Watchmaking by Breguet: AN EVER EVOLVING STORY BaselWorld 2014

Since its beginnings in 1775, the Manufacture Breguet has endeavoured to apply watchmaking excellence to exceptional timepieces. Today as in the past, the Breguet name stands for innovation, classic elegance and the quest for stylistic and technical perfection. Breguet has earned its name in the history of watchmaking with such inventions as the pare-chute shock protection, the so-called Breguet balance spring with its “overcoil” terminal curve, and of course the tourbillon – considered one of its finest inventions and still exerting its influence in the world of watchmaking. Breguet’s craftsmen and women have through the generations eschewed the easy way out to extend the limits of time measurement with such exceptional innovations as the silicon balance spring and escapement or the magnetic pivot.

Beyond technical research, the company is also distinguished by its pursuit of elegance under the direction of its president and CEO, Marc A. Hayek. The history of the company is marked out by well-designed timepieces with refined lines, like the 4691 pocket watch, recently acquired at auction, or the Classique 5377, the thinnest self-winding tourbillon wristwatch. Breguet’s artisans are not content just to show their unswerving adherence to the classic style, they constantly reinvent it. Its beauty is particularly conveyed by the company’s traditional stylistic features and the outstanding finishes achieved by the skilled hands of its master-craftsmen. Breguet is in fact one of the few manufacturers that does all its engine-turned engravings in the traditional way, and it has expanded its workshops at L’Orient to keep alive ancient craft skills. This investment not only demonstrates Breguet’s attachment to its roots, but also its intention to face the future with equanimity while maintaining the traditional work ethic of bygone independent watchmakers. Far from standing still, Breguet goes with the inexorable flow of time in the creation of fine timepieces.

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Quantième Perpétuel 3797

Classique Tourbillon QP 3797BRBreguet watches convey the passage of time in the most considerate way. It is thus quite natural for the company to apply its expertise to extend the usual hours, minutes and seconds of the day to the days themselves, and to the dates, months and years. Since its beginnings, Breguet has produced a number of perpetual calendar models, each as complex as it is fascinating. Today as in the past, the manufacturer’s code means that it can never be satisfied with what already exists and decrees that it must modernise in technique and design. Although the Classique collection already includes several perpetual calendar models, Breguet’s watchmakers set about creating a new version, the reference 3797. In it, they have paid particular attention to the styling for a more intuitive display of the indications without compromising the charm of the watch. The amount of information displayed on the dial can be confusing, so Breguet has added a third dimension. By lifting the hours and minutes chapter to the foreground, the timepiece draws attention to the essential information. A further glance takes in all the other indications. The reference 3797 does this with an offset sapphire disc. The opaque chapter ring with its metallic Roman numerals reveals the time instantly with the aid of the Breguet open-tipped hands in blued steel. Beneath the disc, an engine-turned hobnail pattern decorates the dial, overarched by the semi-circular scale of the retrograde dates.

The one-minute tourbillon at 6 o’clock nicely complements the chapter ring. This complication proved particularly difficult to construct because it is mounted on a slight dome. Despite the curve, its bridge is delicately chamfered and surmounted by a triple hand for the seconds. The subdial for the days at 9 o’clock is engine turned in waves. In the movement, a snail cam makes the days hand jump instantaneously. At 3 o’clock a blued steel hand points to the months on a dial engine-turned in a shimmering sunburst pattern. At its centre a blue sun shows the leap years.

At the back of the watch, a sapphire-crystal glass reveals the movement and the way the baseplate has been designed to throw the maximum light onto the tourbillon. Once again, the talents and experience of Breguet’s craftsmen and women were applied to achieve these remarkable decorations by hand. The engravings thus give life to a sumptuous trellis that seems to jump out of the movement, while the tourbillon’s ballet sets the tempo.

Even though the reference 3797 can already be considered as a masterpiece, Breguet’s watchmakers chose rather to compound the difficulties by making an even more spectacular version: the reference 3795. The dial vanishes to make room for a skeleton version revealing all the sophistication of the movement’s construction. The Classique 3795 is authentic mechanical haute couture with its lace-like engravings on the bridges, a well-rehearsed display of Breguet’s delicate workmanship and experience.

