more on Breguet
Abraham-Louis Breguet. Did he really invent everything that he
is credited with? For some, the answer is as obvious as the question is ridiculous. In
their view, the heritage left by Breguet is so important and so far-reaching that there
has been no significant innovation in watchmaking since his time.
Jean-Claude Nicolet, watchmaking historian, gives his opinion,
Pascal Brandt comments.
Setting the record straight
There are others, however, who would answer that question differently. One of these is
Jean-Claude Nicolet, an expert consultant with Europa Star and a former professor at the
School of Watchmaking in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. This watch historian would like
to set the record straight: "It would be erroneous to say that Breguet invented all
that he is credited with. When Breguet started working on watches, the balance spring was
already in existence and the gear train system was already being used. It would probably
be more accurate to say that Breguet's main contribution was in perfecting a number of
existing principles and mechanisms."
To support his conclusions, Nicolet explains how watches were constructed during
Breguet's time: "They were made of two plates, one superimposed over the other, with
the various parts of the mechanism sandwiched between them." Using this basic
principle, Abraham-Louis Breguet then adapted an idea of LÚpine, which was to hollow out
the mass, make bridges and generally improve on the construction. In Nicolet's opinion,
Breguet certainly does deserve credit for his remarkable sense of the aesthetic,
"which was so advanced that his cases and movements are still very much appreciated
today. In this regard, his work is perfectly contemporary."
Setting the record straight, again...
It would be incorrect, however, to credit Breguet only with having perfected certain
existing techniques and mechanisms. Among others, he invented the drop-protection device,
the forerunner of today's anti-shock mechanism. He also developed the Breguet key, a watch
key with a ratchet arrangement which prevents the watch from being wound in the wrong
Jean-Claude Nicolet does credit Breguet with his innovation of an ingenious system
using two barrel springs geared in parallel to a center pinion, "an idea which had
not been exploited even though it would save energy from the standpoint of friction."
Professor Nicolet also admits that Breguet, even though he did not create everything,
still did give birth to a number of brilliant inventions. Nicolet credits Breguet with the
invention of the balance spring that bears his name. The Breguet spring, an overcoil form
of balance spring, was created by raising the highest exterior turn of the spring and
giving it a shape which prevented it from moving concentrically, thus maintaining its
center of gravity on the rotational axis.
"Breguet was, in fact, a genius in the sense that he was among the first to make
very high quality watches." In conclusion," with a Breguet in your pocket today,
you will never have an outdated watch. His creations are extremely modern."