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Changing The Face Of Time
Published: Volume 22, Issue 3, March, 2014
The Manufacture hosted an exhibition in Geneva at Cite du Temps that invited an exploration of some of the outstanding achievements from the House of Breguet

Alandmark in the world of haute horology was ‘Breguet, innovations that changed History – more than 200 patents since 1775’. The exclusive exhibition held in Geneva at the Cite Du Temps earlier this year, was conceptualised to spotlight some of the brand’s most significant contributions to the art and science of horology. Choosing not to overwhelm visitors with the whole portfolio of innovations, the House of Breguet decided to exhibit only eight carefully curated ones, but display them in experimental showcases that would spark the imagination and invite the senses to explore.

In 1801, the Tourbillon prompted the French Interior Minister at the time, Jean-Antoine Chaptal, to grant Breguet a patent for the new type of regulator, which drastically improved the precision of timepieces by offsetting the detrimental effect to performance caused by the effects of gravity.

Then, in 1812, at a time when pocket watches reigned supreme, Caroline Murat, the Queen of Naples, requested that the watchmakers create something unique, causing them to produce the first ever wristwatch. The oval-shaped complicated model, the likes of which had never been seen before, was to be worn on a wristlet of twisted hair and golden thread, paving the way for timepieces to emerge from hidden pockets, to enjoy the status of a piece of jewellery, to be proudly displayed on the wrist by future generations of aficionados.

Abraham-Louis Breguet’s son Louis-Antoine went on to create the first watch featuring a keyless stem winding and time-setting system, the “crown” as it is known now.

This knurled button detail on the Breguet N° 4952 watch, which was to be turned from left to right until it stopped, served to both set the hands to time and to wind the watch, and marked the beginning of modern watch winding.

The very first instant dual time-zone device was also one of the House’s achievements, reimagining the travel watch so that it switches between two pre-selected time zones at the simple press of a button. The Manufacture also leveraged high frequency to improve the balance of some models by using lighter components made of silicon – the increase in frequency of the oscillator enabled some timepieces to reach as much as 72,000 vibrations per hour.

The anti-magnetic properties of silicon also allowed Breguet to incorporate performance-enhancing magnets inside the watch mechanism. The first magnetic regulator in watchmaking history is to be found in the Classique La Musicale watch, reducing wear, background noise and consuming less energy, even while improving precision. In November 2010 Breguet continued this tradition of turning horlogerie on its head by filing a patent for the magnetic pivot – two counter-pivots incorporating powerful micro-magnets on either end of the balance staff, keeping it centred and rendering it self-adjusting. The Classique Chronométrie of 2012 showcased this invention with exceptional rating results.

In terms of performance, precision, aesthetic or functional use, the House of Breguet has constantly innovated and improved, leading to a heritage of over two centuries of inventions and technological developments that have shaped the course of watchmaking. Naturally, changing the course of time over centuries!

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