Breguet, Abraham-Louis


Abraham-Louis Bréguet, the French inventor of the Swiss origin, was born in 1747 in the city of Nauchate (Neuchâtel). At the age of 15, he was sent to Paris to study and practice the art of watchmaking as an apprentice in Versailles. After a few years of apprenticeship, young Breguet opened his own workshop and his first clock shop in Paris in 1775. Breguet turned out to be a talented scientist as well as well a successful entrepreneur.

Breguet’s inventions had determined the vector of development of mechanical watchmaking for many years. He was the one to have designed the Breguet arrow pattern, the separate spring minute repeater, as well as the famous Breguet watch dial. Following a series of experiments, he invented the so-called Tourbillon, (the platform, where the balance mechanism is fixed which increases the accuracy of the watch) and the shock-absorbing system - the "parachute". Furthermore, Breguet invented the "perpetual" mechanical watches and the tactile watches "a tact", which could tell time by touch. Arguably, Breguet’s key invention was the improvement of modern carriage clock design.

The period from 1780 to 1796 was characterized by continuous growth and success of Breguet’s Parisien workshop.

His watches were very popular with the Parisian nobility, so he received commissions from the French royal family, and from other royal dynasties in Europe. During the French Revolution Breguet was forced to leave Paris. He managed to escape to Switzerland, where he established a new production of watches in the town of La Wall of de Joux, near Geneva. Here he continued his engineering practices and in 1801 patents the new clockwork characterized by increased course accuracy.

By this time, Breguet’s production is already known far beyond European bounds. The company begins shipping to the East, to Poland, Russia and Turkey. In 1808 Moreau Breguet, one of the close relatives of Abraham-Louis, comes to Russia to open a representative office of the Firm in Saint Petersburg. The Emperor Alexander I highly appreciated the new brand and even acquired several watches for himself with a promise to support Breguet’s establishment in Russia. A short time after, Moreau Breguet was granted the title of "Watchmaker of his Imperial Majesty and the Imperial Navy", and Breguet was commissioned to create watches for the Russian Court and Navy. The number of orders from Russia allowed Breguet to expand production, but in a few years’ time, due to the deterioration of the political situation and the start of the Napoleonic wars, the collaboration stopped.

Interestingly, Breguet was not only a great inventor and engineer, but also a talented entrepreneur. As such, he introduced a subscription sales system as early as 1797. The customer had to make an advance payment for his order production to begin. Specific time frames of production were never broken. On the appointed date, having paid the remaining sum, the customer could collect his watch.

All the subscription watches had a unique number that was usually engraved on the enamel dial together with the brand name Breguet under the number 12.

Abraham-Louis Breguet was the founder of a true dynasty of watchmakers. At first, he was working together with his son Antoine, and then the workshop passed to his grandchildren and nephews. The Master died at the age of 77 and had remained true to his passion for watchmaking until his last breath, working and teaching new apprentices in his workshop. Breguet’s final years were dedicated to creating and improving the design of wrist and pocket watches.

Throughout centuries clock and watch production under the Breguet brand remained the gold standard of perfect taste and the highest quality.

Exhibits in the Museum Collection