“Breguet is haute horlogerie itself and prestige horlogerie,” asserts Nicolas G. Hayek, CEO ofand Chairman of the Swatch Group. “It doesn’t have to have an approach to what it is.” At first blush, Hayek’s statement might come off as bombast, but to dismiss his words would be a mistake. A deeper analysis, especially in the context of the brand’s history, provides insight into the current Montres Breguet.
Abraham-Louis Breguet, the namesake of the company, is a recognized demigod in horology. During his lifetime, he madethat not only had a defining aesthetic, but also contained some of the most technically advanced solutions of the time. Because had a probing imagination, he wasn’t just content executing current methods; he was defining state-of-the-art. ’s insistence upon improving accuracy and function led to inventions that included a constant force escapement, the overcoil balance spring, and, perhaps most famously, the tourbillon regulator.
Restoring the ancestral glory
The House of Breguet continued to produce exemplary watches for almost a century after Abraham-Louis’s death in 1873. However, the 1970’s brought on a period of decline, when the quality and pricing of the watches didn’t live up to the exclusivity implied by the name. Recognizing the importance (and potential) of the brand’s heritage, Hayek purchased Breguet in 1999 with the intent of restoring it to glory in a contemporary setting. Hayek reiterates that “Breguet is enhanced by advanced technologies and inspired by the world of culture—beauty first, beauty foremost.” The collection unveiled this year at Basel 2009 certainly adheres to these criteria.
The Classique 7337 references Breguet’s early pocket watch designs and is specifically inspired by antique watch no 3833 located in the museum. An off-center hour chapter showing hours and minutes sits in the lower portion of the dial along with a running seconds located at 5 o’clock. Meanwhile, the moon phase, rising above, declares the position of earth’s natural satellite, while the uniquely shaped day and date apertures float like celestial companions on either side. Contrasting guilloche patterns for the hour ring and the remainder of the watch set off the face into two distinct parts that harmonize as a whole, enabling a clear and easy read of desired information.
Classic line and Marine Royale
The Classique Grande Complication 7637 Minute Repeater is a new entry in the Classique line. The gongs, rests and hammers sound out the time from their patented positioning to create pure, audible tones. Through the sapphire back, you can admire the hammers polished and beveled finishing, along with the rest of the movement’s hand chasing. The traditional dial, silvered gold and manually turned, shows a creatively balanced layout. At 3 o’clock a 24-hour day/night dial accounts for time orientation, as a running second at 9 o’clock ticks full circle in an elliptical plane.
The new Marine Royale 5847 alarm, water-resistant to 300m, expands the Marine collection, providing an essential complication to those exploring the oceanic depths. Breguet understands the importance of function in this type of watch and wrapped the gold, alarm-setting crown in slip-resistant rubber. In addition, the power reserve, hour and minutes hands, as well as the minute markers shine bright with Superluminova, with the hour and alarm markers set off in blue. Of course, the rotating bezel, marked in graduated 20-minute sectors, is unidirectional, but it’s the thoughtful details that make a watch stand above the rest. Breguet secures the rotation of the bezel with a blocking pawl in the shape of a wave, which is located between the two winding crowns and complements the guilloche wave pattern on the dial. An added bonus is the magnified date window at 6 o’clock.
The Classique Grande Complication 5347 is a wonder to behold with twin rotating tourbillons. The bridge connecting the two tourbillons doubles as an hour hand, and a center plate, engine-turned by hand, features two windows for viewing the rotating tourbillons. The back of the movement holds another visual treat: an engraved diagram of the solar system arrayed around the movement’s gears, inspired by the 60-second rotation of the tourbillons on themselves and their tandem rotation around a center axis in 12 hours. The tourbillon regulators work independently, coupled by differential gears and mounted on a rotating center plate that completes a revolution in twelve hours.
Aptly named, the Tradition ref. 7027 was first presented in 2005 and symbolizes the house’s origins. The watch features a movement visible from both sides of the mainplate with symmetrical bridges reminiscent of those in Breguet’s “souscription” offerings. The balance even employs Breguet’s original parachute mechanism for stabilization in a hand-beveled steel. This year the Tradition is dressed in a new look. The pink gold case highlights a grey movement, achieved through an anthracite surface treatment that is purportedly an improved electroplating technique. The off-center hour and minutes display in black, resides in the characteristic 12 o’clock position.
Put in perspective of the current collection, Hayek’s opening comments reveal a truth about his company. Like founder Abraham-Louis, the current Breguet doesn’t bother with a codified approach to watchmaking because their watchmakers are too busy tinkering away in the workshop refining and innovating, and, as a result, practicing prestige horology.