Starting today, Breitling begins a timepiece subscription service in the US, with other countries to follow shortly after. A first for an independent watch brand.

You may recall Eleven James, which was a subscription service that was founded in 2013, and that allowed consumers to pay a tiered flat-rate monthly fee to rent timepieces from a variety of watch brands including AP, Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Breitling. Some referred to it as the “Netflix of Watches” and while we never covered the service, it seemed like a good idea at the time. However, for financial reasons, it shut-down in 2018.

Fast forward to 2021, and just yesterday, Morgan Stanley’s comprehensive Swiss Watch report came out and shows that Breitling has stair-stepped their way up to the 11th overall spot for Swiss watchmakers since 2017 when the Grenchen-based company was ranked 15th. This is a huge increase, and it coincides with Georges Kern leaving IWC and taking over as the CEO of Breitling in 2017. Coincidentally, IWC has done practically the exact opposite, moving from the 8th spot in 2017 to the 10th in 2021. And now the company Kern took over is poised to overtake the company he left, assuming the current trajectory of each continues.

There’s no single reason why Breitling is improving because it’s the cumulative result of many actions over the past 4 years. However, the new subscription service, whether it fails or succeeds, provides a picture of why Breitling has been growing. Kern is focused on leading and innovating, not being stagnant, and trying to hold a coveted market position. And this is how it’s done.

Morgan Stanley Top 20 Swiss Watch brand ranking by sales from 2017

While the similarities to Eleven James are apparent, this is a single watch brand rental service, not a multi-brand offering. And crucially it’s direct from the manufacturer, so the cost of the watches is substantially lower than Eleven James had to pay for their timepieces. The service is more akin to a car subscription service where you pick from one brand.

#BreitlingSelect will be accessible exclusively to customers who register at www.breitling.com and subscribers have the opportunity to try up to three Breitling watches consecutively within a 12-month period, based on a portfolio of watches they have selected within the app. After registering and signing a 12-month contract, participants will pay a one-time subscription fee of $450 and subsequently make a monthly payment of $129. At that point, they’ll be ready to choose their first watch, which will soon be delivered to their home. They’ll then have the opportunity to purchase one of the three watches based on a special offer from Breitling that includes credits from points accrued during the subscription period.

According to Breitling, “The watches come from a selected, dedicated assortment of fully refurbished watches to ensure the full experience of Breitling’s high-quality products. Over the subscription period, subscribers will then be able to select two more watches consecutively to wear for a certain period of time.”

Kern, says about #BreitlingSelect that “This program is a natural extension of our ambitious digital strategy, most visible through our thriving e-commerce and our new blockchain-enabled digital passport. Both reset the way we engage with our clients. This is not only a substantial innovation in the watch industry, but also a demonstration of Breitling’s inclusive luxury approach.”

The #BreitlingSelect Subscription Service is available online through www.breitling.com at launch, but will soon also be available at Breitling boutiques and at Breitling’s global retail network. People who live in Austria, Germany, France, UK, and Switzerland, the next countries to participate in the #BreitlingSelect Subscription Service, can register to be notified when it’s available.

Posted by:Jason Pitsch

Jason Pitsch is the Founder of Professional Watches. He specializes in reporting on the watch industry and is interested in continually learning about all aspects of watchmaking craftsmanship, history, and design.