We like to reserve this space for exceptional timekeepers, and Breguet is among the grandest. The brand is one of the oldest surviving manufactures, with its founder Abraham-Louis Breguet having set up his original workshop in 1775 at 39 Quai de l’Horloge in the Île de la Cité, the artisanal island district on the Seine, Paris. It was here that the young watchmaker created some of the most beautiful and innovative timepieces, as well as the most important inventions of his trade. These include the world’s first self-winding watch in 1780; the perpetual calendar in 1793; the Breguet balance spring in 1795; and the world’s first wristwatch in 1810.
It was at the “House on the Quai” that he also created his own aesthetic codes, which include the first guilloché dials and the now iconic open-tipped Breguet hands. But it was a mechanism first patented in 1801 that would become globally renowned and endure to this day. I’m talking about the tourbillon, through which Breguet had discovered a way of negating the effects of Earth’s gravity and its impact on the chronometric accuracy of the movement. This was achieved by incorporating the balance wheel and spring as well as the escapement in a mobile carriage rotating on itself.
In 2006, in a celebration of its ingenuity, the company introduced the Classique Double Tourbillon 5347, with its mechanical hearts punctuating the guilloché patterned dial. The new Classique Double Tourbillon Quai de l’Horloge 5345 is now liberated from the dial, revealing itself in all of its mechanical glory through the sapphire-crystal glass box. Its 46mm diameter platinum case has a coin-edged caseband. The sapphire hours-chapter ring features hand-engraved blue Roman numerals. The barrel bridges in steel take on the form of the letter B and all components are meticulously finished by hand. Blending mechanical and aesthetic prowess, the entirely exposed movement reveals two independent tourbillons that set the whole plate in motion through a central differential that determines the average rate, with each of the two regulating organs completing a full rotation per minute, simultaneously driving the tourbillon bar: the signature hours hand in blued steel. This complex mechanism pivots around its axis at the rate of one full turn every 12 hours.
The unique character of this watch is also expressed through the meticulous engraving on the caseback depicting the building on Quai de l’Horloge. You can also catch a glimpse of the manually wound mechanical movement Calibre 588N through some of the windowpanes. An interesting choice is the leather strap with “stone” coating on rubber, which looks like a piece of a worn biker jacket from the ’80s — or could it be inspired by the paving on Quai de l’Horloge?
This is a bold mechanical feat yet beautifully elegant, executed with characteristic Breguet finesse. Despite being priced at just under R10-million, this is by no means the usual, conspicuous status symbol.
• For more information visit breguet.com
• From the March edition of Wanted, 2021.