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Observation stopwatch from Léon Breitling
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Author:  adipositas [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 3:03 am ]
Post subject:  Observation stopwatch from Léon Breitling


on my search on a simple chronograph or stopwatch (to learn how to disassemble and re-assemble them after cleaning)
I found an old stopwatch at the fleabay that looks rather old and interesting.
The stopwatch was not signed but had a swiss patent number on the movement (CH-3823).

Because I like to look for every found patent I searched for this patent, too. And I found this.

CH-3823 "Chronographe-compteur d'observation"
Léon Breitling, à St.-Imier, 27th july 1891

(short version of this patent)

At this moment I was just curious who this Lèon Breitling was... and whether he was perhaps a relative to the Breitling family. But...

... yes, then it was clear, he was the founder of the Breitling SA himself!

Here's that stopwatch:


A 5 minute stopwatch for scientific or sports observations, as mentioned in the patent. The patent is for reducing costs on building a stopwatch because of less movement parts. One lever controlls all states (start, stop, reset).

And with this watch I've got some questions I cannot find:
- Who are the parents of Lèon Breitling? Does anybody know more about them except they are german immigrants (from the area of Stuttgart)???
- Who was his wife? Did they have more than one child ("Gaston")?

Kind regards,

Author:  Roffensian [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:01 am ]
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1891 was 7 years after Breitling SA was founded so this is definitely related to the company even though the patent is in his name.

I don't have much on the family history in my stuff, but I believe there is some family history in the Richter book - I'll take a look this evening.

Author:  adipositas [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:20 am ]
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Yes, 1891 was one year before L.B. moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds with his employees (and founded THERE the Breitling SA). In Saint Imier it was "just" a smaller watch manufacture.


Author:  Sharkmouth [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:11 am ]
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Cut and paste from Cargo News Asia who did not credit the original source.

Breitling came into this world as a result of the harsh Swiss winters. According to the company, in the mid-19th century, out of a total population of 2.5 million in Switzerland, some 40,000 were working in the watch industry - 75% of them working from their home. Among them were the parents of Léon Breitling, who had moved from Stuttgart, Germany, to the Jura to farm. Leon started at an early age to make the mechanical components for watches from home. When he finished his formal training he opened a small studio in Saint Imier producing complicated mechanical devices and watches.

He learnt that he needed to specialise to survive, so he set about making pieces that were of his own invention: Various complicated watches and chronographs as well as special measuring instruments needed in the watch industry. Towards the end of the century, he had moved to larger premises in a bigger town and was employing 60 workers.

After Léon's death, his son took over and carried on with the speciality products. Gaston patented the Vitesse stopwatch - first orders came from police who used them to set the first speed traps. He also pioneered the wristwatch stopwatch, which particularly appealed not just to the sportsman but to military authorities, too. Time-event chronograph watches followed.

It was Gaston's son Willy who developed the company's first chronograph for aircraft. In 1939 Breitling signed a large contract with the British Air Ministry to make flight chronographs for the planes of the Royal Air Force, and started the brand's relationship with the aviation industry that continues to this day.

Author:  In2Deep [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:05 am ]
Post subject: 

Looks like you found a diamond in the rough.

Author:  adipositas [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:21 am ]
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Sharkmouth, thank you very much for that information! Even if my questions are still without an answer, but with other details of his environment. Think, I can use it in my watchmakers profile (on my website).



Author:  Roffensian [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 3:54 pm ]
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OK, per Benno Richter

The story of Leon Breitling began on January 26th 1860, the day Leon Breitling, as a youth, first decided to learn about watches. Several years before that, his parents had moved from the Stuttgart, Germany area to the Swiss Jura to find work. During the summers they farmed the land and raised cattle, but during the long winter months it was necessary to work inside making clock and watch parts to supplement their limited income. These parts were later delivered to the watch manufacturers in the area. At this time out of a total population of 2.5 million people, some 40,000 people were working in the watch industry. Seventy five percent of those worked at home.

The parents of Leon Breitling settled in the town of Saint-Imier, which at that time consisted of only a few houses. Here Leon grew up and acquired the seeds of knowledge that were to lead to his later career. He was six years old when the International Red Cross was founded; twelve when the work on the St. Gathered Tunnel was begun. For Leon, hard work was his way of life from the beginning, and at an early age he was making mechanical components for watches from his home as a 'cottage' worker. It was likely that complicated mechanical devices and timepieces attracted Leon even in his youth.

In 1884, Switzerland was in the depths of a recession, and manylost hope and emigrated overseas to begin anew. Also, Daimler and Maybach had just built their first motors, so an era of rapidly changing technology was dawning. Chugging automobiles and aircraft were first seen. The electric light was introduced, and countless other technical inventions were soon to follow. At this time there was also much happening in the Swiss Jura, in the Vallee de Joux. The ups and downs of the economy, especially in the watch industry, did not make starting a new business very easy. Nevertheless, at the age of 24 Leon Breitling finished his training as a watchmaker and opened a small studio in Saint-Imier to produce complicated mechanical devices and watches. He learned in a short time that it was necessary to specialise, to avoid being just one competing among many. This venture was successful so a little later he founded a small watchmaking firm under the name of G. Leon Breitling, thus laying the cornerstone for a great brand of watches. From then on, the Breitling name was to quickly become well known.

The first products made by leon Breitling were timepieces of his own invention and construction: various complicated watches and chronographs as well asa several special measuring instruments that were needed in the watchmaking industry.

He introduced his products at expositions and thus gained a series of prizes and certificates of honour.

Saint-Imier soon became too small for him, and Leon Breitling looked for more space. It was therefore natural to move to La Chaux-de-Fonds, where the majority of his suppliers were located. La Chaux-de-Fonds was and is a centre of the watchmaking industry. In La Chaux-de-Fonds he bought land on the Rue Montbrillant and built a factory. In 1892 the firm moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds, and Leon changed the firm's name to Leon G. Breitling S.A. Montbrillant Watch Manufactory.

In this process, his small studio had become a large watch factory with sixty employees.

Much of the work was already assigned to small family businesses and workers at home, for it was impossible to employ that many people in his own factory. To be able to sell his products in France, he opened a branch offince in France, in Besancon, but after a short while that was closed, since direct deliveries to France became possible.

On August 11th, 1914, Leon Breitling died. His son Gaston Breitling, enthusiastically began his career in the business after having been trained as a watchmaker.

Nothing more specific, sorry.

Author:  adipositas [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:13 pm ]
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Thank you very much!!!

Here are some more details about Léon... didn't know about that branch office in france!

Thanks to you all!!


Author:  aleister [ Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:53 pm ]
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A really interesting piece you've found and nice background check from the rest of you! Loved the reading!

Author:  adipositas [ Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:15 am ]
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As a little addendum:

Yesterday I cleaned the stopwatch and found a hidden signature of L. Breitling on the hidden side of the barrel plate:


Don't know why this signature was hidden...

But this sign has made the watch perfect to me!


Author:  aleister [ Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:09 am ]
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An "old-style" easter egg! Cool!

Author:  Roffensian [ Mon Jul 21, 2008 12:18 pm ]
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I'm speculating, but it's possible that Breitling produced the barrel plates for sale to other manufacturers as well as his own use. In that scenario it's likely that he would need to put his maker's mark where it wouldn't automatically be visible as the watchmaker would want their own name to show without any distraction.

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