The Breguet Saga

No brand better symbolizes the mastery of watch-making today than this, the brand of the Master watch- maker


The Horology genius

Without the many inventions of Abraham-Louis Breguet there would be no more to say about the watches we so love, they simply wouldn’t exist.

Abraham-Louis Breguet,

the man who originated two and a half centuries of passion.

Let’s go back in time

Abraham-Louis Breguet born 1747 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Breguet’s father died when he was 11, his mother remarried one of his cousins, a watchmaker and seller.
While on business in Paris, his stepfather found Breguet a place with a friend in Verrières.
At the age of 15 the young Breguet went into apprenticeship in Versailles. During the next ten years, three encounters sealed his destiny.

  • Abbot Joseph-François Marie (professor in Mathematics in Paris) taught him physics, optics, astronomy and mechanics;
  • Ferdinand Berthoud (Master watch-craftsman and marine watchmaker) took him into his workshop to be trained in the techniques of high quality watch-making;
  • Jean-Antoine Lépine (Master watch-craftsman, whose technical inventions are still used in watch-making and with whom he worked in close collaboration.

In 1775, he set up in business on his own.

The Breguet adventure begins in Paris: 1775

Abraham-Louis Breguet opened his own workshop on the quai de l’Horloge on the ïle de la Cité in Paris in 1775.

The invention that first made his name was the automatic watch, which he delivered to the Duke of Orléans in 1780.

Two years later, he produced an automatic repeater watch with quarter repeater n° 2 10/82 for Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France.

In 1783, Breguet received an intriguing order :
He was to produce a watch for an Officer of the Queen’s Guard that would incorporate every complication and all the latest developments of the time. Neither time limit nor price was imposed.

Unfortunately, the Queen was to die before ever seeing the fabulous n° 160 watch, known as the Marie-Antoinette. (The extraordinary piece was stolen from the MAYER MEMEORIAL MUSEUM in Jerusalem in 1968 and has never been seen since).

Abraham-Louis Breguet was officially recognized as Master Watchmaker in 1784;

During the French Revolution he returned to Switzerland, where he settled in Locle.

Abraham-Louis Breguet was made a French citizen in 1792, and resettled in Paris the following year.

A genius in watch-craft, he also turned out to be brilliant inbusiness and way ahead of his time. By 1796, he had a marketing revolution on his hands with the Souscription Watch, a simple watch with one hand only. Customers paid one quarter of the price up front when they agreed to buy, and received delivery in the same order as the subscriptions were placed. Thanks to this scheme, his workshops on the Quai de l’Horloge were kept working full-time.

In 1798, General Napoleon Bonaparte bought three important pieces from Breguet:

  • A repeater watch,
  • A miniature traveling clock with almanac
  • And a perpetual calendar repeater watch
Abraham-Louis Breguet also invented the musical chronometer. Its time-keeping movement was the forerunner of the metronome. He introduced it on the Champs de Mars at the Paris Exhibition of the Revolutionary Year ll (1793/94), thus becoming the father of the metronome.

Tourbillon Regulator
Another of his inventions, the Tourbillon Regulator (1801) was unveiled to the public in 1806.

Abraham-Louis Breguet created the first known wristwatch in history in 1810, for Caroline Murat, sister of the Emperor Napoleon l and Queen of Naples.

He became member of the Office of Longitudes, then Horologer to the Royal Navy, entered the Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Legion of Honor by King Louis XVlll in person.

He died in 1823.

Passage of power…

On his father’s death in 1823, Abraham-Louis Breguet’s son Antoine-Louis took up the torch of the Breguet business.
He had the right background to pursue his father’s watch-making tradition, but lacked his business acumen.

Sales and orders began to decline, until the company defaulted on its debts.

One by one the precious employees abandoned the sinking ship.

By 1833, the business was all but ruined, it was selling fewer than 50 pieces per year, and the factory was announced bankrupt.

Antoine-Louis Breguet decided to pass on the house to his son, Louis-Clément.
The company BREGUET, NEPHEW and Co. was founded.

Physicist and horologer, Louis-Clement Breguet was an enthusiast for electricity and its applications, and went on to develop the first electric clocks, and to patent the first tuning fork clock.

He abandoned watch-making to concentrate entirely on electric telegraphs and telecommunications in 1870.

Electric telegraphs

The Breguet’s assistant director and workshop manager, Edward Brown took over the running of the business, which stayed in the hands of his family for the next hundred years.

A difficult period

The First World War, the period that followed, and stock market crash of 1929 drove the company to produce watches that of lower quality, beneath the standards of the brand. This unhappy state of affairs continued until after the Second World War.

It was only from the 1950s onward that Breguet returned to the luxury industry.
New wristwatches were once again designed with the former characteristics so dear to Breguet’s clientele, (cases, dial and watch hands).

