Louis Breitling founded his watch company in 1884 in St Imier, Switzerland with the specific purpose to develop chronographs and counters for scientific and industrial applications. In the early 19th century, Breitling expanded into creating high-quality timing instruments for automobiles and airplanes, beginning a long history of creating timing instruments for the aviation industry. In 1952, the Navitimer was launched, a wrist watch equipped with a so called "navigation computer" that allowed pilots to calculate flight plans. In 1962, the 24-hour Cosmonaute chronograph was released, and this watch was worn by Scott Carpenter when he flew America's second ever manned orbital flight in the Aurora 7.
Continuing to innovate for professional flyers, in the mid-1990s Breitling introduced the Emergency, which features a built-in microtransmitter that broadcasts on the 121.5 MHz aircraft emergency frequency. This is used as a backup to airborne beacons, and its signal can be picked up within a range of up to 90 nautical miles. The Emergency has been put to the test on several occasions, most famously in rescuing two British pilots who crashed their helicopter in Antarctica.
Breitling has also been at the forefront in advancing the mechanics of the chronograph timepiece. In 1923, it was the first watch manufacturer to introduce an independent push piece for the chronograph, enabling the start and return-to-zero function (previously performed by the winding-crown). Then in 1934, Breitling added a second push piece to the chronograph enabling either cumulative or incremental time recording.