ABRAHAM-LOUIS BREGUET, (1747-1823). FRENCH
France's most eminent horologist, Abraham-Louis Breguet revolutionised the design, techniques and image of watch and clockmaking. His work was luxurious, expensive and of superlative quality. He was appointed watchmaker to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and later to Napoleon. He was also patronised by the Tzars of Russia, the English royal family, the Queen of Naples and of Spain and the high aristocracy. Breguet time pieces can be found worldwide, including London's Biritish Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Guildhall and Buckingham Palace and in Paris at the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers.
Breguet was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. In 1762 he travelled to Paris, serving an apprenticeship to a watchmaker in Versailles; he may also have worked for F. Berthoud (1727-1807) or for J. A. Lepine (1720-1814). Breguet studied mathematics t the College Mazarin under Abbe Marie who introduced him to many future clients among the aristocracy. Breguet's marriage to Cecile 1'Huillier provided him width enough capital to start his own business, 1775; while contacts he had made through Abbé Marie had almost immediate effect. In 1780 he supplied Duc d'Orleans with a sophisticated self-winding watch, two years later he provided another for Marie Antoinette. Breguet received further finance through his partnership with Xavier Gide, known as Breguet et Cie, (1787-1791). During the heat of the Revolution and under the protection of his friend Marat, Breguet fled to Geneva. During his exile he strengthened contacts and developed new ideas which he immediately implemented upon his return to Paris 1795. One of his first steps was the launch his heaper "souscription" watch, simple to make yet reliable to use.
Breguet applied science and mathematics to the industry, his refinements and innovations considerably added to the art of horology particularly in creating more accurate time keepers and in reducing a watch's thickness. He produced the first "automatic" watch and invented the "parachute", circa 1790 - the first example of shock protection (still used today). He also produced watches for the blind, while his musical watches achieved technological and artistic heights. His style was as radical as it was elegant, he replaced conventional Roman numerals with Arabic, and typically pierced the tips of the hands with a "moon".
In 1807 he took his son, Antoine-Louis (1776-1858) into partnership. The new firm of Breguet et Fils was extremely prosperous as diplomats and aristocrats travelled to Paris during the Napoleonic Campaigns. Breguet also established representatives throughout the world, from London to Madrid and Constantinople to Moscow. During the final decade of his life Breguet received some of the highest accolades; he was appointed a Chevalier de la Legion D'Honneur, a member of the French Board of Longitude, Horologer de la Marine in 1815 and was elected to the Académie Royale des Sciences, 1816. On his death, Breguet et Fils was continued by his son, Antoine-Louis, who was later joined by his own son, Louis-Clément-Frangois (1804-1883), and in turn Louis-Antoine (1851-82) who brought in Edward Brown as successor, while the Breguet family diversified into electricity, telegraph and aeronautics. The current firm, Montres Breguet continues to produce an exclusive range of watches based on the classic designs of its founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet.
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