Breguet’s renewal

The brand was taken over by the Parisian jewelers Pierre and Jacques Chaumet in 1970.

François Bodet, a young manager at Chaumet, emerged as the architect of this two-hundred year old business’ renewal, and placed BREGUET back in the sector of luxury, high precision watch-making brilliance.

He breathed new energy into the company, opening the new Breguet workshop in Brassus in 1976.

In 1987, Breguet passed into the hands of the INVESTORS CORPORATION.
The brand moved into the South East Asian market as it opened up, and consolidated lasting growth.

The Sentier and Brassus workshops were overflowing with orders and unable to meet them all until another new workshop opened in l’Abbaye in 1994.

In 1997, Breguet euphorically celebrated the 250th anniversary of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s birth.

In 1999, unexpectedly, the Horology Group BREGUET was taken over by the SWATCH GROUP/SMH, and changed hands once again.

BREGUET confirmed its rightful status as a leader in ultra-high quality watch-making.

Today, in the view of the most prestigious clients, BREGUET collections and creations determine the aesthetics and technology of ultra-perfect watch-making, much as Abraham-Louis Breguet once did before.

Some celebrated clients of BREGUET

The following list of Breguet’s prestigious clients for perfection is only representative, and by no means exhaustive.

• 1780-The Duke of Orleans
• 1782-Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France
• 1783-Louis XVl, King of France
• 1787-Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
• 1792-The Marquis of Cndorcet
• 1798-Napoleon Bonaparte
• 1801-General Leclerc
• 1803-The Price of Wales
• 1805-The Prince of Wurtemburg
• 1806-The Empress Josephine
• 1806-Selim lll, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire,
• 1807-Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, sister of the Emperor Napoleon 1st
• 1809-Alexander l, Tsar of Russia
• 1810-George lll, King of England
• 1810-Prince Orloff
• 1811-Prince Poniatowski
• 1812-Prince Ferdinand of Spain
• 1812-Prince Charles of Spain
• 1812-Baron Hottinguer
• 1812-The Florence Observatory
• 1813-The Empress Marie-Louise
• 1814-General Davidoff
• 1815-Baron Rothschild
• 1818-The Duke of Marlborough
• 1818-The Duke of Wellington
• 1821-The Duke of Norfolk
• 1825-Louis XVlll, King of France
• 1835-Count Axel von Fersen
• 1841-The Duke of Morny
• 1863-The Count of Paris
• 1901-Sir Winston Churchill
• 1930-Arthur Rubenstein
• 1931-Ettore Bugatti
• 1931-Sergueï Rachmaninoff
• 1934-Prince Geroge of Greece
• 1950-King Farouk of Egypt
• 1950-The Duke of Windsor

The extraordinary stories of a few BREGUET watches.

In 1783, Breguet received an intriguing order :
He was to produce a watch for the account of an Officer of the Queen’s Guard that would incorporate every complication and all the latest developments of the time. Neither time limit nor price was imposed.
Breguet spent 37 years perfecting a work of art, but unfortunately, the Queen was to die before ever seeing the fabulous n° 160 watch, known as the Marie-Antoinette. The extraordinary piece was stolen from the MAYER MEMEORIAL MUSEUM in Jerusalem in 1968 and has never been seen since.

In 1822, a rather unusual story grew up around one very famous watch, later worn by Arthur Rubenstein. Breguet had made an oval case, with neither mechanism nor dial, intended simply to hold a portrait for a Russian aristocrat, Count Panin.

In 1884, the case returned to the Breguet factory, and was refitted in its current configuration, the n° 1682 watch with date and thermometer.

In 1890, the Duke of Marlborough bought the Breguet n°765, an exceptional minute repeater chronograph with flyback second hand. Sir Winston Churchill was to wear the same watch later throughout his life.

Main BREGUET inventions

• Stamp Spring for repeater watches
• Breguet and Cliquet keys
• Natural escapement without oil
• “Pare-chute” shock absorber system, thought some sources attribute this invention to Jean-Antoine Lépine
• Synchronization clock “la Pendule Sympathique”
• Perpetual calendar, though again, this is sometimes attributed to Ferdinand Berthoud
• Breguet Spiral
• Ruby cylinder
• Simple watch with one hand only known as the Souscription Watch
• Constant force escapement
• Musical chronometer, the first metronome
• Tact watch, a touch watch, known as the watch for the blind
• Tourbillon regulator
• The first wristwatch in history
• Watch with double seconds
• First stem-wound watch without key
• First electric clock
• Tuning fork clock
• Sidereal timepiece

From Daytona
to the Cosmograph Daytona

a lot
very much indeed
not at all

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