Many would be surprised knowing that Breguet was founded in 1775, and even more surprised with just some of their notable patrons including: King George III, Queen Victoria, Alexandre I of Russia, Queen Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte and Sir Winston Churchill. Breguet has continued since their inception to continuously innovate and create incredible timepieces as well as jewellery but this post is going to be focusing on just their timepieces.
As expected with any manufacturer or brand that was started in 1775 there is a lot of history to unpack here. Breguet was founded in 1775 by Abraham-Louis Breguet where he opened his workshop in Ile de la Cité in Paris. Breguet was born in Neuchâtel in Switzerland and at the age of 15 he was sent to be an apprentice to an unknown Versailles master watchmaker. He was revered to be very intelligent by his master and to further his education he took math classes in the evening under Abbot Joseph-François Marie. They played a key part in Breguet’s success as they arranged not only to mentor Breguet but also introduced him to King Louis XVI of France. This led to several commissions from Breguet as the King was very interested in the mechanics of watchmaking.
He was later forced to leave France due to the revolution where he travelled to England where he remained for two years and also was able to work for King George III. In 1795 he returned to France where he set up his business again and gained his reputation as a master watchmaker amongst the wealthy. Many watchmakers would usually hire unskilled apprentices to help in their workshop, but Breguet sought out the most skilful watchmakers in France.
He later brought in his own son Louis-Antoine to his business in 1807 as a business partner. His son was sent by Breguet to London to study under John Arnold who was a master chronometer maker. In 1808 he opened another branch in Saint Petersburg and he was very successful. However, he was forced to close this branch after three years when the Tsar Alexander I as a response to Napoleon forbid any French products to be imported to Russia. Speaking of Napoleon, he was a massive fan of Breguet timepieces and he even visited the Breguet factory several times in secret.
Breguet in 1816 became a member of the French Academy of Sciences and also received the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour from the hands of Louis XVIII. The Legion of Honour is the highest French order of merit that is awarded for either military or civil. If this is not impressive enough, Breguets name is engraved on the Eiffel Tower. On the Eiffel Tower 72 names of French scientists, engineers and mathematicians who have been recognised for their contributions are engraved in which Breguet is engraved on the North-East side of the Eiffel Tower. Breguet passed away in 1823, in turn his son Louis-Antoine took over the business in which after a decade the business was passed to Breguet’s grandson Louis Clément Francois. This was the end of the Breguet family to run the business and was then passed to Edward Brown an English watchmaker to manage the Paris factory.
One of the most iconic watches in terms of their history for Breguet is the Marie-Antoinette pocket watch. This was commissioned in 1783 by Swedish Count Hans Axel von Fersen. It was to be a gift for Queen Marie-Antoinette as she was a huge admirer of Breguet timepieces. The requirement for the watch was that it had to include every complication and function known at the time, and there was no time or financial limit for the order. It took 44 years to complete the watch from the date it was commissioned and was 34 years after the death of Queen Marie-Antoinette. The watch was finished by his son Louis-Antoine in 1827 as Breguet had passed away in 1823.
Through that history I did not even mention once the Breguet hands as this is what most people would recognise the watch. These hands were invented in 1783, these were made of gold or blued steel and resemble a crescent moon. The hands are now imitated by a lot of other watch manufacturers but it still remains known as Breguet hands and is also found on most Breguet watches.
The Breguet hands was just one of many inventions and accomplishments by Breguet and there are plenty more some of which will be shown in the table below.
|1780||The worlds first self-winding/automatic watch “Perpétuelle” was invented and produced.|
|1783||Created the world’s first striking repeater watch that is operated by a gong spring. Which became the foundation for minute repeaters for watchmakers around the world.|
|1783||The infamous Breguet hands were invented and produced which are now still used in their current timepieces.|
|1790||The Pare-chute was invented to make watches less fragile as it was a shock protection system.|
|1795||The invention of the Breguet Balance spring, this was later adopted by all the great watchmaking manufacturers which is still used to this day due to its precision.|
|1801||The tourbillon was invented by Breguet.|
|1810||The world’s first wristwatch was invented by Breguet (Breguet watch number 2639) which was sold to the Queen of Naples.|
|1815||King Louis XVIII appointed Breguet as the chronometer maker to the French Royal Navy.|
|1929||It is very possible that the world’s first perpetual calendar timepiece was created by Breguet.|
|2010||The patent was approved for the magnetic pivot used in watches to improve precision in their watches, this is seen in the Breguet watch Classique Chronométrie 7727.|
Breguet to this day has a huge number of timepieces available though not easily accessible due to the price more than often. However, just a quick overview of their history as well as the complexity of their timepieces is enough justification for their price. Also, if you are interested in visiting a museum that showcases the rich history of Breguet there are three museums in the world where if you are lucky enough you can visit, the three are shown below.
On a personal note my favourite Breguet pieces that are currently available are the Breguet Classique 5930 and the Breguet Classique Complications 5447. Although I am a huge fan of Breguet my favourite timepieces comes from their Classique line as this is my favourite style of watches. You can have a look at all of their current timepieces by clicking here.