Breguet One Brand, Three Watches: Breguet
Our series began with brands that you might not know much about; today we feature a world-famous brand that you may think you know well…
If you have even the slightest interest in fine watchmaking, the name of Abraham-Louis Breguet will not be unfamiliar to you. Abraham-Louis Breguet is widely considered the father of modern watchmaking, and many horological features that we take for granted today originate from this legendary innovator, a master of his craft. Born in 1747 in Neuchâtel at the time when the city was a powerful Prussian principality, AL Breguet became a watchmaking apprentice in Versailles, where his prodigious talent rapidly became known and brought him to the attention of Louis XVI. His career thereafter was inextricably tied to the uppermost echelons of French nobility and the ruling class — he left for a few years only when compelled to by the upheavals of the French Revolution. His name can be found engraved on the Eiffel Tower as one of the 72 scientists, mathematicians and engineers thus honoured for their contributions.
Abraham-Louis Breguet © Breguet
The watchmaking company of Breguet underwent a number of changes before becoming the modern Swiss watch manufacture that we know today, but one thing it has not lost over the years is the tradition of innovative horology and a commitment to the most prestigious mechanisms ever to inhabit a watch case. The following three watches, while vastly different in appearance and appeal, illustrate perfectly the core ethos of Abraham-Louis Breguet — creativity, ingenuity and aesthetic refinement.
TYPE XXII FLYBACK CHRONOGRAPH 3880
Type XXII Flyback Chronograph 3880 © Breguet
Given that the Classique collection is considered the iconic watch of modern Breguet, you might not immediately associate the brand with pilot’s watches. It’s true — Breguet only became linked with aviation in the 1950s when the Type XX was designed for the French naval air forces (a 20th-century echo of AL Breguet’s 19th-century appointment as chronometer-maker for the French Navy). This model, however, pioneered the 10Hz (72,000vph) balance frequency at Breguet, an innovation that foregrounds Abraham-Louis Breguet’s historical quest to improve chronometry at the heart of the mechanical watch. His innovations in this area included the tourbillon, the Breguet overcoil and the natural escapement. A fast-beat escapement is a worthy heir to the Breguet patrimony, and the fact that it does so in a watch that references the company’s 20th-century accomplishments is a beautiful and coherent statement of watchmaking continuity through the ages.
TRADITION MINUTE REPEATER TOURBILLON 7087
Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon 7087 © Breguet
While the Type XXII Flyback Chronograph 3880 showcased its innovation in a watch that made reference to Breguet’s 18th- and 19th-century milestones, the Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon 7087 is a tour de force of Breguet’s contemporary mechanical prowess. A chiming watch engineered for the best possible sound: gongs with a square cross-section to ensure maximum contact with the hammers, which are articulated to strike along a vertical plane for optimal sound propagation, an amorphous metal membrane which works together with the case and glass to transmit sound waves with minimal damping. Regulating the speed of the chime is Breguet’s groundbreaking magnetic governor, which eliminates mechanical noise interference during the chime sequence. Alongside the striking mechanism, Breguet’s famous tourbillon can also be seen on the dial of the watch, equipped with a hairspring and escapement in silicon (a material that is known for its lightness and amagnetic properties, and requires no lubrication). Lastly, a peripheral rotor illustrates Breguet’s mastery of this rare automatic winding solution. Although every single feature of this watch is at the cutting edge of mechanical watchmaking, the design of the watch itself dates back to yet another horological convention pioneered by Abraham-Louis Breguet — the bridge movement construction.
REINE DE NAPLES JOUR/NUIT 8998
Reine de Naples 8998 © Breguet
The most famous of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s watches was an ultra-complicated watch made for a woman. The Marie Antoinette watch had a complex history, with multiple stories about its origin and backstory, but one thing remains certain — that at the time it was the most complicated watch ever made, designed to house all the functions that constituted the acme of extant horological knowledge. The second-most famous watch he created was also a complicated watch, the first complicated wristwatch in recorded history, made for Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples and sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. The patrimony of Breguet in creating exalted timepieces for women is unparalleled, and the modern company maintains this reputation to the present day. The Reine de Naples Jour/Nuit 8998 (together with the full-set 8999), described by President of Montres Breguet Marc A. Hayek as “the epitome of feminine complication”, features an excentric tourbillon at the 12 o’clock position that makes one complete rotation in 24 hours to provide an animation of the procession of the sun and moon through the firmament. A hairspring in silicon maximises chronometric performance even in the tiny dimensions of the watch.
Breguet’s archives, kept in Switzerland and in Paris, record the developments that have sustained Breguet watchmaking for more than two centuries. The firm is committed to remaining ahead of its time with a flow of inventions and improvements.Find out more >
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