Breitling, the Swiss brand specializing in chronographs, technical watches and other timepieces, had a grand opening party Thursday night to celebrate its fifth location in California.
The new Breitling store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, has a modern retro feel with faux-brick walls, subdued neon signage, dark hardwood floors and trunk-like furnishings topped by display cases for the precision watches embracing the universe of land, sea and air. The 922-square-foot space stands in a section of the luxury mall inhabited by other high-end watch labels including Tudor, Tag Heuer, Piaget, Omega, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin.
On hand for the event was snowboarder Chloe Kim, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a member of Breitling’s All-Star Squad of athletes promoting the Chronomat collection. She is taking a year off from snowboarding to keep herself mentally and physically healthy but is enjoying time being a Breitling ambassador.
“This is my first store opening event,” said Kim, who was wearing a Super Chronomat Automatic 38 Origins watch. “I didn’t really wear watches before I started working for Breitling and began to understand watches. Now I never leave the house without a watch.”
Her watch had a feminine touch with its oversized lab-grown diamonds around the face and ceramic rider tabs and crown.
Also present was Thierry Prissert, Breitling USA president, who said California is a great market for the brand because of the state’s casual and outdoorsy ambience, which matches the brand’s sporty style. South Coast Plaza has been on the company’s radar for about three years, Prissert said, but it was all about finding the right space. Breitling also has boutiques in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, San Diego and San Jose.
And more California stores are on the way with an outpost opening soon at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. The watch company is scouting around for a location in San Francisco, part of its goal to open eight stores in the United States this year adding to its current 30 boutiques in the country. Last year it opened six doors in the United States.
“California is clearly a region where we want to grow our footprint more than we have in the past,” Prissert said, noting that Breitling has only been operating in the United States for the past 30 years while other Swiss watch brands have been around for several decades. The company opened its first U.S. store in New York in 2010.
The Swiss company has been in expansion mode ever since CVC Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the company in 2017, and Georges Kern became the new chief executive. He is responsible for expanding the company’s product line to encompass the land, sea and air categories and adding more selections for women. “For many years, we were really a little narrow in our approach. We were really exclusively aviation,” Prissert explained. “We’ve been able to redesign the collection to fit our history and be relevant to today.”
In 2020, Partners Group Holding increased its stake in Breitling from 23 percent to 50 percent, while CVC Capital Partners decreased its holdings to about 23.6 percent, according to Bloomberg News.
The change in ownership, Prissert said, has only guaranteed the watch company’s growth plans, which include exploring China’s market. “[Partners Group] is going to support our growth by investing in more stores and in remodeling the stores with the new [modern retro] concept. We have retail, but we also have wholesale, which we will expand,” the Breitling executive said. “We are not changing our goal, which is to put a watch on every wrist and to be able to have more people discover Breitling.”