Breguet: Watchmaker to Napoleon and Balzac 


Words by: JPS for duncan quinn

Legendary Swiss watchmaker Breguet, established in Paris in 1775

is credited with creating the first wristwatch, the first self-winding watch, the repeating mechanism and the tourbillon, earning its founder Abraham-Louis Breguet the moniker “father of modern horology.” Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking, an impressive new exhibition at the San Francisco Legion of Honor, one of the city’s fine arts museums, pays tribute to Bregeut’s innovations and iconic timepieces, owned and worn by the likes of Louis XVI, Napoleon Bonaparte, Tsar Alexander I, and Queen Victoria, Balzac, Stendhal and Pushkin, who praised their beauty and precision.


Breguet’s most famous creation is a pocket watch created for Marie Antoinette that took 44 years to make and was the most complicated watch of its time, and remains a paragon of the horological arts. Breguet pocket watches are indeed regal affairs, the ultimate expression of gentlemanly elegance, especially when carried in the waistcoat of a three-piece suit. However the house has many dashing modern wristwatches in its collection as well. In the 1950s it created the Type XX for the French naval air army, and now offers a seriously sporty civilian flyback chronograph version fitted with a self-winding movement. If Balzac were a modern boulevardier we think he’d approve.


Words by JPS for duncan quinn