Audemars Piguet might in fact have made not just the gongs however, the entire motion: in those days, it was common for European watch companies to buy raw motions from Swiss companies and finish them for their own specifications.The watch almost dropped into oblivion. In 2001, a married couple attracted it to Lange’s headquarters in Glashütte to find out whether it were worth fixing. A housekeeper they knew had obtained it as a gift over the usual half-century earlier. The answer was not obvious. In a publication about the watch that the company published in 2010, ” Lange watchmaker Jan Silva explained the watch’s state: “Where there could normally be a complicated, delicate mesh of bridges, springs and brakes, there was nothing to be seen but a gray-brown, amorphous mass …. Only the larger components of this movement were still identifiable.” Silva led a team of four watchmakers that revived the motion to pristine state. It took five years; the dismantling process alone took three months.The see’s case was made by the industrial designer Carl Ludwig Theodor Graff from the Louis XV style. Front bears an engraving of this goddess Minerva; the back is adorned with the initials “G.S.” No one understands whose initials they are. Contrary to the movement, the situation and the dial were in excellent condition once the watch resurfaced in 2001.
Breitling is in the preliminary stages of selling itself to a luxury conglomerate, according to a report on Bloomberg. One of the few family-owned watch companies of significant size left, Breitling has been in the hands of the Schneider family since 1979.
According to Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel quoted in the Bloomberg story (and whom we interviewed earlier this year), Breitling’s 2015 revenue was about SFr370m, or US$364 million, accounting for about 5% of high-end Swiss watch sales. Breitling could fetch between SFr600m and SFr900m, according to another analyst quoted in this Bloomberg story.
The company built its images on pilot’s watches, recruiting John Travolta as an ambassador and even sponsoring its own aerobatics team. While prominent in the 1990s for its luxe pilot’s watches, Breitling has lost ground to the competition in the last decade, especially after its move upmarket with pricier watches featuring in-house movements like the most recent Chronomat 44. And earlier this year it introduced the Chronoworks, one of the most technically impressive watches of 2016, but priced at just under US$40,000.
Bloomberg’s report didn’t name the suitor, but Breitling’s focus on pilot’s watches would make Richemont an unlikely suitor, given its ownership of IWC and Panerai, which compete in a similar segment.
That would leave the Swatch Group, which is busy putting its own house in order, as well as the diversified luxury conglomerates, namely LVMH and Kering.
LVMH owns TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith, while Kering has Ulysse-Nardin and Girard Perregaux.