A legendary name in the world of watchmaking
A brand that should need no introduction either to the watch seller or the watch aficionado, since Abraham-Louis Breguet, after whom the company is named, invented the tourbillon along with several other important technological breakthroughs in the world of watchmaking, Breguet is today part of the Swatch Group, alongside other high-end brands like Omega.
Though today firmly anchored in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, at the heart of the Swiss fine watchmaking industry, the company's founder Abraham-Louis Breguet studied watchmaking under such illustrious men as Ferdinand Berthoud and Jean-Antoine Lépine before setting up is workshop in Paris. His associations with France created a number of milestones in the company's history, notably thanks to links with the French royal court, which led to links with the heyday of shipping as the official watchmaker to the French navy and Queen Marie Antoinette as one of his most famous customers. These close ties came to be a disadvantage, however, with the arrival of the French revolution, when the simple desire to be free meant fleeing the country, leading Breguet to seek refuge in his native Switzerland.
Watchmaking and aviation
The name Breguet resonated throughout Europe, and not just thanks to watchmaking. Louis Breguet, part of the fifth generation of the family under Abraham-Louis Breguet, was a noted pioneer in aviation as well an aficionado of the family's type of luxury watches. Louis Breguet's impact in the world of aviation cannot be underestimated. In addition to an influential role in the development of the helicopter, he was also a pioneer in civil aviation, notably setting a record for the number of passengers carried on his biplane in 1911 and later signing the document that created Air France. He was also the first customer for the first Breguet chronograph, a precursor to the Type XX chronograph that is still in the collection today. Breguet's reputation as a watchmaker even spread as far as Australia. Lieutenant-General Thomas Brisbane (after whom the city is named) purchased a Breguet mean time regulator clock in 1818 and took the clock to Australia three years later, where it was installed in the country's first astronomical observatory.
Much of the company's legacy lives on in today's collections, which have names evoking particular milestones. The Reine de Naples ("Queen of Naples") was inspired by one of Breguet's first wristwatches, which was created for Napoleon Bonaparte's sister Caroline Murat. Today's collection combines high-level automatic complications with white and rose gold cases adorned with diamonds that trace their origins back to Breguet’s skills as a watch seller to some of the world’s most famous customers.
Collections with a history
The Breguet Tradition collection, which predominantly comprises watches for men, combines a look back to the past and the subscription watches (which customers could only buy after placing a deposit equivalent to one-quarter of the price) that Breguet pioneered on his return to Switzerland and a regard to the future with a highly technical design that would have been unheard of among men such as Abraham-Louis Breguet and his contemporaries. Another innovation by Breguet at the time was the idea of a secret signature to certify the authenticity of a timepiece. A small but significant invention that is still used by many other watchmakers is the “Breguet overcoil” terminal curve of the balance spring, which offers greater concentricity. This is still used in the Breguet collection, for example in the in-house calibre 777 with free sprung balance. Even in Breguet’s time, fake watches were a problem and such a minute attention to detail offered reassurance to the seller as well as the buyer. (To buy one of these watches today, of course, you can simply head for a Breguet brand boutique and save yourself any worries!)
As its name suggest, the Classique collection encapsulates all of the Breguet tradition with understated designs and luxury touches such as white and rose gold cases and engine-turned dials. The collection includes ultra-thin models and grande complications, always with an emphasis on precision, clarity and elegant lines, including dials that use white enamel and rose engine engraving. The Classique Hora Mundi 5717 is the stand-out model in this collection, available in platinum (or white or rose gold) with an automatic movement that shows the world time in the major time zones and has a wonderful hand-engraved map of the world on the dial.
The Marine collection naturally harks back to Breguet's ties with shipping as the official chronometer maker to the French navy. A collection with sporty undertones because of its close ties to the ocean, it naturally includes a Breguet Marine Chronograph but also houses some of the brand's most complicated movements, such as the running equation of time calibre in the Marine 5887. These models hark back to the days when shipping was much more important than the commoditised means of transport that it is today. Shipping was a show of power and a means of military domination and colonisation. Precision timekeeping required for accurate navigation at sea was a crucial factor in being better than one’s neighbour. In the modern Breguet reference 5827 automatic chronograph, for example, the tradition lives on in an 18-carat white or rose gold case.
Type XX, XXI and XXII are the names given to the modern-day interpretations of that first chronograph supplied to Louis Breguet. Equipped nowadays with an automatic movement they retain the unmistakable characteristics of a pilot's watch: large, easily readable numbers on a dial free of clutter.
The Heritage collection, for its part, proves that a classic timepiece does not necessarily need to be round. Its tonneau case comes in a variety of sizes in a choice of white or rose gold.