A visit at the Breguet Manufacture, November 2019.

Nov 19, 2019,02:43 AM
 




Breguet certainly is one of these magic names of the watch industry. We all have these old ads in mind, featuring some famous clients of the brand, such as Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Churchill, just to name a few. 

We are many to have some models in mind, like the Type XX, or the Triple Date ref 3330 / 3337, without forgetting the Tradition. 

The 3330: 


We know that Abraham-Louis Breguet was the inventor of the Tourbillon as soon as 1801,  and that this is one of the oldest name of the watch universe. 

Still, and this is the first paradox, Breguet is a discrete brand, with not much communication on their creations. How many of us had the opportunity to visit the Manufacture, too? 

6 months ago, I was offered to visit the Manufacture in the Joux Valley, and, as you can imagine, my answer was quick: YES, as I wanted to know more about this brand, to discover its universe, well, in a few words, what really is Breguet in the horological spectrum.

6 months after, I am here, in front of the door discretely bearing the signature of the manufacture. 


I knew I wouldn't have enough of my 7 or 8 hours to entirely visit the three buildings composing the Manufacture, so we decided, with my contact, to discover the essence of Breguet. Which I will share with you, here, as a nice " avant gout " before a second visit. 

I first had an introduction about the manufacture and how it works. The process is divided in 4 times: 

1/ The cutting of the plates and parts of the movement, the machining and the surfacing. Then, the beveling, the engraving and the guillochage. 

2/ The assembly of the movement, oiling and escapement control. 

3/ The assembly of the watch. 

4/ Putting the strap or the bracelet and the packaging of the watch. 

We decided to focus on the decoration and finishings of the movements and dials, ( stage 1 ), to pay a visit to the enamelers and to the restoration and complications workshops. 

Then, we ended the visit with a photo session of some models. 

-> THE DECORATION AND FINISHINGS:  

From the round pieces of metal, which received the first treatments ( cutting, machining and surfacing made by machine ) to look like this: 


You start the decoration and finishings process, by hand, with classic tools for the guillochage, engraving and beveling. 

Here is the old rose-engine machine for the circular guilloché decoration, which I tested. 


The engravings are made with some small metallic tips, while, for the bevelings, a lime and boxwood are used, which I tried... In vain. 

At the end, you have something like this: 


Here, some rotors: 







Of course the dials are also decorated here. You well know the guillochages of Breguet dials, you less know this kind of guillochage, on a mother of pearl dial. 


The care of the details is of a high level, here. 

-> THE COMPLICATIONS and RESTORATION WORKSHOPS

Decoration, finishings are one important thing, but movements are everything. It is not a secret that Breguet had, for a long time, used movements from the Vallée de Joux,  including Lemania. If my memory serves me well, I even think they used some Peseux 260 calibres for their manual winding vintage chronometers, and Valjoux for the Type XX. 

For those who want to know more about that part of Breguet history, here are some informations coming from the Manufacture: 

" In the mid-nineteenth century, the firm used ébauches  from the Vallée

de Joux, and later on, from the 1920s, Breguet

commissioned the firm of Victorin Piguet at Le

Sentier to make its most prestigious pieces, induding

perpétuelle  and tourbillon  wat

with many complications. And finally, in 1976, the

Breguet workshops moved to premises in the

Vallée de Joux, situated initially at Le Brassus and

Le Sentier, and later, from the summer of 1994,

in a very large restored building on the shores of

the Lac de Joux, in the village of L’Abbaye. The

L’Abbaye building now houses Breguet’s administrative

headquarters, while the factory is housed in

large modern buildings in the village of L’Orient,

constructed on the former Nouvelle Lémania site

between 2001 and 2014. "


In 1992, Breguet bought Nouvelle Lemania, Breguet being bought in its turn by the Swatch Group in 1999. 

Some more detailed informations about that important moment of Breguet life:

" In the early 1990s, the Groupe Horloger Breguet was formed,

a small group comprising three watchmaking firms belonging Nouvelle Lémania, specialists in movements and

complications of the highest quality, the components manufacturer

Valdar, and Breguet. In effect, Nouvelle

Lémania increasingly became the Breguet factory, as – while also

supplying other clients such as Omega and Patek Philippe – it

supplied all the movements finished by Breguet for an increasing

proportion of its models. In 1995, rationalization and the introduction of production line processes by Nouvelle Lémania

bore fruit in the form of the new Type XX chronograph, inspired

by the aeronautical designs of the preceding decades. "


Speaking with the watchmakers is always an exciting experience, and it is no exception with the Breguet watchmakers. 

I could speak with some in charge of the current production, and others who are in charge of the restoration. 

