Founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling, the first Breitling workshop in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, specialized in chronographs and precision counters for scientific and industrial purposes. Eventually M. Breitling moves the company to La Chaux-de-Fonds, the center of Swiss watchmaking world.
While Breitling made its name manufacturing aviation, aerospace, marine and science instruments, as well as timepieces, today Breitling is a global brand known for producing fashionable and functional luxury timepieces. The brand offers several collections of watches including the Aeromarine, Chronomatic, and Navitimer, in addition to its incredibly popular “Breitling for Bentley” limited edition watches, a successful automotive-inspired timepiece collaboration with Bentley Motorcars. The company remains one of the very few family-owned major luxury watchmakers.
Breitling USA is headquartered in Connecticut and has two after-sales service facilities: one in Florida, another in Illinois. Its current expansion strategy has been to leverage the soft real estate market where key strategic retail locations can be attained far easier than in years past and significantly increase its retail presence in the US.
For this edition of the “Sig Survey“, I sat down to speak with Mr. Prissert at the midtown Manhattan Breitling flagship boutique, which opened late Q4 last year, but had its grand opening celebration early this year to great (and warranted) fanfare replete with a rather impassioned speech by the brand’s long time celebrity spokesman actor and pilot John Travolta. This is Breitling’s first boutique in the U.S.; two more will open this year, one in Miami, Florida and another (a joint venture) in Palm Desert, California. While we chatted about a number of topics during our tête-à-tête, most of the answers below were garnered during the course of an email exchange.
I’ve had the pleasure of watching Mr. Prissert’s ascension in the U.S. men’s luxury sector from his eleven-year tenure as the U.S. head of the high-end men’s swim and resort wear designer Vilebrequin, where he started in 1999 (we met didn’t meet until the early/mid-Aughts). He went on to open fifteen company-owned boutiques in the U.S. market (two in Manhattan) and over 150 wholesale accounts before coming onboard Breitling in Q4 last year. Prior to Vilebrequin, Mr. Prissert was with Folli Follie in Paris, the young fashion jewelry and watch retailer founded in Greece in the mid-1980’s. The transition from Vilebrequin to Breitling was far more logical and suited to Mr. Prissert, who seems very pleased with his not quite year-old position.
How would you describe Breitling style? Breitling’s heritage and inspiration for style is deeply rooted in the brand’s passion for aviation. It is edgy and bold, yet sophisticated and refined.
What’s your definition of luxury? To me, luxury is an appreciation of the finest products and services. It also means exclusivity. It is all about the attention to detail and craftsmanship that is put into creating and producing anything from a custom pair of leather shoes to the ultimate in precision and reliability from a watch.
What’s your assessment of the luxury market today? I think the real luxury market is coming back. I believe that consumers will still pay a premium to, in turn, receive the finest goods and services available. I believe it’s also becoming overcrowded with many brands claiming to be “luxury,” but not delivering a truly luxurious product. Luxury today has become more common. The true “luxury” companies have recognized this and are now responding with the production of very exclusive and limited edition items, which ultimately positions luxury now at an even higher level.
Is the U.S. still a market driver for your business? The U.S. is the largest market in the world for Breitling. Because of this, we opened a flagship U.S. boutique in midtown Manhattan at 5 East 57th Street this year. The three-story, 3,000 square-foot space offers a glimpse into the personality of Breitling and tells the story of what this brand is all about.
What has been your most challenging project to date? I think when it comes to a singular challenge I would say the biggest task to date would be opening the first Breitling Boutique in the U.S. The most challenging part was finding and securing the ideal location, space and design to truly convey the Breitling message.
Describe the ideal Breitling client… The ideal Breitling client is a passionate and adventurous individual who has an appreciation for finely crafted mechanical watches.
What’s the ‘next big thing’? Breitling has a few things lined up for the rest of the year and into 2012. We also look forward to the introduction of additional calibers of our in-house movement at Basel in 2012. In November of this year, we will also be opening our second U.S. store at the Aventura Mall near Miami, Florida.
[Images courtesy of Breitling]