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A tribute to the past

Harking back to its seafaring heritage, Parisian watch maison Breguet raises the curtain on a new maritime collection

Few can rival the watchmaking heritage of the house of Breguet. One of the most impactful horological brands, its founder Abraham-Louis Breguet made his mark through innovative designs, which have now become an enduring legacy of style and practicality. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Breguet pioneered many of the techniques still used in watchmaking today. The brand’s inventions, such as the shock protection system – popularly known as the pare-chute – and the tourbillon, propelled the French house into the annals of watchmaking history.

The story began in 1775, when the master watchmaker opened his first workshop in Paris. Thanks to his unique expertise, his splendid creations quickly caught the attention of Parisian high society and the French Royal Court. The maison’s pieces were savoured by French general Napoleon Bonaparte, who had several Breguet watches in his private collection, serving the dual purpose of practicality while on his military campaigns as well as a show of wealth and refinement among his aristocratic peers. Breguet’s collections also became a favourite among the likes of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. One of Breguet’s most famous pocket watches of all time, the Grand Complication, was commissioned for Queen Marie Antoinette by a secret admirer.

It was ordered to incorporate the fullest range of horological expertise possible with no expense spared. An extravagance of the highest level, the order stipulated that wherever possible, gold should replace other metals and that auxiliary mechanisms should be as numerous and varied as possible. So complex, it took a total of 44 years to complete and sadly, outlived its creator and the queen herself, for whom it was made. 

Although she did not live to see the piece, it was a work of art in its own right. The automatic pocket watch was wound by a platinum oscillating weight and equipped with a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar displaying the day of the week, date, month and leap-year cycle, equation of time, power reserve display, metal thermometer, independent central second hand for a stopwatch function and a small second hand. The turn of the 18th century was a rich time for navy seafaring.

The wealth and security of a nation largely came to be linked to its marine power. When John Harrison invented the chronometer in 1761, Breguet understood its importance as an indispensable tool for oceanic exploration as it could determine the position of ships at sea. He, therefore, spent most of the brand’s formative years on developing and fine-tuning these instruments, resulting in Breguet’s 1815 appointment as the official chronometer supplier to the French Royal Navy. But it was not only the chronometer that won him the most prestigious title to which a French horologist could only aspire to at that time.

Many of the most important facets of modern horology were either invented or heavily influenced by Breguet himself, who some even call the Leonardo Da Vinci of watchmaking. From the equation of time and the minute repeater to the ‘perpetuelle’ watch, which would wind itself without the aid of a key or any other external tool, there were several significant contributions inspired by this man’s genius.  

Breguet also helmed the creation of the brand’s moon tip watch hands, now recognised as the Breguet hands. At the time, the hands of a watch were often short, broad and heavily decorated, making it difficult to read the dial. To begin with, he used gold hands until about 1783. Then, he invented a type of hand that was refreshingly new. Made of gold or blue steel and resembling a hollow apple or crescent moon, the ends of the hands were cut out in eccentric fashion. Its elegance was well received and the new shape became an immediate success. In the decades that followed, Breguet became a horological authority amongst geometers, astronomers and seafarers, known for accurately calculating longitudes at sea.

In 1840, a Breguet instrument became the first timepiece to reach the Antarctic on the expedition led by French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville. Subsequently, the brand designed a number of outstanding marine chronometers. They were mounted on special mahogany or walnut wood boxes and featured a gimbal suspension system that kept them levelled. Today, traces of the distinctive look of the watchmaker’s early maritime instruments can still be found in the newly launched, appropriately named Marine by Breguet collection. Every piece nods towards the inextricable link the house shares with the seafaring world, which has been a constant theme for nearly two centuries.

 BREGUET MARINE 5517

A 40mm marine wristwatch, it has a self-winding movement with the date aperture at 3 o’clock and balance spring in silicon. Water resistant to a depth of 100 metres, it includes a sapphire caseback and screw-locked crown. 

 MARINE DAME 9517

This model is enlivened by 60 brilliant-cut diamonds. Made with steel, the mother-of-pearl or blue lacquer dial is animated by volutes reminiscent of ocean waves or a starlit night sky, which was used for navigation in the past. 

MARINE EQUATION MARCHANTE 5887

With the help of two independent rotation mechanisms, this timepiece displays both solar time and real time with two separate minute hands. The solar hand is distinguished by a faceted sun at its tip. 

MARINE ALARME MUSICALE 5547

Elegant and practical, this 40mm wristwatch, with a self-winding movement and date aperture, is alarm-equipped. The alarm comes with time, power reserve and on/off indicators. The model is available in titanium or 18-carat gold.

MARINE DAME 9518

Available in two versions, the white-gold edition is adorned with pale-blue mother-of-pearl, while the rose-gold model features a white mother-of-pearl dial. The bezel is illuminated by a setting of 50 brilliant-cut diamonds. 

MARINE CHRONOGRAPH 5527

This stylish 42.3mm watch has all the classic features found in a Breguet timepiece, including the fluted case, guilloche dial and Breguet hands, but with a design that sets it apart from its predecessors. 

Discover the collection at The Dubai Mall 04 3627500  

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