AS HE SLOWLY WALKED past my table, he glanced at my face, catching my eye. Blushing, I quickly lowered my head, wishing desperately he hadn’t looked at me. Never in my life had I seen a man so beautiful that I became almost ill being in his presence. I felt, for a lack of a better term, “unworthy” to have been anywhere near someone so biologically perfect.
No, this is not the beginning of the sixth chapter of a Jackie Collins romance novel (however, I highly recommend 1969’s The Stud). It’s exactly what happened to me last week at the Breitling Summit at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills when Breitling Ambassador Brad Pitt joined retailers and members of the press for an outdoor dinner.
When I received the email invite from the brand asking if I’d like to attend the summit, I was thrilled. The first part of the event was to be held in the prestigious Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, and as if that wasn’t reason enough to hop a flight across the country, the summit would end with a full day at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, a 20-acre property containing a wave machine that creates 6-to-8-foot surfable waves for 2,100 straight feet. Oh, and did I mention there’d be watches to see, too? Yeah. Plenty of those were on hand. Read on.
The Summit started on Tuesday afternoon with Breitling CEO Georges Kern re-introducing the brand’s three “worlds”: air, land and sea. When Kern took Breitling’s helm in 2017, he made clear that the brand’s image was going to change. There would be less focus on some things that, frankly, turned a fair number of people off to the brand (scantily clad women in aviator-themed jumpers, anyone?) and more focus on design, quality and making a positive impact through partnerships.
In an instant, Kern was off and running, talking about the purpose of the summit and the worlds in which the brand lives before being joined on stage by a handful of the brand’s ambassadors. Audience members were treated to a greeting (via video) from astronaut Scott Kelly – the first member of Breitling’s “Aviation Pioneers Squad” – before watching a film featuring Rocío González Torres, a commandant in the Spanish Air Force and the first Spanish woman to log 1,000 hours at the controls of an F18 fighter jet, as well as world champion drone pilot Luke Bannister, who not only joined Kern in person, but who also gave a drone demonstration, including how to take a group selfie by drone. The presence of these “air” world squad members was the ideal segue to the introduction of Breitling’s Avenger collection of aviation-related timepieces. Also introduced during the “air” segment of the presentation was the brand’s new Aviator 8 Mosquito, a watch inspired by the famed de Havilland Mosquito, a plane constructed almost entirely of wood.
Moving on to the “sea” portion of the opening remarks, attendees were introduced to seven-time world champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore, who talked about her hopes for the upcoming Summer Olympics in 2020, where surfing is a competition for the first time. We were promised a demonstration by the Australian along with surf legend Kelly Slater at his surf ranch the following day (which did not disappoint). Shortly afterward, Breitling introduced both the Superocean Outerknown and the Outerknown ECONYL Yarn NATO Strap Collection.
Guests were then invited to a “touch and feel” by the brand in the gardens of the Four Seasons. High tables were covered in multiple versions of the new novelties with Breitling representatives available to answer questions. It was here I realized just how different this event was from many of the press events I’d attended in the past. This wasn’t just for press but was for everyone who would have anything to do with Breitling: store owners, watch buyers, managers, sales associates, etc. Across the room I could see Lisa Bridge, president and CEO of Ben Bridge Jeweler, along with the company’s watch buyer. At the same table as Bridge stood Slade Lewis of Lewis Jewelers in Houston, TX. And two tables over was Sara Beth Brown Prendeville, vice president at Brown & Co., which has two locations in Georgia.
When I asked Sara Beth how she felt the new collections would do in her store, she was optimistic.
“I think the new collections are sharp and will do very well in our Atlanta market,” she said. “Breitling holds a special place in my heart. It is nice to see the brand making moves, and the variety of new ambassadors is impressive.” When prompted for feedback about the summit, Prendeville said, “I was impressed with the professionalism of the summit presentation as well as the diversity amongst the brand ambassadors who were in attendance to support the brand. To my knowledge, Breitling is now supporting a unique variety of interests that no other brand has touched on.”
The afternoon quickly became evening and after a press conference and dinner (al fresco) with Brad Pitt, attendees turned in for the night in order to be ready for three-and-a-half-hour trip north to Lemoore in the morning.
Since announcing its departure from Baselworld, Breitling has brought a feeling of true intimacy to its events. Show booths can be cold at times (literally and figuratively) which may not be the best way to make a brand or its products memorable. In Lemoore, we stood – donned in bathing suits, covered in sand, and ever-so-slightly sun burned – taking in our surroundings and talking time. Retailers and press folks mixed with sales reps and marketing heads, which is the way it should be, because we all need to know what is going on in the worlds of the others. In order to keep my finger on the pulse, I make sure to pick the brains of the people at the stores in order to get their takes on how products are selling in their areas of the country. In Lemoore, I wasn’t alone in that thinking, because at any given moment, one could look up from the beautifully prepared gourmet lunch or from a glass of California wine and see the CEO of Breitling moving from group to group, asking questions and telling stories.
Breitling has yet again arrived, and brought with it a big, beautiful squad. But this isn’t just any squad. It’s a squad made up of impassioned people who are at the top of their respective fields. It’s a squad that cares about the planet, and what they can do to play a part in keeping it healthy. And it’s a squad that’s very much on a mission.
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