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Breguet History

Abraham-Louis Breguet, the grandfather of haute horlogerie, sets up his workshop on Quai de l’Horloge, Paris.

Breguet invents the world’s first self-winding watch, the ‘Perpetuelle’. The Perpetuelle is wound using an oscillating weight, which responds to the wearer’s everyday movements by pushing paired barrels to depress power springs.

Breguet receives an order for a very special watch. Delivered by an unnamed officer of the Queen’s Guard, the order comes from Marie-Antoinette herself, and is for a watch of unsurpassed complication. It is to incorporate all known horological technologies, money no object. The watch is designed by Breguet but remains incomplete at the time of Marie-Antoinette’s death in 1793. It will not see its finishing touches until 1827, four years after Abraham-Louis’ own death.

Breguet’s son completes the order, which includes a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, chime, pare-chute, power reserve, chronograph and thermometer.

Breguet designs his proprietary open-tipped hands. He also designs his own Arabic numeral font. Both will be used on many Breguet watches to the present day.

Just three years before Marie Antoinette’s death, Breguet invents the pare-chute: a device intended to protect the watch movement from shock.

The Breguet balance spring is invented. The perpetual date calendar is also invented by Breguet.

Breguet invents the constant force escapement and musical chronometer. During this year, Napoleon Bonaparte and his family become collectors of Breguet watches – they will remain so for generations.

Abraham-Louis Breguet invents and patents the tourbillon.

Selim III of the Ottoman Empire commissions two repeating watches from Breguet.

Alexander I of Russia becomes a client of Breguet.

The Queen of Naples, Caroline Murat, receives the world’s first wristwatch from Breguet. During 1812, Breguet also creates the first timepiece dials with an hour ring positioned off-centre.

Breguet’s final major invention, the observation chronometer, is revealed. This movement with two second hands will become ancestor to the chronograph.

Abraham-Louis Breguet dies at the age of 76.

Breguet watches continue to make their mark on the consciousness of the world’s most fashionable patrons. They are mentioned in classic literary works by Alexander Pushkin, Honore de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, William Makepeace Thackeray, Henri Murger, and Victor Hugo. Rossini, the composer, wears a Breguet. In 1838, Queen Victoria buys one.

The Duke of Marlborough purchases Breguet no. 365. This special chronograph including minute repeater and flyback seconds will become Winston Churchill’s watch, the timepiece by which Operation Overlord is tracked from the War Rooms.

The first major Breguet invention in over a century, the sidereal timekeeper, is patented.

While man is landing on the moon, Breguet watches are once again appearing in classic literature. John Fowles writes, in his 1969 masterpiece The French Lieutenant’s Woman, ‘He takes out his watch, a Breguet… an instrument from the bench of the greatest of watchmakers’.

Breguet’s manufacture is relocated to Switzerland’s Vallee de Joux.

Breguet patents a perpetual equation of time complication on April 17.

The brand receives a patent for a ‘straight-line’ perpetual calendar movement, in which the year jumps instantly.

Breguet unveils the world’s smallest self-winding chronograph.

The Swatch Group, formerly the Societe Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogere (SSIH), buys Breguet. In the same year, Breguet timepieces are again immortalised in the pages of respected fiction, this time by Patrick O’Brian.

Breguet’s signature invention, the tourbillon, celebrates its 200th birthday.

Breguet’s ‘Reine de Naples’ luxury watch incorporates a new patented complication – the moon phase mechanism.

Breguet releases ‘Le Reveil du Tsar’, a mechanical alarm watch featuring two newly patented complications – a column wheel lock, and a local time alarm.

Breguet unveils its self-winding tourbillon, and a titanium balance.

Breguet debuts a wristwatch with two tourbillon regulators. The brand also begins to use silicon for critical parts, including the escape wheel and lever. Silicon needs no lubricants, is extremely light and tough, and cannot be affected by magnetic fields.

Based on years of research, Breguet watchmakers reproduce Breguet No. 160 ‘Marie Antoinette’, using only pictures and anecdotal evidence.

The magnetic strike governor is invented at Breguet’s manufacture. This device allows a clearer tone in minute repeaters, as well as greater accuracy. 2011 also sees the debut of the Breguet Classique Hora Mundi No. 5717 – a luxury watch featuring the world’s first instantly switchable dual time-zone.

Be sure to check out our collection of Breguet watches as well as our current collection of pre-owned luxury watches in stock now.

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