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Breguet: Did he Really Invent Everything?

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 direction.

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."

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