I’m in Milwaukee as a guest of Breitling for the evening, and as I wait for the elevator to arrive at the fifth floor of the hotel, a single word sticks in my head from the welcome letter that was handed to me upon check-in: casual. Given that certain older Breitling pieces are the very definition of bold and extroverted in their styling, it initially struck me as somewhat amusing that Breitling would choose to use the word “casual” in reference to itself. However, as I reflect on the topic while mindlessly stepping into the elevator, the specific and intentional use of the word slowly starts to make a lot more sense as I begin to unpack the word “casual” a bit. Breitling is one of the world’s premier luxury manufacturers, yet it’s true that none of the brand’s designs are so overtly formal that they make you feel underdressed just by wearing them. Even back when Breitling was producing some truly extravagant designs as part of its partnership with the luxury automotive manufacturer Bentley, the brand has always maintained a certain degree of approachability, and that inherently relaxed and, yes, casual nature remains a core aspect of Breitling to this day — both in terms of its watches and its brand ambassadors.

At 28 years old, Breitling ambassador Giannis Antetokounmpo has already achieved just about every possible accomplishment within the sport of basketball, and his list of accolades is longer than the giant set of arms attached to his towering 6’11” frame. Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Antetokounmpo was drafted by the Bucks as a first-round pick in 2013, and he has already become one of the most decorated players in the NBA. He has been named the most improved player of the year, most valuable player (twice), defensive player of the year, and finals MVP. Additionally, in 2021, he led the Milwaukee Bucks to win the team’s first title in 50 years. Now in his tenth season with the NBA, Antetokounmpo has already attained just about every major landmark achievement possible in his career, and with many more seasons still ahead of him, isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. And yet, despite already being an NBA legend, Giannis is happily hanging out after the Bucks game at a meet-and-greet with the Breitling crew, answering questions about watches. 

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Giannis Antetokounmpo became a Breitling ambassador at the beginning of 2022, but years before he officially signed a deal with Breitling, Giannis was already a watch enthusiast. Just like many of us, it was a family member (in this case, his older brother) who first got him interested in this fascinating and unusual hobby, and one day after a workout, Giannis’ brother handed him a box, telling him that it was a gift. After unpacking the numerous other boxes stacked within each other like a Russian nesting doll, Giannis found a watch with his name engraved upon it. Giannis’ brother then gave him a second watch right before he left to go play in the next NBA All Star Game, but it wasn’t until his brother explained to him how some watches can be worn and enjoyed for many years, while still retaining a significant portion of their value that Giannis really started buying them for himself. As it currently stands, Giannis has amassed a collection of over 80 different timepieces, and while it’s safe to assume that he’s received at least a few of those though his deal with Breitling, it’s clear that Giannis has a legitimate passion for watches.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is featured in campaigns for both the Navitimer and Chronomat, and he can frequently be spotted wearing models from both Breitling collections. Although Giannis feels that the sportier aesthetic of the Chronomat suits him well, the Navitimer collection seems to be the one that carries more sentimental meaning to him. Not only was the Navitimer campaign the first time he worked with Breitling, but a Navitimer was also the very first watch that Breitling gave him. Giannis wore a Breitling Navitimer to the most recent NBA All Star Game, and he even gifted one to his teammate, who talked him into giving it to him on the grounds that Giannis was a Breitling ambassador and could probably get a good deal from the brand on another one. Despite the fact that he was wearing the green dial version of the Breitling Chronomat Automatic GMT 40 at that evening’s meet-and-greet, when asked whether he prefers the Navitimer or the Chronomat, Giannis smiled and simply replied, “I definitely switch between them, but to be honest with you, it’s the Navitimer; I love it a lot.”

Despite having wrists that could support even the largest of watch cases, Giannis surprisingly tends to stick to models with fairly moderate case diameters. His massive arms give the chunky 40mm Chronomat GMT a similar elegance that someone with wrists like mine might enjoy from a vintage timepiece with a compact 34mm diameter, and even when it comes to the Navitimer collection, Giannis still doesn’t opt for the absolute largest case sizes available. Instead, he can often be seen wearing the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43, which is a model that even my moderately sized wrists can pull off (although it does objectively wear rather large on me). When asked about his preferences in watch sizes and whether his choice for that evening was indicative of what he typically wears, Giannis was quick to confirm our suspicions. “I try to stay around 41mm. If I go to 36mm, I have big arms and big hands, and it looks like I’m wearing my son’s watch, so I try to stay around 41mm” (as a point of reference his oldest son is currently only 3 years old).

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When it comes to his favorite dial colors, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s two top choices are green (like the Bucks team colors) and ice blue. While light blue dials are certainly having a bit of a moment within the watch industry in recent years, the national colors of Giannis’ home country of Greece are sky blue and white, making a watch with an ice blue dial a particularly fitting choice for him. Additionally, when asked what he would want for his signature edition Breitling watch (something that almost seems inevitable at this point), Giannis was quick to respond that the “Greek Freak” edition watch would be something in stainless steel with an ice blue dial and a case diameter of somewhere in the neighborhood of 41mm. Breitling currently makes a 41mm version of the stainless steel Navitimer B01 Chronograph, and I would personally love the see the 6’11” Giannis Antetokounmpo choose the smallest and must humble version of Breitling’s legendary pilot’s watch to serve as the basis of his signature model.

Excellence and exclusivity often go hand-in-hand, yet it’s important to remember that the pursuit of excellence doesn’t need to be a stuffy or overtly formal process. Both Breitling and Giannis Antetokounmpo are operating at the highest possible levels within their respective industries, yet both remain remarkably composed and approachable, regardless of their international fame and success. Breitling is a true blue-chip luxury manufacturer, and as one of the most dominant and decorated players in the sport of basketball, Antetokounmpo is destined for the NBA Hall of Fame. However, neither Breitling nor Antetokounmpo place themselves on a pedestal to the point that their fans can no longer relate to them. Given Breitling’s fame, the brand could easily be one of those manufacturers that doesn’t give “normal” collectors the time of day, and no one would even think twice if Antetokounmpo exclusively wore six-figure grail pieces. However, Breitling still produces watches that can be purchased for less than $5k, and Antetokounmpo’s choice for his own signature model would be a moderately sized timepiece crafted from humble stainless steel. It’s undeniable that both the brand and the man are in pursuit of excellence, yet they go about achieving it in a remarkably casual and approachable manner. In much the same way that the bold and iconic styling of the Breitling Navitimer looks right at home, regardless of whether it is paired with a suit or jeans and a t-shirt, Giannis Antetokounmpo can be winning championship titles and carving out his spot in the NBA history books, all while still being the very definition of a down-to-earth superstar. For more information on Breitling and its ambassadors, please visit the brand’s website.

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