The progressiveness of Abraham-Louis Breguet extends far beyond his technical mastery.
Close your eyes. When we mention the name Breguet, you can immediately see a picture of a watch in your mind. It may not be specific, but all the design codes of Breguet are already there. And this is because, since the end of the 18th century, Abraham Louis Breguet had already understood the concept of building a brand. He had the vision of implementing certain design codes to make his watches unique. These elements of design can still be found in a modern Breguet watch, and it is the reason why their watches are instantaneously recognisable.
To the watch enthusiast, Abraham Louis Breguet needs no introduction. Often called the most important man in watchmaking, it is because of Breguet that we have one of the most coveted complications in watchmaking – the tourbillon. The lever escapement found on almost all mechanical watches was an invention of Breguet and he is also the reason why when you see a little bend at the end of a flat hairspring, you know it is called a Breguet overcoil. The list of watchmaking inventions goes on and on.
Even in terms of aesthetics, the ideas of Breguet has an enduring legacy. In the 18th century, he designed hands and numerals to be both legible and elegant. Today, even when this design is used on other brands, it is still called the Breguet hands and Breguet numerals. Additionally, the engine turned dials that are another signature of the brand are still done by hand until today and this along with the fine fluting on the caseband are some of the most visible signs of a Breguet still found today.
However, unbeknownst to most, there are some nearly invisible signs that also make a Breguet. Quite literally, they have an almost invisible signature on their watch dials. This signature of Abraham Louis Breguet is so discreet, that it can often only be seen under oblique light and depending on your eyesight, it may only become obvious under a loupe. The reason for this signature, was because Breguet discovered that there were people making counterfeits of his watch due to its success and so in 1795 the secret signature was the countermeasure.
If you have ever looked at the dial of a Breguet watch and wondered what the numbers printed on the dial means, it is a sort of serial number, unique to each and every watch Breguet ever produced. Of course, since the numbers only go up to four digits, it doesn’t mean that Breguet has ever only made less than 10,000 watches. The numbers on the dial represent only a part of the serial number with the full indication on the caseback.
When you purchase a Breguet watch, you then have the option of registering this serial number along with your name into their sales records. These records have been kept since the late 18th century and are housed in the Breguet Museum on Place Vendôme in Paris. How cool would it be to have your name inscribed alongside the legendary historical figures that were Breguet clients; names like Queen Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte and Tsar Alexander I of Russia.
So the next time you pick up a Breguet watch, look a little closer and you’ll find yet another reason to love this long-cherished and venerated name in high-end watchmaking.