Breguet (brand)

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Coordinates: 46°38′57″N 6°19′02″E / 46.64912°N 6.31735°E / 46.64912; 6.31735

Breguet SA
Subsidiary
IndustryLuxury watchmaking
Founded1775
FounderAbraham-Louis Breguet
Headquarters,
Switzerland
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Nicolas G. Hayek
ProductsWatches, jewelry
ParentThe Swatch Group
Websitebreguet.ch

Breguet is a luxury watch manufacturer founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris, France, in 1775. Since 1999, it has been a brand of the Swiss Swatch Group.[1] Breguet is one of the oldest surviving watchmaking brands and a pioneer of numerous watchmaking technologies such as the tourbillon, which was invented by Abraham Breguet in 1801.[2] Abraham Breguet also invented and produced the world's first self-winding watch (the Perpétuelle) in 1780, as well as the world's first wristwatch in 1810 (Breguet No. 2639, for Caroline Bonaparte, Queen of Naples).[3][4][5][6]

Breguet is a highly regarded watch manufacturer in the world.[7][8][9][10][11] Over the years, notable Breguet patrons and timepieces owners include Queen Victoria, Alexandre I of Russia, Queen Marie Antoinette, Napoléon Bonaparte, Sir Winston Churchill, Gioachino Rossini, Arthur Rubinstein and so on.[12][13][14][15] The Breguet & Fils, Paris No. 2667 (1814) pocket watch, which is the most expensive Breguet timepiece sold at auction as of 2018, ranks as one of the world's most expensive watch ever sold at auction, reaching a final price of 4.69 million US dollars (4,339,000 CHF) in Geneva on May 14, 2012.[16][17]

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Abraham-Louis Breguet

Breguet was founded in 1775 by Abraham-Louis Breguet, a Swiss watchmaker born to Huguenot parents in Neuchâtel. He studied watchmaking for ten years under Ferdinand Berthoud and Jean-Antoine Lépine before setting up his own watchmaking business at 51 Quai de l'Horloge on the Île de la Cité in Paris. The dowry that came with his marriage to the daughter of a prosperous French bourgeois provided the backing which allowed him to open his own workshop.

Breguet's connections made during his apprenticeship as a watchmaker and as a student of mathematics helped him to establish his business. Following his introduction to the court, Queen Marie Antoinette grew fascinated by Breguet's unique self-winding watch; Louis XVI bought several of his watches. In 1783 the Swedish count Axel Von Fersen, who was the queen's friend and reputed lover, commissioned a watch from Breguet that was to contain every watch complication known at that time as a gift to Marie Antoinette. The result is a Breguet's masterpiece, the Marie-Antoinette pocket watch (Breguet No.160).[18][19]

The business was a success, and around 1807 Abraham-Louis Breguet took on his son Louis-Antoine as his partner, renaming the firm "Breguet et Fils" (Breguet and Sons). Louis-Antoine took over the firm upon the death of his father in 1823. After Louis-Antoine retired in 1833 (he died in 1858) the business was passed to Abraham-Louis' grandson Louis Clément Francois (1804–1883).

Abraham-Louis' great-grandson Louis Antoine (1851–1882) was the last of the Breguet family to run the business. Although he had two sons and a daughter, they did not enter the business, so the Breguet company hired noted English watchmaker Edward Brown of Clerkenwell to manage the Paris factory. Brown eventually became a partner and, after Breguet's grandson's death, the owner and head of the company. When Brown died in 1895 the firm was taken over by his sons, Edward and Henry. On Edward's retirement in the early 1900s, Henry Brown became the head of the firm.[20]

Recent development[edit]

From 1870 to 1970, Breguet was owned by the English Brown family. But the ownership changed hands several times during quartz crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, Breguet's then-owner Chaumet closed its French factory and moved production to the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland.

In 1987, Breguet was acquired by Investcorp which, in 1991, created the Groupe Horloger Breguet (GHB). The Breguet Group consists of four subsidiaries: Montres Breguet SA, Breguet SA, Valdar SA and Nouvelle Lemania SA (which Breguet Group acquired in 1992).[1][21] As a result, Breguet-brand watches are now made at the Nouvelle Lemania factory in Switzerland. In particular, Montres Breguet SA is the main company that sells timepieces under the brand name of "Breguet", and Breguet SA is the name of Breguet Group's distribution company in France.[1]

In 1999, Groupe Horloger Breguet was acquired by the Swatch Group from Investcorp.[1] Breguet is an active member of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH.[22]

Watch manufacturing[edit]

A Breguet pocket watch in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Breguet watches are often easily recognized for their coin-edge cases, guilloché dials and blue pomme hands (often now referred to as 'Breguet hands').[23] In addition to watches, Breguet also manufactures writing instruments, women's jewelry, and cufflinks.[24]

Notable inventions and patents[edit]

The following are some of the important inventions of Abraham-Louis Breguet and Breguet company.

