In the lead up to Christmas, WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND is hosting a carefully curated exhibition of Montres Breguet wristwatches. A special selection of high-end pieces will be on display from November into December at our Watches of Switzerland Sydney Boutique.
This is a rare chance to get up close and personal with exceptional models from the Classic Complications collection as well as the Rene de Naples. Visit us in-store at our Sydney boutique now to discover more about this fascinating brand.
Abraham-Louis Breguet’s contributions to watchmaking have left a lasting impression. Considered the leading watchmaker of his day, he is now acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest horologists, living or dead. His inventions included improvements to the automatic winding mechanism and lever escapement, the ‘pare-chute’ anti-shock device, the Breguet hairspring, the tourbillon, and the free escapement. He is also credited with creating the first wrist worn watch. Breguet’s watches not only held a reputation for complexity and precision, they were also distinguished by the high attention paid to their aesthetic design. They attracted a clientele that transcended political boundaries, including many leading public figures and members of nobility.
Today, Breguet continues to be at the forefront of haute horlogerie. The watches retain many of the key characteristics of the models made by Abraham-Louis Breguet himself. These include classically-styled dials, often incorporating guilloché and Roman numerals, Breguet hands, and cases in solid gold. Manufactured in the Vallée de Joux, Breguet watches and clocks are meticulously crafted. Assembled by some of the deftest hands in the business. The company upholds their namesake’s tradition in that no two Breguet pieces are made exactly alike. The exhibition pieces assembled reflect Breguet’s high level of craftsmanship. (The dial of each records the individual piece number.)
This “Grand Complication” piece features a tourbillon and showcases the rose lathe work Breguet is known for. The silvered gold dial is hand-engraved across its surface, save for the hour and minute chapters, and the numerated scales of its two indicators. The decorative pattern (grain d’orge – “barleycorn”) provides a glare-proof, ‘matt’ background, ensuring the dial is easy to read. A power-reserve indicator and 24-hour time indicator accompany the standard time display. Blued steel hands are used throughout. The running seconds hand is incorporated onto the tourbillon shaft.
The round case measures 39mm (with a thickness of 10.25mm). Between the minimal bezel and the rear of the case is sandwiched the signature coin-edge – cold-rolled into the metal and then finished by hand. Inside is a hand-wound 560T calibre, which is visible through a sapphire case back. 235 parts make up the movement that turns on 24 jewels. It stores a 50-hour power reserve and uses a compensating balance spring with Breguet overcoil. Water resistant to 30m (3 bar/ 100ft). Price: $177,200
The tourbillon theme is continued in this second “Grand Complication” piece designed for ladies. Abraham-Louis Breguet patented the invention on 7 Messidor An 9 in the French Revolutionary Calendar (26 June, 1801). A triple-handed running seconds hand is incorporated onto its shaft. (So that one hand is always indicating passing seconds against the numerated scale.) Rose lathe hand-engraving is impressively rendered in the (delicate) natural mother-of-pearl dial. Multiple decorative patterns are used. While a cutaway surrounding the tourbillon reveals the intricately embellished movement. Breguet Arabic numbers and blued steel hands combine at the top of the dial to tell time.
The 35mm case (9.15mm thick) features 74 diamonds (~1.33 ct.) set into the bezel and lugs, coin-edge case band and a sapphire case back. Within is revealed the ornamented 558.1/ 558T calibre. The hand-wound movement totals 196 components, turning on 21 jewels. It also stores a 50-hour power reserve and uses a compensating balance spring with Breguet overcoil. (The Breguet overcoil invented in 1795 allowed the balance spring to become as accurate as the pendulum.) Water resistant to 30m (3 bar/ 100ft). Price: $145,800
Caroline Murat was Abraham-Louis Breguet’s best customer, purchasing 34 clocks and watches during the period 1808- 1814. In 1810, the Queen of Naples commissioned the master watchmaker to create for her an ultra-thin repeating watch to be worn on the wrist. No surviving drawings remain but we know the piece was oblong in shape, with an engine-turned silvered dial. Records show it was equipped with a fast/ slow indicator and thermometer. It was mounted on a wristlet made of hair entwined with gold thread. Designed together with his friend, the English watchmaker John Arnold, Breguet’s Reine de Naples anticipated the wristwatch by a century.
Relying on historical descriptions (stored at the Breguet Museum), the Swiss manufacturer launched the Reine de Naples collection in 2002. Since then a variety of subsequent models have been produced and the Reine de Naples collection has become among the brand’s best sellers. The Reine de Naples Jour/Nuit 8998 is a terrific example of the collection, where each model holds a special treat for the wearer.
In this particular model, the balance is cleverly integrated into the day/night indicator, to depict the sun. The indicator occupies the upper portion of the egg-shaped watch face, overlapped by the hour and minute chapter ring located in the lower. Rose lathe guilloché patterning fills the remaining real estate of the silvered gold dial. The rotating balance reflects the sun’s position against a 24-hour scale in Arabic numbers, while lume-filled Breguet hands point to Roman numerals.
143 diamonds (weighing approx. 1.45 ct.) are set into the bezel and dial flange. A briolette diamond sits in the crown. The case measures 40.05 x 32mm, and only 7mm thick. The sapphire case back provides viewing of the 78CS calibre with 45 jewels. The extra-thin (3mm) self-winding movement stores up to 57 hours of power reserve. Breguet invented the self-winding mechanism in 1780 (the first major success of his career). The 78CS calibre employs silicon technology for the balance spring. Water resistant to 30m (3 bar/ 100ft). Price: $157,900