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Breitling’s dive into surfer-dude culture

Breitling’s dive into surfer-dude culture

Monday, 07 October 2019
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Carol Besler

“Watches are functional art.”

Carol Besler covers watches and jewelry worldwide.

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5 min read

On the road with CEO Georges Kern, Breitling stopped off in California to meet champion surfer Kelly Slater. While there, the brand had plenty of new releases to show, with the Aviator 8 Mosquito, a revisited Avenger line and a new range of straps in Econyl, a yarn made from recycled fishing nets.

Breitling CEO Georges Kern certainly knows how to make a point. To launch the new Superocean Outerknown dive/surfer watch, he bussed a group of retailers and journalists into the blazing heat of California’s Central Valley to a surf ranch surrounded by farmer’s fields near a small town called Lemoor, south of Fresno County. The ranch, owned by surf champion and Breitling ambassador Kelly Slater, is a surfer magnet because it produces the world’s most powerful man-made wave, reaching speeds of up to 20 mph. The wave is 100 miles inland, but the surf is always up and there are no sharks in the water. The wave is generated in a long trench-like channel of water that is pushed along by a machine that resembles a train with a huge snowplow attached to the front, moving on a track alongside the surfing pool.

Breitling is betting on its Surfer Squad, which aside from Kelly includes female surf champions Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons, to help boost sales for the new Superocean Automatic 44 Outerknown. Outerknown is surfer slang for the other, unseen side of a wave. It is also the name of a company owned by Slater that makes sustainable clothing – over 90% of Outerknown’s products are made from organic, recycled, or regenerated materials. In this spirit, Breitling has introduced a line of NATO-style straps for the Superocean (or any other Breitling model) that are made of Econyl yarn, which is created from recycled fishing nets and other nylons. Burberry and Prada are among the top fashion labels to have used Econyl fibers in their collections.

The Breitling Superocean Outerknown strap collection in Econyl yarn, made from recycled nylon fishing nets.
The Breitling Superocean Outerknown strap collection in Econyl yarn, made from recycled nylon fishing nets.

“The Superocean Outerknown is a fantastic watch, but the enduring story is the innovative strap collection,” says Kern. “It marks another important step in our shared focus with Kelly Slater on sustainability.” There are 18 references in the collection in six colors and four sizes. The Superocean Outerknown watch is 44mm in stainless steel, with a wide unidirectional bezel and a green dial with outsized numerals and indexes coated in Super-LumiNova. It comes on a khaki Econyl Outerknown strap. The movement, Breitling automatic Calibre 17, is COSC-certified with a 38-hour power reserve. It is water-resistant to 1,000 meters.

Aviation in its blood

Another star of the Breitling Summit was the Aviator 8 Mosquito Night Flight, created to commemorate De Havilland’s historic WWII-era plane. This is one of Breitling’s special editions created to honor its aviator watch heritage, which kicked off earlier this year with the Aviator 8 Curtiss Warhawk collection, a tribute to the P-40 Warhawk fighter plane. The Mosquito was an ultra-light plane made out of a wood laminate, designed to be a light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft during World War II. Because of its lightness, it was one of the fastest planes in the world – it flew 20 mph faster than the famous Spitfire, which was equipped with the same engine. According to Alistair Hodgson, curator of the De Havilland Aircraft Museum in England who was on-hand at the Summit, “military historians point out that while the Spitfire won the Battle of Britain, the Mosquito won the war.” The design of the Mosquito, says Hodgson, was so top-secret that instead of building it at its headquarters near London, De Havilland rented a sixteenth-century manor house in Salisbury and moved the entire design team there in total secrecy. “When it was finished, they took it apart piece by piece and transported it by truck back to London.” The Aviator 8 Mosquito Night Flight contains Breitling’s elite automatic Calibre 01 chronograph, with a 70-hour power reserve. The watch is a COSC-certified chronometer, and water-resistant to 100 meters. The design is based on the onboard clocks that came out of Breitling’s Huit Aviation Department in the 1930s and 1940s, while the red and orange accents on the dial recall the roundels and markings on the fuselage of the De Havilland Mosquito.

A trimmer Avenger line

The third debut at the Summit was a revamped Avenger collection, Breitling’s entry-level line of pilot’s watches that incorporates elements of the now discontinued Colt line. In keeping with Georges Kern’s aim to refine Breitling’s product offering, the line has been pared down from 41 references to 14, yet remains surprisingly broad. There are three sizes – 43, 45 and 48mm – with GMT, chronograph and automatic 3-hand options and a broad selection of dial colors and straps. The bezel of the new Avenger has been redesigned, along with a few other tweaks, including color highlights, but most other design elements remain the same, including the distinctive font and the signature rider tabs at cardinal points on the bezel. The signature Arabic numerals recall the stenciled numbers on the decks of aircraft carriers.

The Breitling Avenger Automatic 45 mm Seawolf, which replaces the Colt. The Breitling Avenger Collection starts from $3,975 up to $5,835.
The Breitling Avenger Automatic 45 mm Seawolf, which replaces the Colt. The Breitling Avenger Collection starts from $3,975 up to $5,835.

To market the collection, Breitling has assembled an Aviation Pioneers Squad as part of its #squadonamission campaign, including astronaut Scott Kelly; Rocío González Torres, a commandant in the Spanish Air Force and the first Spanish woman to log 1,000 hours at the controls of an F-18 fighter jet; and 18-year-old Luke Bannister, a world-champion drone pilot.

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