There is one watch I wanted to know better, the 7727 Classique Chronométrie 10 HZ, unveiled in 2012, and I had the pleasure to discuss that timepiece with one of the watchmakers.
The " Chronométrie 10 HZ " is a very interesting and representative Breguet with its different guillochages for the dial, the hands, of course, its fluted side case and its typical lugs. 





That is for the tradition, the aesthetic DNA of the brand. 

The movement looks classic in terms of decoration and finishings, too. BUT... The concept is original and very interesting. To serve the purpose of chronometry -non COSCED-,these innovations bring the reference 7727’s average rate to -1/+3 seconds a day, well within the COSC chronometer standard of -4/+6 seconds a day. More importantly, the difference in rate between the six positions has been brought down to -2/+4 seconds a day (maximum wind ). 

This movement, the Cal 574DR, beats at... 72, 000 vibrations per hour, has a silicon escapement with 2 hairsprings, and... A magnetic pivot with two magnets, under and above the balance wheel. The magnet has a stronger power on the dial side than on the back side. 



Here is the technical drawing: 


The purpose of this technical innovation is to protect the balance wheel from the shocks, acting like a shock absorber, offering more regularity in the oscillations, whatever the position of the watch and the shocks of life, hence a better accuracy. 


From one side of the spectrum to another, I had an interesting conversation with the watchmakers of the Restoration workshop, who had two surprises for me. 

The first surprise, an early tourbillon, from... 1808, which belonged to one very prestigious spanish client, Don Antonio de Bourbon, Infante of Spain. 

They were working on it, so I could take some photos of this historical marvel. 

The aesthetics will certainly speak loud to you... We are indeed very far from the concept of the " Chronométrie 10 HZ " here, but both are so Breguet. 



The second surprise was enormous... They showed me a copy of the " Marie Antoinette " pocket watch! 

The box is one of the biggest I've ever seen, made with Marie Antoinette's oak, a gift from Versailles Castel. 

But of course, the most important part of this package is the watch. What a watch! 




And, surprise on the backside, the original rotor, reminding us that Breguet was one of the first to make automatic movements, since... 1780! 


As a superb bonus, I could also see a " sympathique " clock, which basically coordinates the wrist watch on the top ( a minute repeater, here, or a tourbillon wristwatch )  with the clock, and rewinds it. Here is a specimen from the early 90's, with... 


And without the wristwatch:


They told me, at Breguet, that they can make every part for an old movement. They have the tools and the archives. They showed me some old books with some technical drawings, documents and my guide drove me to the place where all the swages are stocked, not less than 3000 swages are present in this secure stock, the heritage that comes with Lemania factory.

Here are some pictures of swages, for old balance and anchor bridges, chronograph pliers, and hammers springs. 



-> THE ENAMEL WORKSHOP: 

As a big fan of enamel dials, I was very interested to see this workshop. I met three master enamelers working on some dials. They explained to me the process, the choice of a gold dial, then the work with the powder, the firing time, the temperature of the horn, and the way they clean the dial, they finish it by diving it in the water to destress it. 

Of course, they make these dials in house, cloisonné, champlevé, grand feu, miniatures they use and master all the technics of fine enameling for the small series. 

An anecdote showing how personal making an enamel dial can be: They told me that they could recognize who made the enamel dial among them, each dial having its own characteristic. 

I quite know one thing or two about enamel dials, but I didn't know they fired them one by one. 

Here is an enamel grand feu dial they made, installed in the ref 5367 in platinum, with its 42 mm big, 7 mm high case, and its automatic movement. 




To end, I could shoot some marvels, and as we are at Breguet, some tourbillons. 

My favorite, the Messidor, ref 5335 in white gold: 









And the Classique Extra Thin Tourbillon open worked, ref 5395 in platinum.





I will post two other watches which caught all my attention a bit later. But I can already tell you that I liked a lot what I saw, at the manufacture, the spirit of these artists, their passion and pride, too. I would like to thank my dear contact at the Manufacture and all the Breguet team for her friendship and their warm welcome.

Looking forward to reading your comments and thoughts, 

Best. 

Nicolas


More posts: 33303337CalibresClassiqueClassique Day-Date-MoonphaseHeritageTourbillonType XX

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Comments: view entire thread

 

Amazing pieces

 
 By: keks : November 19th, 2019-02:47
Thanks for sharing the tour, looks like an amazing experience throughout! These tourbillon pieces are quite amazing. Superb!

Breguet is a brand that compels me...

 
 By: r0gue : November 19th, 2019-03:07
I may well have to succumb to the desire. Were the Classique in 36 to 38mm, I'd have one already.

