In 1775, after more than ten years of training in the top watchmaking workshops of Switzerland, Abraham-Louis Breguet established his own company at 51 Quai de l’Horloge in Paris. Named after himself, Breguet would very quickly produce a unique self-winding watch that captured the imagination of the French aristocracy and even Queen Marie Antoinette herself.
Indeed, by 1783, Breguet had managed to propel his relatively young company into the continent’s most sought-after watchmaking name around. When Swedish count Axel Von Fersen commissioned a watch from Breguet that was to include every known feature at the time as a gift for Marie Antoinette, his alleged lover, this provided Breguet with the perfect challenge.
The resulting watch, today known as the Marie Antoinette pocket watch (Breguet No. 160) has since gone down as one of the most incredible feats of horological engineering ever to have been achieved. Described by some connoisseurs as the most exquisite case watch in existence, the Queen, as it is referred to by many, famously took more than 45 years to complete and was in fact finished off by Breguet’s son after the company founder had died. Made with a combination of gold, platinum, rubies and sapphires, the watch is a monumentally expensive and opulent piece that is today valued at more than $30 million. As if legend surrounding this watch could not get any more rich, Marie Antoinette would never see the watch finished as she would be executed some 34 years prior to this time.
When Breguet passed away in 1823, his son Louis-Antoine would take over the business and continue to propel the brand’s esteemed name and commercial success. The business continued to be passed down in this way until in 1870 it was taken over by the English Brown family. The Brown’s would own Breguet for exactly a century until in 1970 with the arrivals of the quartz crisis the brand began ten years of flux during which it would change hands on multiple occasions, Swiss watches considered dangerous business at the time. In 1987 Breguet was acquired by Investcorp which subsequently created the Groupe horloger Breguet (GHB). Then, in 1999, Breguet was acquired by the Swatch corporation by whom the brand continues to be owned and operated to this day.
These days Breguet continues to astound watch enthusiasts the world over with their intricate, time-honoured engineering practices and stunning design. Breguet timepieces are generally divided into male and female styles, with each section possessing numerous designs each with its own purpose and occasion.
Within the brand’s Gentleman’s collection, the Classique is perhaps Breguet’s signature timepiece. Featuring the famous reeded case bands and soldered lugs that have become a trademark of the brand, the distinct, rounded face of Breguet’s Classique collection is a triumph of luxurious elegance that continues to act as a symbol of true style.
Other renowned models from the company include the La Marine, a water resistant watch that’s renowned for it’s pronounced crown guards. With the heritage and tradition timepiece collections, Breguet continue to provide a slice of old-world engineering and aesthetic to the most discerning of collectors and aficionados.
Whilst the brand maintain a healthy selection of watches in the present day, Breguet’s legend is solidified by the high esteem in which the company’s antique and vintage pieces are held by auction houses and connoisseurs alike. Indeed, some of the most expensive watches ever sold were created by Breguet. Examples include the No. 2667 pocket watch which was sold for more than $4 million back in 2012 at Christie’s in Geneva, as well as the Breguet Sympathique Clock No.128 & 5009 which fetched a record $6.8 million at Sotheby’s New York.
Due to the brand’s pristine reputation for quality, style and technical prowess, Breguet timepieces have been worn by some of the globe’s most powerful figures since the company first started out back in the 18th century. Notable fans of Breguet watches include leader such as Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin and Winston Churchill. However it is not just politicians who appreciate the elegance and poetry of Breguet, with automobile pioneer Ettore Bugatti a known fan and the great Orientalist painter Horace Vernet equally enamoured with Breguet products.