How To Spot A Real Breitling Watch
The Breitling brand is no stranger to innovation. There was the first chronograph wristwatch with a separate push-piece for recording the passage of time above the watch’s crown, launched in 1915. Breitling soon became a top pick for everyone in need of an accurate time-recording instrument, from pilots to seafarers to the athletically inclined. Next up was the newsworthy Navitimer and its flight-specific slide rule, a feature first introduced on the equally iconic Chronomat. And then there was the ’50s-era SuperOcean diver’s watch with its water-resistant case, which could withstand depths up to 200 meters.
With the brand’s legacy of technical contributions and its reputation for high-quality timepieces, it’s no surprise that counterfeit Breitling watches have popped up over the years. Read on as Senior Watch Valuation Manager Danny Avizov explores the horological details that will help you tell real Breitling watches from faux.
Are there specific details on the dial — printing, numerals, logo — that can help identify an authentic Breitling watch?
Breitling watches are designed for professional pilots, divers and individuals who need to make use of a tool watch for any number of activities that require a precise instrument. Dial makeup, fonts, sub-dial placement, hand design and movement feel are indicators for model authenticity. Font legibility has always been a consistent characteristic of the dial makeup, especially since the printing is all machine-embellished. Whether it be Arabic or Roman numerals, index marks or diamonds, the dial should always be easy to read in an instant.
What materials and level of craftsmanship do you expect to see on a genuine Breitling watch?
Breitling manufactures some of today’s top-rated watches. Cases and bracelets are primarily made of 316L surgical stainless steel, and can contain 18-karat rose or yellow gold. Limited-edition models can also be found in white gold, platinum and ceramic. PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition)-coated stainless steel, crafted to improve durability, has also been used, in addition to diamond-like-carbon coating, which has the hardness of a diamond. An inferior metal or material that scratches with little wear should be a red flag.
As for craftsmanship, most everything is machine-produced, with hands-on work taking place for movement assembly, dial and hand appliqué. Breitling watches are hand-assembled, meaning that every watch produced is touched by a vast number of watchmakers, service technicians and quality control personnel. These experts consistently create high-performing watches that can work rigorously through various atmospheres and depths, making them a preferred brand for pilots and other professionals in the field.
What should the caseback and branding look like on an authentic Breitling watch?
As pictured on the Breitling SuperOcean watch above, most Breitling watches should have a domed caseback with a Breitling emblem in the center, in addition to a reference number. On the casebacks of the current collection of Chronomat watches, the dome is less prominent, but the Breitling emblem remains nearly the same. Some current models have flat casebacks with different fonts for the brand name, which is quite similar to some of the Navitimer watches produced in the ’70s.
What kind of serial numbers and maker’s marks should be present on authentic Breitling watches?
A numeric range, up to seven numbers, can be found on the lower portion of the caseback. A reference number starting with a letter has been on the caseback of Breitling watches for decades. On modern watches, going back a couple of decades or so, we will also find serial numbers placed towards an edge of the caseback. Hallmarks pertaining to precious metals are typically found on the lugs.
Can you describe how the lug, pushers and crown should be cast, and the correct feel and functionality of the pushers? What do counterfeiters get wrong about these elements?
Oftentimes the chronograph pushers on Breitling watches are cylindrical pump pushers, plain stainless steel, ridged or domed with ridges. The domed-style pushers and crowns are reminiscent of airplane cockpits, which is a unique design feature that Breitling offered for the Chronomat GT. Forged out of surgical stainless steel or precious metal, these are the parts that counterfeit watches would normally cast in lower-quality materials.
Base metal or pot metal — which has a low melting point and is used for inexpensive casts — and plated or electroformed parts are predominantly used in place of precious metals on replica watches. Original chronograph parts, both external and internal, should offer a “quick action” when engaging the chronograph. This means that the pushers should be able to start, pause and reset quickly and effortlessly, without impediments.