  • In 1780, invented and produced the world's self-winding/automatic watch (the Perpétuelle).[3][4]
  • In 1783, invented the Gong-spring, laying the foundation for minute repeaters.[25][26]
  • In 1783, invented the Breguet hands.[27][28]
  • In 1790, invented the Pare-chute, one of the world's first shock protection systems.[29][30]
  • In 1795, invented the Breguet overcoil or Breguet spiral, being widely used by other watch manufacturers to this day.[31][32]
  • In 1801, invented tourbillon, balancing the effect of gravity.[2]
  • In 1810, invented and produced the world's first wristwatch (Breguet No. 2639).[5][6]
  • In 2010, patented the magnetic pivot, used to improve watch precision using magnetism.[33]
  • In 2010, introduced the magnetic strike governor.[34]

Environmental rating[edit]

In December 2018, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released an official report giving environmental ratings for 15 major watch manufacturers and jewelers in Switzerland.[35][36] Breguet, along with 7 other manufacturers including Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Rolex, was given the lowest environmental rating as "Latecomers/Non-transparent", suggesting that the manufacturer has given little consideration regarding the impact of its manufacturing activities on the environment.[35]

There are concerns over the lack of transparency in manufacturing activities and the sourcing of precious raw materials such as gold, which is a major cause of environmental issues such as pollution, soil degradation and deforestation.[35][36] It is estimated that the watch and jewelry sector uses over 50% of world's annual gold production (over 2,000 tons), but in most cases the watch companies such as Breguet are not able to demonstrate where their raw materials come from.[35]

Notable models[edit]

Most expensive pieces[edit]

Breguet No.160, Marie-Antoinette pocket watch
  • On May 14, 2012, a Breguet pocket watch, the Breguet & Fils, Paris No. 2667, was sold in Christie's Geneva auction with a final price of 4.69 million US dollars (CHF 4,339,000). [37][38]
  • On May 14, 2012, a Breguet pocket watch, the Breguet, Paris, No. 4111, was sold in Christie's Geneva auction with a final price of 2.75 million US dollars (CHF 2,547,000).[39][40]
  • On May 16, 2016, a Breguet pocket watch, the Breguet & Fils, No. 217, was sold in Christie's Geneva auction with a final price of 3.33 million US dollars (CHF 3,245,000). [41][42]

Marie-Antoinette pocket watch[edit]

In 1783, an admirer of Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, commissioned a watch from Abraham-Louis Breguet as a gift for the Queen.[18][19] The requirement was that the watch should be "as spectacular as possible, incorporating the fullest range of horological expertise known at the time".[18][43] There was no time deadline or financial limit with the commission.[18]

The final product was the Breguet No.160 grand complication (Marie-Antoinette pocket watch). However, the watch was only finished in 1827, 34 years after the death of the Queen during French Revolution, and 4 years after the death of Abraham-Louis Breguet (the watch was eventually completed by the son of Abraham Breguet)[18][43]. In total, it took 44 years to make the watch.[18][43]

The watch had been kept in the Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem until it was stolen in 1983.[18][44] In 2007, the watch was eventually recovered and returned to the museum.[18][44]

Gentleman's collection[edit]

  • Classique: Simple, Grandes Complications – popular round pieces, usually with reeded casebands and soldered lugs;
  • La Marine – water-resistant, distinguished by the presence of crown guards;
  • Heritage – tonneau-shaped cases;
  • Type XX, XXI, XXII – sports chronographs, based on World War II-era pilots' watches;
  • Tradition – similar to the long gone Souscription by Breguet, open-faced watches with the movement on the front, along with a small face.

Lady's collection[edit]

  • Classique;
  • La Marine;
  • Heritage;
  • Type XX;
  • Reine de Naples – oval bezels.

Notable patrons and owners[edit]

Artists[edit]

Breguet No. 627 wristwatch

Intellectuals[edit]

Politicians[edit]

Breguet No. 1705 tourbillon wristwatch

Royalty[edit]


See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b "Tourbillon | Breguet". www.breguet.com. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
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  5. ^ a b "Histoire de la Maison Breguet" Archived 13 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Tendance Horologie, 16 April 2009 (French)
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  30. ^ Contributor. "The Basics Of Shock Resistance | Crown Watch Blog". www.crownwatchblog.com. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
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External links[edit]