, Kern is on a mission to modernise the century-old brand that pioneered in manufacturing the most accurate chronographs in the world (since the middle of the last century it has provided an infinity of aeronautical companies).
With illustrious clients, from Rachel Welch to Serge Gainsbourg, or more recently Mel Gibson or Leonardo DiCaprio, among many glittering names, Kern has to convince the mass of Breitling’s intergenerational stalwarts that their favorite brand needs a facelift.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that the company’s aerobatic flight team was present at the ceremony, or that they took advantage of it to present the first collection of this new era, the Navitimer 8, the renewal of a watch that was sold since the middle of the last century as “the chronograph of the pilots”.
It maintains reliability and elegance, but now presents clearer lines, more refined contours and abandons the baroque of the past model. And without wings and with the steel of the box and the bezel more polished than ever. This is Breitling’s future.