Watches: Virtue Of The Timeless

ABRAHAM LOUIS BREGUET

The famous “Depuis 1775” tagline of Breguet watches prides itself on a rich history that dates back to the 18th century. Inventions conceived in that period have been infused into the institute of Breguet, and find their presence across contemporary models of the brand.

High-standards of watchmaking were set by Abraham-Louis Breguet, who can be credited for some of the most groundbreaking inventions in horology.

Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, A.-Louis Breguet, set up his business in 51 Quai de l’Horloge, Paris after studying the art of watchmaking for ten years under influential watchmakers Jean-Antoine Lépine and Ferdinand Berthoud.

The famous address in Paris became the hub for all his horological breakthroughs that include the development of the self-winding perpétuelle watch in 1780. One of the most ambitious inventions of its time, the perpétuelle watch could wind itself without any external force. It only depended on an oscillating weight that responded to the wearer’s walking movements — a highly efficient system that was one of the first major triumphs of A.-L. Breguet’s illustrious career. This invention is implemented on most of Breguet’s current models such as Classique 9068, Marine 5827 and Tradition 7097.

While the legendary watchmaker focussed on mastering the internal systems of his watches, he also paid attention to the appearance of the pieces. Three years later, A.-L. Breguet invented the celebrated Breguet
hands and numerals, which to date feature on selective timepieces of the brand. Made of gold or blued steel, the horologist invented this elegant type of hand that is inspired by a crescent moon. This type can be found on models such as Classique 7337 and Tradition 7087.

A common concern at that time was the damage that could be caused to the pivots of the balance wheel, if the watch suffered a blow. To address this issue, A.-L. Breguet founded “pare-chute”, the first shock-protection system for balance pivots in 1790. Designed in a cone-shaped form, they were mounted on a strip spring so that they could be held in place. From 1792, all his perpétuelle watches featured this invention. Most of the brand’s Tradition models are equipped with this; including Tradition 7077, Tradition 7097, Tradition 7027 and Tradition 7057.

Perhaps one of the most path-breaking inventions in horology, the tourbillon was developed in 1795 and patented in 1801 by A.-L. Breguet. The founder realised that gravitational pull can affect the precision of time displayed by a watch. To avoid the variation of time depending on the position of the watch, he placed the balance and spring, the level and the escape- wheel (the parts most sensitive to gravity) inside a mobile carriage. Stuck in a certain position, these parts rotate at a slow speed and finish one rotation each minute, thus negating the effect of gravity. In simple words, the timepieces “maintain the same accuracy, whatever the vertical or inclined position of the watch”. Only 35 examples of the tourbillon were sold between 1805 and 1823.

A.-L. Breguet departed in 1823, but his successors inculcated this mechanism in the brand’s time-pieces. Models of Breguet that boast of the tourbillon movement include Tradition 7087, Tradition 7047, Tourbillon Extra-Plat 5377 and Classique complications 3797.

 

With clientele that boasted of the likes of queen Marie-Antoinette of France and Napoléon Bonaparte, Abraham-Louis Breguet created timepieces that were adorned by dignitaries of history. In 1783, an officer of the queen’s guards placed an order for a master-piece that was titled No 160 or the “Marie-Antoinette” which was only completed after the queen’s death. The famous watch was known to incorporate every horological function that existed at that time. No time or monetary limit was placed on this order. The timepiece marked an important milestone in horology and was stolen in 1983 from a Jerusalem museum. It was recovered in 2007. Breguet unveiled an all new “Marie-Antoinette” number 1160, created on the basis of original drawings and archival research at BaselWorld 2008.


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