The Art of Breguet: Discover the Forefather to Contemporary Artisanal Watchmaking

News • 07 Oct 2022

The Art of Breguet: Discover the Forefather to Contemporary Artisanal Watchmaking


L’Atelier by The Hour Glass is hosting a special exhibition until 16 October highlighting the history of Breguet creations. Trace the heritage of Breguet, and how its patrimony continues to influence watchmaking today.

Breguet Exhibit Display
A special exhibition of Breguet watches at L’Atelier by The Hour Glass

The name Abraham-Louis Breguet is a familiar one to watch enthusiasts, connoisseurs and watchmakers. A key figure in 18th and 19th century watchmaking, Breguet’s great influence fares well-beyond mere aesthetics or technical innovations, extending to entrepreneurial practices that continue in the watchmaking industry today. The late George Daniels was well-known as a scholar of Breguet, having built his experience on restoring various Breguet timepieces and culminating in the publication of his book on the subject, ‘The Art of Breguet’ in 1975.

Read more about the influence of Breguet in The Persistence of Memory – Curators Chat

The exhibition at L’Atelier features an interactive showcase of historical Breguet pieces alongside pieces from the current collection, centering around aesthetic and technical themes.

Breguet Numerals and Hands

In 1783, Abraham-Louis Breguet presented his innovative gong springs for his chiming watches, the first shock-absorbing device for portable timekeepers. That same year, he also created the now-eponymous open-tipped Breguet hands. Driven by a desire for a clean design, Breguet refined the font of the Arabic numerals on the dials of his watches. The case is also slimmed down, and these graphic lines proved highly popular.

 

Breguet Classique
The Breguet Classique which has inherited the codes of stylised numerals and “Breguet” style hands

 

In doing so, Breguet redefined the aesthetics and codes for numeral indices and hands on watches. Today, the Classic Collection incorporates these codes that are so embedded within the Breguet design DNA. These references are incorporated in the new Classique 8068, which also features a guillochage dial.

Explore the Breguet Classique collection

Guillochage

In 1786, Breguet sought to refine the aesthetics of his watches. Guillochage was used on the dials for several purposes. The technique provided better protection against wear and tear to polished surfaces, which are often susceptible to scratches and tarnishing. Its anti-reflective properties allowed greater readability. The guilloche patterns helped delineate different zones on the dial for different readings.

The art of guillochage continues to feature in Breguet watches today, both on the dial and as decoration in the movement.

 

The Breguet Classique 7337 Calendar inherits the style of using guillochage to distinguish sections of the dial and enhance readability.

Tourbillon and Fusée Tourbillon

Patented in June 1801, the tourbillon is perhaps the best known of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s inventions. The revolutionary mechanism neutralised the effects of gravity, providing unprecedented precision in mechanical timepieces. This invention was an engineering feat, and cemented Abraham-Louis Breguet’s standing as one of the most innovative and influential watchmakers of his time.

The Classique Tourbillon Anniversary pays vibrant tribute to Breguet’s genius. This limited release of 35 pieces corresponds to the number of Tourbillon watches made during Abraham-Louis Breguet’s lifetime.

 

The new Breguet Tradition 7047 fusée-chain tourbillon.

 

The Tradition 7047 Grande Complication Fusée Tourbillon saw the use of a fusée-chain transmission system that improved rate regularity. By ensuring a constant couple in the movement, the winding tension of its mainsprings no longer affected the rate of the watch. In 2022, this is reinterpreted in the new fusée tourbillon. The mechanism, which is visible from the dial side, is sprinkled with touches of blue. The tourbillon carriage and the dial covered with matching blue coatings, and thermally blued chain links, the components achieve a visual uniformity and balance.

Rare Breguet Creations on Display

Three pieces from a private collection are also on display at this Breguet exhibition, including an example of the Sympathique clock – the ingenious table clock and paired pocket watch conceived by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1793. The pocket watch can be removed for portable time-keeping during the day, and when watch and clock reunited at night, the portable watch is regulated and synced with the more accurate clock. Breguet began modern recreations of the Sympathique clocks in the 1990s; the first of these recreations with a skeletonised minute repeater pocket watch is one of the key pieces at the exhibition.

 

Rare Breguet Sympathique clock and subscription watch sets from a private collection also on display at the Breguet exhibition.
Rare Breguet Sympathique clock and subscription watch sets from a private collection also on display at the Breguet exhibition.

 

Two rare sets of subscription watches can be viewed at the exhibition, including a skeletonised tourbillon set, and a perpetual calendar set. These modern recreations follow the spirit of Breguet’s original souscription watches, being creations that showcase the best of watchmaking skill and technique.  To finance production of his watches, Abraham-Louis Breguet began the practice of offering clients pieces by souscription (or subscription), where the client would pay a percentage of the price upfront, and the balance on delivery of the watch, which would be slightly less expensive than a regular serially produced piece. This sales strategy initiated by Breguet continues to be employed in the watch industry today.

 

 

Visit L’Atelier by The Hour Glass at ION Orchard in Singapore from now until 16 October and trace the patrimony of Breguet at this special exhibition.

 

 

Tags: abraham louis breguet breguet exhibition haute horlogerie

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