Apart from their achievements in technique and design, the Classique Tourbillon Quantième Perpétuel 3797 and 3795 have all the identifying attributes of a Breguet timepiece. The cases, in rose gold or in platinum, are finely fluted around their sides and the lugs are welded on. The engine-turned patterns, the unique number, hands in blued steel and the secret signature complete the features that identify a Breguet watch.

Breguet Classique Dame 9068

Classique Dame 9068BBBreguet has from its beginnings taken on the task of designing timepieces exclusively for women. The company takes pride in having had a number of prominent women among its clients, including Marie-Antoinette and Caroline Murat, queen of Naples. One of the secrets of its success with women is that it creates real mechanical movements, sometimes with exceptional complications for its female clients, instead of just adding gemstones to an existing man’s model. Breguet very soon made women equal to men in terms of watchmaking with a judicious combination of horological know-how and graceful styling. Thus watchmaking complications designed for women, thin cases with clean dials and a refined setting of gemstones are to be expected in the brand’s collections. The Classique Dame 9068 model perfectly matches this ideal. This particularly slim watch shows the hours, minutes and seconds as well as the dates in an aperture – a function popular with women. Once again, the heart of this watch is a mechanical movement with a silicon balance spring. This is Breguet’s way of demonstrating that it gives women the benefit of the latest innovations in their watches. Taste and charm come naturally into play on an uncluttered, engine-turned dial, while the bezel and lugs are set with brilliant-cut diamonds. With its open-tipped Breguet hands in blued steel, welded lugs, fine fluting on the caseband, unique number and secret signature, this model is unmistakably a Breguet classic.

Breguet Reine de Naples Jour/Nuit 8999 Haute Joaillerie

Reine de Naples Jour_Nuit 8999BBAmong the timepieces Breguet produces, those in the Reine de Naples collection have always been noted for lapsing into poetry. This impression is no doubt due to the unique shape of the case, which symbolises the origin of life, but it could also be because it is a collection in which each highly complicated watch is made only for women. In the Reine de Naples models, Breguet thus expresses its high regard for women through both artistic and mechanical skills.

Last year, Breguet presented the Reine de Naples Jour/Nuit model, a mechanical interpretation of the daily ballet of the sun and the moon in the heavens. It arrived to critical and popular acclaim, and thereafter won several prizes. This year, the company has decided to offer a variant that is even more splendid with a gem-encrusted Reine de Naples model that does honour to the jewellery skills of Breguet’s artists. The bezel and caseband are set with 131 baguette diamonds, while the dial and the ball attachment are finely decorated in a frosting of diamonds. The crown is topped by a briolette diamond.

Breguet’s mechanical expertise is also on display, since this watch is fitted with the movement specially made for the Reine de Naples collection. Apart from indicating the hours and minutes it animates a whimsical representation of the hours of the day and night on a second dial. The two dials combine in a figure 8, a symbolic number in many cultures, which recalls the sign for infinity.  A titanium moon is placed on a disc of lapis lazuli while the path of the sun is represented by the facetted rim of the balance-wheel that throws out rays of light. The sun moves according to the motion of the balance on a daylong tour of the Arabic Chapter ring before setting beneath the horizon of the steel bridge supporting the mechanism. Decorations on the disc add to the enchantment with inserts of mother-of-pearl for clouds and the living gleam of gold stars.

To bring the time easily to hand, the dial for the hours and minutes has a mother-of-pearl chapter ring engraved with Roman numerals, while Arabic numerals adorn the mother-of-pearl inset surrounding the representation of the day and night hours. All this is staged in the tasteful and finely crafted surroundings of the Reine de Naples case.

The astute combination of watchmaking and jewellery engineered by Breguet results in an excellent watch and an ornament that sparkles with a thousand fires. It offers women the sophistication of a unique and poetic horological complication.