Be still my beating gorilla heart, for I am in horological Heaven. Next stop in my joyful journey of watch exploration – The Golden City, U.S.A. I will be visiting the “Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking” exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, to admire some of the most marvellous mechanical watches in history.
Exhibiting the works of none other than the master of watchmaking, Abraham Louis Breguet, the thrilling event will be a decadent display of major engineering expertise beginning from the late 18th century and spanning decades.
In my admiring eyes, and many, many others, Breguet was the leading watchmaker of his day, founding the Breguet Company in 1775, an institute that’s still producing luxury watches today. He was innovative in his experimentation with watch technology, inventing all sorts of complicated winding mechanisms that would pave the way for the evolution of the personal timepiece.
His unique talents, desire to push boundaries and flair for both the technical and artistic elements saw him achieve great success – within ten years of his career he was personally watchmaking for many aristocratic French families, and even royalty – such as Marie-Antoinette. Her watch is thought to have been commissioned in 1783 and is simply breath-taking.
Named ‘The Queen’, it was one of the first mechanical watches to be encased in gold and contain every mechanical function known at the time, including a perpetual calendar, chronograph and independent second hand. The watch has a clear face, designed to showcase the complicated movements of the mechanism inside and was last valued at around $30 million.
Rather than sitting around eating cake, Breguet had some work to do. The watch took 34 years to complete, and unfortunately Marie-Antoinette never lived to see the finished piece, having been marked for the guillotine many years before. Despite this, Breguet and his high-skilled team continued on with the commission and many, many more. The team’s fascination with quality and longevity has been passed down through generations and modern day Breguet watches are works of art – but like with any reputable art, they come with an astronomically high price-tag.
My own collection, I am proud to say, is made up of many stunning mechanical watches. I enjoy admiring the precision, the efficiency and the delightful whirring of cogs and gears, working in unison to provide me with the knowledge of time. Fortunately, I’m a nice guy and you can enjoy these watches too - for a much more reasonable price. Might I recommend the Abbrecci Vintage, a sophisticated and intricate mechanical piece that features blue pomme hands – in an appreciative nod to one of Breguet’s distinctive stylistic features. And at just £29, you don’t have to be a member of the aristocracy to own it. I told you I was a nice guy.
Breguet’s legacy is so great; his name is one of the 72 names inscribed onto the Eiffel Tower. I have had my case packed for weeks (banana bread, my best suit and my very own mechanical masterpiece, my Mirtello Gear) as I wait with baited-breath for BA’s online check-in to open.
Maybe see you there.