Fast forward to late July of this year and instead of my planned visit to the Breguet boutique in London to photograph various pieces from the current collection that had been planned for the spring, I made arrangements to access the two watches referred to above that my friend had purchased. The first photo shows the watches side by side and clearly demarcates the period of watchmaking at Breguet spearheaded by a young Daniel Roth and the ownership of the Chaumet brothers.
After having spent a couple of hours chatting and photographing, I began to investigate these two timepieces, paying particular attention the watch above. The case back belongs to the perpetual calendar, reference 3310, introduced in 1986. In fact, and this has been confirmed by Maison Breguet in an email to the owner, this is the 3rd ref.3310 to leave the factory on the 30th November of that year (something that was not mentioned in the catalogue essay when he purchased it at auction, the essay merely stating that No.3 is engraved on the caseback). 1987 was a notable year in the history of Breguet as Jacques and Pierre Chaumet, who had purchased Breguet in 1970 from George Brown, were arrested and subsequently charged with fraud on the 13th June of the same year (the photo below shows an extract from the New York Times dated June 15th 1987 headlined ‘A Scandal in French Jewellery’). This swift change in the status of the brothers led to the sale of Breguet to Investcorp that same year.
The development of the perpetual calendar wristwatch at Breguet was lead by Daniel Roth who first created the reference 3050 seen below in the 1970s after he joined the company in 1973. (I should add that the date of the first 3050 is not clear to me personally as the Maison advised that the first iteration was only available in 1985 and I have read elsewhere that it was introduced in the mid-1970s). Remember also that perpetual calendar wristwatches in series were extremely rare at the time (Patek lead the way in the middle of the twentieth century and ref. 3450 was replaced by ref. 3940 in 1985).
The origins of this particular model can be found in the school watch Daniel Roth made whilst studying in Le Sentier for 2 years on the advisement of Francois Bodet, the director of Breguet between 1973 and 1987, the man who had persuaded the Chaumet brothers to hire him from Audemars Piguet.
The functional distinction between this earlier watch and the 3310 is that the latter was endowed with an additional indication for the power reserve. Of course, the layout is completely renewed and is less ‘traditional’ in its appearance. The 3310 was arguably Roth’s swansong before he left the company in 1987 when the Chaumet’s tenure came to an abrupt end. It is also fascinating to imagine what the atmosphere was like in the atelier when this watch was completed: the company’s future unclear with regards ownership, but cemented in terms of the direction its watchmaking was taking.
What is also interesting to note is that according to an email correspondence I had with Breguet, they confirmed that the reference 3310 was manufactured between 1986 and 2000 and although on the surface it seems unlikely that they only made 3 watches in the space of a year or so, these particular perpetual calendars were particularly delicate watches that included slim movements with a new complicated module and engine turned dials. Plus Bodet is quoted as saying that they only produced 2 or 3 perpetual calendars a year due to the 30 different professions required to manufacture a single piece (see 'Breguet: The Story of a Passion, 1973-1987).
I thought it would be apposite to include the text of the email from Breguet as received by the owner.
‘We confirm that Maison Breguet has produced a 3310BA13282 watch serial number 3569 engraved n°3
Description: Classique complication wristwatch in 18-carat yellow gold, self-winding, power reserve indicator, perpetual calendar, leap year, moon-phases, silvered dial hand-engraved. Calibre 502 DRP leather strap, pocket for correcting pin.... Our curator, Mr. Breguet Emmanuel confirms This means that the watch in question is the third watch produced in this reference (QP moon phases) which was new at the time.’
Some further images of the watch.