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Breguet History

1775
Abraham-Louis Breguet, the grandfather of haute horlogerie, sets up his workshop on Quai de l’Horloge, Paris.

1780
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.

1783
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.

1783
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.

1790
Just three years before Marie Antoinette’s death, Breguet invents the pare-chute: a device intended to protect the watch movement from shock.

1795
The Breguet balance spring is invented. The perpetual date calendar is also invented by Breguet.

1798
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.

1801
Abraham-Louis Breguet invents and patents the tourbillon.

1804
Selim III of the Ottoman Empire commissions two repeating watches from Breguet.

1809
Alexander I of Russia becomes a client of Breguet.

1812
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.

1820
Breguet’s final major invention, the observation chronometer, is revealed. This movement with two second hands will become ancestor to the chronograph.

1823
Abraham-Louis Breguet dies at the age of 76.

1833-1865
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.

1890
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.

1939
The first major Breguet invention in over a century, the sidereal timekeeper, is patented.

1969
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’.

1976
Breguet’s manufacture is relocated to Switzerland’s Vallee de Joux.

1991
Breguet patents a perpetual equation of time complication on April 17.

1997
The brand receives a patent for a ‘straight-line’ perpetual calendar movement, in which the year jumps instantly.

1998
Breguet unveils the world’s smallest self-winding chronograph.

1999
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.

2001
Breguet’s signature invention, the tourbillon, celebrates its 200th birthday.

2002
Breguet’s ‘Reine de Naples’ luxury watch incorporates a new patented complication – the moon phase mechanism.

2003
Breguet releases ‘Le Reveil du Tsar’, a mechanical alarm watch featuring two newly patented complications – a column wheel lock, and a local time alarm.

2004
Breguet unveils its self-winding tourbillon, and a titanium balance.

2006
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.

2008
Based on years of research, Breguet watchmakers reproduce Breguet No. 160 ‘Marie Antoinette’, using only pictures and anecdotal evidence.

2011
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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