There are a number of classique models in that range in the current collection

 
 By: Spangles - Mr. Tabby : November 19th, 2019-04:08
The 5930 is 36mm The marvelous 8787 is 36mm The 5277 is 38mm The 5157 is 38mm The 5177 is 38mm And then there are many past models one can find in that size range. Plus, a number of models are 39mm.

Nice experience

 
 By: VinnieD : November 19th, 2019-04:39
The 7727 is such a technical marvel - I have the feeling it does not get the recognition it would deserve. It is wonderful that the magnetic field makes it robust to shocks: it feels counter-intuitive but that is the beauty of it. The 3330 is also one of ... 

Thanks, looks like a great place to visit

 
 By: lk : November 19th, 2019-05:24
I also recommend the museum above the Paris store, which is perhaps easier to visit.

Nicolas, thanks for this report, very well caught the beauty of Breguet. Breguet was the manufacture that 15 years ago that I found so interesting because of it's history and the quality of

 
 By: Bobbe : November 19th, 2019-05:29
their watches. Later, I bought some other watches and Breguet drifted of in my horological mind. You brought it back today! Thank you. In the future a nice classique or TypeXX.....

I will ask her... But I think she does.

 
 By: amanico : November 19th, 2019-09:41
...  

Ha ha, my man!!! [nt]

 
 By: Bobbe : November 19th, 2019-09:43

Merci, Henrik. [nt]

 
 By: amanico : November 19th, 2019-07:42

Excellent report. Very interesting and some great pictures and timepieces.

 
 By: kev09 : November 19th, 2019-06:10
I very much enjoyed reading it. Thank you for posting it. Regards Kev.

Breguet is my favorite brand

 
 By: Uncle Chico : November 19th, 2019-06:16
Thank you for the inside view. Their dials and movements are poetical. I have an acquisition next year narrowed down to three manufacturers. You just made the choice more difficult.

Excellent. Thank you. [nt]

 
 By: Catulle : November 19th, 2019-06:23

Merci, Catulle! [nt]

 
 By: amanico : November 19th, 2019-07:48

Fantastic report Nico !

 
 By: jrwong23 : November 19th, 2019-06:30
Back in 2012 , the classique 5177 (guilloche dial) almost became my first haute horology watch (but I chose a VC traditionelle instead). That was when I was looking for my first dress watch which ended up making me hook on this hobby lol. Few months later...  

Thank you for posting

 
 By: quattro98 : November 19th, 2019-08:40
Breguet is one of my favorite brands. The high quality case, dial, and hands are now matched with modern movements taking full advantage of Lemania and Swatch.

Very well done report

 
 By: PatS : November 19th, 2019-09:40
Inspires me to add a Breguet to my young collection of timepieces. Thank you

Amazing write-up!

 
 By: dms : November 19th, 2019-13:07
Thanks for sharing. That must have been such a great day... I envy you 😉

Yeahh !!! ;-) [nt]

 
 By: dms : November 20th, 2019-08:18

What a superb post. It made me travel through Breguet’s unique history.

 
 By: agyzace : November 19th, 2019-13:38
My respect for the brand was confirmed through the employees’ spirit of pride and the cataloguing of everything from the brand’s history. Wonderful. All the best my friend, Alex

Great report!!!

 
 By: jleno : November 19th, 2019-16:41
Would love to get a Breguet one day. Their watches have a lot of character and a distinct look that really sets them apart from the other brands. I'd be very torn between a tradition and a classique!

Messidor and Extra thin...

 
 By: SALMANQ8 : November 19th, 2019-16:51
Both look amazing in your great pics, what a nice adventure, thank you for sharing it with us. Breguet has so much potential, it could be the top of the top, just needs some tweaking. Imagine a modern interpretation wrist watch version of the pocket watch... 

Thanks for that wonderful tour and a look behind the curtain my friend

 
 By: reintitan : November 20th, 2019-02:08
If they ever decide to make a production version of that Only Watch Type 20 from this year then I'm definitely going to get one!

Thank you...

 
 By: FlyingSnoopy : November 20th, 2019-11:14
For taking us with you! Excellent report! Cheers

Merci, Tony. [nt]

 
 By: amanico : November 21st, 2019-15:10

Thank you immensely Nicolas for the commented tour of Breguet!

 
 By: eklektik : November 26th, 2019-15:03
You are a very lucky man! Owning a Breguet is my grail! I have a few more years to pursue that dream! Best, E.

I hope that too! [nt]

 
 By: eklektik : November 30th, 2019-13:47

Excellent report

 
 By: jmpTT : December 5th, 2019-04:54
Have to say, the last watch the Ref 5395, is my favourite of the report. Beautiful amalgamation of the old and new Breguet. Breguet’s signature aesthetic is not totally in lock-step with modern fashion - sports casual, so it is not going to become an Inst...