Breitling, the Swiss watch company that has taken heat for using scantily-clad women in advertisements and store displays, announced over the weekend that the practice will end. The company’s new chief executive, Georges Kern, told the German newspaper SonntagsZeitung that those themes are “no longer suitable and do not reflect values of today’s society.” Kern, whose college degree was in political science, knows the direction the wind is blowing.
It was just one year ago at a Breitling store party in Manhattan that the company arranged for models to be in attendance, posing as pilots in caps, epaulets and stiletto heels but notably missing their pants. The year before, astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly and John Travolta were front and center at a New York Breitling event, the only women who were featured were the leggy pseudo-pilots there to provide eye-candy.
These events incensed authentic women pilots, many of whom own or aspired to own a Breitling watch.
Patty Wagstaff, an award-winning acrobatic pilot said, “Just when we think we have gotten somewhere towards respect and equality for women” something like this shows, “we still have a long way to go.”
Around the globe, Breitling stores aim for a testosterone-fueled atmosphere, featuring in a corner of their shops, a World War Two era pin up girl mannequin, sitting provocatively astride a missile. Kirsty Russell, a 42 year old mother from England, called the shop window display at the store near her “shocking” and “vile.”
Kern took over as chief executive officer of Breitling just 7 months ago. He told the SonntagsZeitung, when he started his new job, he discovered letters to the company from people upset about the way women were depicted in Breitling’s ads and so he stopped those ads right away. A new campaign is set to begin in the Spring.
The #metoo movement has unleashed an avalanche of discussion not just about sexual assault and harassment but the insidious valuation of women based on their sexual attractiveness. It must get the credit for achieving with Breitling what female pilots and complainers like me were unable to do over the past two years; convince a fancy watch company to get itself in step with the times.