Lifestyle Watches

Breitling CEO Georges Kern on his Passion for Cycling, Cars and Fashion

Breitling CEO George Kern

What was the first watch you bought?

“The first watch I ever bought wasn’t actually for me but for one of my first girlfriends. My father was a jeweller so I had a flair for watches from early on.”

Do you collect anything outside of watches?

“I’m not a collector in the traditional sense. I like vintage cars, I like sunglasses, I like lots of different things but I’m drawn to aesthetics more than a particular item. Vintage car-wise I have an Italian and an American muscle-car. I’m a fan of Steve McQueen and the film Bullitt. Otherwise I’m driving electric.”

Georges Kern

What, other than a watch, is at the top of your wish list?

“I want to buy a new racing bicycle. I love cycling, I got into it 25 years back. It’s an amazing sport, riding through Switzerland and Majorca. I did about 4,000km last year, which is a lot, but I couldn’t live without it. So for the last couple of months I’ve been thinking about getting a new bike. I bought a Colnago a while back but now I’m looking at buying a Scott for the summer as we are both partners of the Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team.”

What inspires you?

“I’m interested in fashion, so I look into the fashion weeks; the same with cars, I have many friends in the car industry and I’m lucky enough to be invited into design studios, so I see all the new developments. I’m always discovering new things from both fashion and cars, new techniques and colours – it’s also where I draw a lot of inspiration from. I’m a big cinema fan, I’m always inspired by what I see on screen, so much so that I produce films for a hobby. I did a movie in France called Mon Chien Stupide, an adaptation of a very famous book and we were in the top ten in France and it is now on Apple TV, so quite successful.”

Breitling CEO George Kern

A book/podcast/album that changed the way you think?

“I like to read biographies. I’m reading one on Cleopatra, I’ve read books on Napoleon, Churchill, historical figures like that. It’s the great rise and great fall that inspires me. The question in life is ‘should you have done it better’, whatever it is. Have you made mistakes? Have you lacked courage at any point? I like to think about what made these people successful, whether it was talent, brains luck. It’s also a reflection on what a legacy is, on what you’re going to leave behind when you’re gone. All the people I read about have their own legacies.”

“Even more recent luminaries like Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs, it’s about understanding that these people weren’t always morally perfect, that successful people are always complex. There’s a balance and it’s all about understanding the good with the less good.”

Who is a celebrity/person of note/intellectual you admire?

“I’m a big fan of Warren Buffet as he’s a no-nonsense guy. He’s super funny and inspiring – I like to check out his quotes on YouTube. Otherwise, it’s musical artists. There are four artists in history that I never got to see live in a concert which I’ll always regret: Elvis, Michael Jackson, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra. I would have loved to see any of them.”

Georges Kern

What’s your ideal long weekend?

“Cycling with friends, being on a boat with my family, enjoying good company and good food.”

What would we always find in your fridge?

“Cottage cheese. I lived in Germany for many years when I was young and ate a ton of it there. You can eat it sweet or salty, for breakfast or lunch, so it’s always in my fridge.”

Breitling CEO George Kern

What’s a rule/mantra that you live by?

“Always push it. I don’t do things halfway and I don’t like it when people do things halfway. If you’re not going to give something your all, then don’t do it. You always need to make compromises in life of course, but I don’t understand starting with that. Even when you’re playing soccer with your friends, you want to win, you want to go for it. The same goes with tennis or cycling, you try your best. It should be the same in every area of life. Though it has to be said, trying your best isn’t the same as succeeding. Just so long as you don’t look back and think you should have tried harder.”

What does the year ahead look like for you?

“The geopolitical and macro-economic environment is complicated, but I’m confident that because we’re an independent brand, we can weather any crisis better than our competitors. That’s what it’s about, getting through the next year, the next five years – and hopefully finding success along the way.”

Follow Georges Kern on Instagram.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.