By Michelle Graff
The Avenger Hurricane Military was among Breitling’s introductions at this year’s Baselworld show. The watch has a Breitlight case with aeronautical-type numerals and a self-winding in-house movement. Aviation- and military-influenced watches are the hallmark of the brand, which was just sold to a private equity firm in a deal reported to be worth more than $800 million.
Grenchen, Switzerland--And then there was one less.

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is set to acquire an 80 percent stake in Breitling SA, one of the world’s last family-owned Swiss watch companies. Théodore Schneider, the current majority owner of Breitling, will reinvest in the company, taking the remaining 20 percent.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though Bloomberg reported the deal to be worth $870 million.

It is expected to close in June and is subject to approval by the relevant competition authorities.

Breitling has its headquarters in Grenchen, Switzerland, with manufacturing facilities in Grenchen and La Chaux-de-Fonds. Its U.S. headquarters are in Wilton, Connecticut.

The company employs about 900 people.

Commenting on the transaction, Schneider said: “CVC’s expertise, track record and international network will help unlock Breitling’s full potential.”

Headquartered in Luxembourg, CVC Capital Partners invests in companies in North America, Europe and Asia. Its current portfolio includes BJ’s Wholesale Club and pet supply chain Petco.

Breitling was founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling and is known for producing big, bold men’s watches.

The company was bought by Ernest Schneider in 1979. Schneider died in May 2015 after nearly four decades of involvement with Breitling and it is now his son, Théodore, who runs the company.

The brand’s niche is aviation. Breitling has its own jet team, and counts actor, pilot and aviation enthusiast John Travolta and astronaut brothers Mark and Scott Kelly among its ambassadors.

Rumors that the family-owned brand might be going up for sale began swirling last November, though a Bloomberg story published at that time stated that the 133-year-old watch brand likely would be purchased by a larger company that owns other watch brands, like Swatch Group, LVMH or Kering, not a private equity firm.

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