History of Breguet

written by YWH team 1 January 2016
History of Breguet

History of Breguet
Founded: 1775
Founding place: Paris, France
Founded by: Abraham-Louis Breguet
Current headquarters: Vallée de Joux, Switzerland
Owned by: The Swatch Group
Official name: Breguet S.A.

The history of Breguet starts in the 18th century. In 1775 the Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (10 January 1747 – 17 September 1823) opens a workshop. Not in Switzerland, but at 51 Quai de l’Horloge, on the Ile de la Cité in Paris, France. A rather unusual place for a Swiss watchmaker. But with a reason.

When Breguet is ten or eleven years old, in 1758, his father, Jonas-Louis Breguet, dies. Two years later he finishes his formal school and is ready to learn a trade. His mother, Suzanne-Marguerite Bollein, remarries a man from a family of watchmakers: Joseph Tattet. One story goes that Tattet has a showroom in Paris, others say that he only had business contacts in Paris. He made it possible for for Abraham-Louis to be apprenticed to an unknown watchmaker in Versailles, Paris, at the age of 15.

At the age of 18 Abraham-Louis starts studying with the well-known watchmakers Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807), watchmaker and watch mechanic to the French king and French navy, and Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814), also watchmaker to the king. Breguet also takes classes in physics, optics, astronomy, mechanics and mathematics at the College Mazarin. There he meets the Abbot Joseph-François Marie (1738-1801), a French mathematician and teacher of mathematics at the Collège Mazarin.

Breguet’s marriage and the start of the company

In 1775 he marries Cécile Marie-Louise L’Huillier, daughter of a rather wealthy French family, and with her he opens his workshop. Possibly with some financial help of her family and possibly with the help of Abbot Joseph-François Marie, who took Abraham-Louis under his wings during his study, when he lost his mother as well. On the 26th of June in 1801 Brequets patents the tourbillon escapement, on which he was already working for at least five years. And probably others too, which is likely when working together with high-skilled watchmakers like Berthoud and Lépine. But Abraham-Louis patented this piece of horological enginering that reduces the influence of gravity on the accuracy of mechanical movements.

The company changes ownership two times within the family and Abraham-Louis’ great-grandson Louis Antoine (1851–1882) is the last of the Breguet family to run the business. He has two sons and a daughter, but they did not enter the business. That is why Breguet hires the English watchmaker Edward Brown of Clerkenwell to manage the Paris factory. Brown eventually becomes partner and after Breguet’s great-grandson’s death, the owner and head of the company. Brown dies in 1895 and the firm is taken over by his sons Edward and Henry. On Edward’s retirement in the early 1900s, Henry Brown becomes the head of the firm. The Breguet company changes hands several times in the 1970s and 1980s before the Swatch Group acquires the company in 1999.

The company is often credited with inventing the first wristwatch in 1810. Although the story about the oldest watch in the world shows this is not really sure. Since 1976 Breguet’s timepieces are produced in the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland.

The history of Breguet:

1747 – (10th of January) Birth of Abraham-Louis Breguet in Neuchâtel
1758 – Abraham-Louis Breguet’s father dies
1762 – Goes to Paris to be apprenticed
1765 – Starts studying at the College Mazarin
1775 – Marries Cécile Marie-Louise L’Huillier
1775 – Founds a workshop in Paris
1780 – (around) Creates a newly designed self-winding (perpétuelle) watch
1783 – Invents the gong for repeater watches (bells were used until then)
1801 – (26th of June) Patents the tourbillon escapement, developed around 1795
1807 – (around) Son Louis-Antoine becomes his business partner
1807 – (around) Names the company Breguet et Fils
1810 – Creates the first wristwatch (possibly in the world)
1823 – (17th of September) Abraham-Louis Breguet dies in Paris
1823 – Louis-Antoine takes over the company
1833 – Louis-Antoine retires
1833 – Abraham-Louis’ grandson Louis Clément Francois (1804–1883) takes over the company
?- Abraham-Louis’ great-grandson Louis Antoine takes over the company
? – Edward Brown of Clerkenwell starts managing the Paris factory
? – Edward Brown becomes the owner
1895 – Edward Brown dies and his sons Edward and Henry take over the company
1900 – (around) Edward retires, Henry becomes the owner
1976 – Breguet starts producing from Vallée de Joux, Switzerland
1999 – The Swatch Group becomes the owner

The full list of oldest watch brands in the world might interest you…

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