Interview with Guy Bove, Creative Director of Breitling

During Baselworld 2018, Angus Davies was granted an interview with Guy Bove, Creative Director of Breitling. Angus asked about the recently launched Navitimer 8 collection, the re-branding of the company and Bove’s approach to designing watches.

In this interview with Guy Bove, Creative Director of Breitling, the talented designer shared his inspiration for the new Navitimer 8 collection and his approach to watch design. 

Interview with Guy Bove, Creative Director, Breitling

In July 2017, Georges Kern was appointed CEO of Breitling. Formerly Kern ran IWC Schaffhausen, deftly steering the company to notable success.

Since his arrival, Kern has not let the grass grow under his feet. In less than a year, Breitling has released an array of new products, re-branded its watches and boutiques and appointed several new managers.

One such appointee is Guy Bove, the new Creative Director of Breitling. Bove has previously worked at IWC, Chopard and Ferdinand Berthoud. His design prowess is clear, illustrated with the many eye-catching models he has conceived.

Interview with Guy Bove, Creative Director, Breitling

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat to Bove and learn more about his work at Breitling.


Interview with Guy Bove (GB) by Angus Davies (AD)

AD: Breitling recently unveiled the Navitimer 8 collection. Can you reveal what your inspiration was when designing these watches?

GB: My original brief from Georges Kern (CEO) was to capture the look of a 1930s cockpit instrument and make it suitable for the wrist.

In the late 1930s, Willy Breitling set up a division to make cockpit clocks. Planes were not supplied with instruments at this time. The customer installed the instruments they required. Breitling made cockpit clocks and the dials and cases of the new Navitimer watches are inspired by these cockpit clocks.

Interview with Guy Bove, Creative Director, Breitling

Breitling Navitimer 8 Chronograph 43

The Navitimer 1 was released in 1952. The Navitimer 8 is actually the prequel to the Navitimer 1. We brought out the Navitimer 8 to tell the public about our history. The Navitimer 8 does not feature a slide rule as this was not consistent with the 1930s. The slide rule came with the Navitimer 1, for use by airline pilots.

AD: Breitling produced a chronograph in 1915 with a separate push-piece above the crown. Do you think you will make this kind of watch again?

GB: The previous design team created such a watch with the company’s in-house movement. I suspect that we will do something like that again.

AD: The Breitling brand has recently been overhauled, resulting in a new logo, new typography and a new look for the company’s boutiques. What has been your input in this process?

GB: Yes, this was part of my remit.

With regards to the brand’s corporate identity, I wanted to move away from the black background colour to a dark blue shade in order to give it more depth. We changed the shade of yellow so it’s not quite as flashy as it used to be. We have gone back to the look of the 1940s logo, but with a new typeface which we have also used for the dials. It repeats what Willy Breitling was doing in the 1940s, taking the hand-written ‘B’ from the first logo and continuing the name with block capitals.

The new logo is very similar, just a little more modern. We have tried to ensure it links back to the origins of the brand. The thing about this brand is that it has a ‘super-solid’ history with over one hundred years of making great watches.

Interview with Guy Bove, Creative Director, Breitling

Breitling Navitimer 8 B35 Automatic Unitime 43

A watch is an investment and shows you believe in something. For someone who does not know about the brand, which will still be a lot of people, they can scratch the surface and be able to connect a modern model with an old watch.

You will see that we are going back to the past but we are not copying the past. We will look at former models, question why it looks cool and then transpose it to a new watch.

The same thing goes for the boutiques.

AD: Breitling appears to have focussed upon making smaller sized watches and delivering very competitive prices. Can you elaborate on this?

We have recently designed a 50mm! But we also have 41mm and 43mm case options. Some models in the past were particularly large and they gained much attention. The 41mm and 43mm watches we offer are very wearable.

With regards to pricing, Breitling pricing has always been keen.

AD: You have much experience in the watch industry, having worked for various brands. Is the approach to design the same at Breitling?

GB: The design process is exactly the same. Sometimes I sketch on paper first, sometimes not. It depends on what I am doing. When I am sketching I am looking at design principles and I possibly draw a few details, however, I never draw a complete watch. I might draw a lug or a bezel.

I always design the complete watch using CAD (computer aided design). The first thing anyone sees from me is a computer rendering. This allows me to put a movement inside. I may make 10 cases with slightly different sizes until I am happy with them. It allows me to get the watch to sit closer to the wrist or make the design edgier.

Generally, I start with the case then the dial. I am very much into cases. People always obsess about the dial and then the case is an afterthought. I believe in getting the case right first because that is what you will be wearing. The ergonomics are a huge part of the design.

Often people talk about case sizes but it does not mean much. For example, these two 43mm cases (shows two watch cases), fit very differently. Look at how one watch sits much higher off the wrist. I prefer to talk about how things fit rather the size itself. The Navitimer Super 8 with the olive dial measures 50mm across the bezel but it wears fine.

Closing remarks

Beyond the design of the dial there are many considerations which must be taken into account when creating a new watch.

Under Guy Bove’s direction, the styling of Breitling’s latest watches pays due reverence to the company’s cockpit instruments of the 1930s. Bove has looked to the past for inspiration, but has successfully avoided making facsimiles of former timepieces. Indeed, his aspiration is to design new, modern watches that harness Breitling’s rich history and legitimate links to aviation. In this regard, his success is clear to see.

Often, we fixate on the size of a case and debate whether it is too large or too small. Bove encourages us to set aside our preconceived ideas about case sizes and give greater consideration to ergonomics and the way a watch sits upon the wrist.

Another area where Bove has expended much effort is with the rejuvenation of the company’s logo. It may sound a small matter but it influences how the brand is perceived. Moreover, simplified branding confers a less cluttered dial, something relevant to all prospective watch buyers.

At the end of my time with Guy Bove, I felt I had learnt more about Breitling, both in terms of the company’s history dating back to 1884 and the direction the company is now taking. In the future, Breitling will celebrate its history and seek inspiration from past models. With Georges Kern at the helm and Guy Bove providing the creative direction of the brand, I am sure that Breitling has a bright future and look forward to seeing more new timepieces created under their stewardship.

Related links