Abraham-Louis Perrelet

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Abraham-Louis Perrelet
Perrelet working on a watch
Born (1729-01-09)9 January 1729
Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Died 1826
Occupation Horologist, Inventor
Notable work Automatic watch
Parent(s) Daniel Perrelet

Abraham-Louis Perrelet, (9 January 1729 – 1826), born in Neuchâtel in Switzerland, was a Swiss horologist.

Perrelet invented a self-winding mechanism in the 1770s for pocket watches. It worked on the same principle as a modern wristwatch, and was designed to wind as the owner walked, using an oscillating weight inside the large watch that moved up and down.

The Geneva Society of Arts reported in 1777 that fifteen minutes walking was necessary to wind the watch sufficiently for eight days, and the following year reported that it was selling well.[1] Perrelet is thus widely acknowledged as the inventor of the basic movement known as 'automatic' today. This hypothesis has been recently challenged, as we do not know precisely what was the movement he created. It was pointed out that the first drawing and accurate description of an automatic watch has been created in 1778 by the watchmaker Hubert Sarton fr:Hubert Sarton and that we cannot be sure that the Perrelet watch was actually based on a rotor principle (some others watch makers are also known to have created automatic watches in the 1770s). In 1780 Perrelet created the first pedometer, measuring the steps and distance while walking.


While the factory claims to have been in continuous production since the late eighteenth century, the brand has only recently begun to command attention worthy of its heritage. The brand, acquired in 2004 by Miguel Rodriguez of the Festina Group, has recently (2007) appointed Marc Bernhardt as CEO of Perrelet, and under his direction the company has released a few highly regarded watches. These include watches with retrograde, jumping hour, and double-rotor complications.

In terms of pricing, Bernhardt has positioned Perrelet in the lower middle of the luxury market, with most of their recent releases priced between five and ten thousand (US) dollars. Their upper-range watches featuring costlier complications, such as tourbillons or minute-repeaters, typically retail in the thirty to forty thousand (US) dollar range. In 2009 Rodriguez appointed Fausto Salvi as CEO of Perrelet.


Perrelet sold some of his watches to a contemporary watch making luminary, Abraham-Louis Breguet around 1780 who improved upon the mechanism in his own version of the design, calling his watches "perpetuelles", the French word for perpetual.[2][3][4] They did not work reliably and Breguet stopped producing them around 1800.

Famous grandson[edit]

Louis-Frédéric Perrelet (1781–1852), a grandson of Abraham-Louis Perrelet, was trained by his grandfather and went into business in Paris. Louis-Frédéric invented marine watches with measuring instruments and a split-second precision chronograph.[5] He won one of three Lalande awards for 1830.[6][7]


  1. ^ "Biography of Abraham Louis Perrelet". Retrieved 10 September 2009. 
  2. ^ "Who invented the automatic watch ?". Europa Star. Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2009. 
  3. ^ "Timekeeping in Europe and China : Watches & Wonders timeline". Worldtempus.com. 
  4. ^ "All the watchmaking news". Tendancehorlogerie.com. 
  5. ^ Perrelet - Louis-Frédéric Perrelet, Industry News, WorldTempus
  6. ^ "LES LAURÉATS DU PRIX LALANDE". La Revue scientifique (Paris). TOME 40: 460–463. 1887. 
  7. ^ Marlès, Jean Lacroix de (1852). "M. Perrelet a remporté le prix fondé par Lalande ...". Les cent merveilles des sciences et des arts, 2e éd. p. 113. 

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