Among the pantheon of horological greats, Breguet is the legacy of the world’s most famous watchmaker, one Abraham-Louis Breguet, inventor of the tourbillon amongst a vast array of horological finery. Since the death of its founder, Breguet has had its share of ups and downs, and went through a particularly bleak period under the ownership of Investcorp. It was only when Nicolas G. Hayek, the industrialist who essentially saved the Swiss watch industry during the Quartz Crisis by purchasing all the industrial infrastructure that would allow the continued production of watch components, decided to save and restore Breguet to its former glory, that the brand was reborn.
With Nicolas G. Hayek’s sad passing in 2010, it has fallen to Marc Hayek to continue the extraordinary work of his grandfather. Marc Hayek’s task at hand is not an easy one. But speaking with him at BaselWorld 2011, I was delighted to see him injecting his singular energy and love for all things technical in Breguet, resulting in some of the most extraordinary new innovations we’ve seen in some time.
Please give us an example of the perfect Breguet watch…
To me, the Breguet La Tradition Tourbillon with chain and fusée is the perfect demonstration of what a Breguet watch should be. On the one hand, it is a great homage to our past with Breguet’s signature invention, the tourbillon. It has the famous chain and fusée, which was used to create a more constant quality of torque across the power reserve. But at the same time, it is the first watch in the world to have a Breguet overcoil hairspring in silicon and a balance wheel in titanium to help optimize chronometric performance. Breguet was one of the early adopters of silicon and I like very much to think that were Abraham-Louis Breguet alive today, he would be fascinated by this new material and its vast possibilities for elevating performance. I think this perfect marriage of tradition and innovation is what Breguet is all about.
This year, you will release the incredible Breguet Type XXII Flyback Chronograph GMT running at 10Hz. Any difference between this and the prototype we saw last year?
You know, the 10Hz watch was introduced last year, however, to me, it is a novelty for 2011 because technically we changed so much to further improve the performance of this watch. Aesthetically, it remains the same. However, it is really a complete redesign internally and now it functions perfectly. The 10Hz watch is very important to Breguet because it demonstrates this innovation and this continual pursuit to explore the possibilities available to us, thanks to our pioneering work in silicon. You must use silicon components for this watch so as to get very lightweight parts to help you elevate the vibrational speed. Further, because lubrication of the escapement is not needed, you get past another big issue related to faster vibrational speeds.
What is the most important thing to consider when elevating vibrational speed?
The end result ultimately must be better chronometric results than in a normal watch. Just going up in frequency would have been meaningless. We had to elevate the speed, but also have very good inertia for the balance wheel while still having it be light. Fortunately, our work in Blancpain and Breguet related to balance wheels has shown us the way to create light balances, which still possess excellent inertia. As a result, the 10Hz watch has shown a margin of error of zero to plus five seconds, which is lower than the COSC certification for Swiss chronometers.
I love this technical side of Breguet! How do you feel about it?
One thing that is very important going forward is the way in which we will communicate the technical values of Breguet. Breguet is a traditional brand, but it is also very high tech. We are a brand that has so much innovation, but we never communicated it. Now when we come up with a high-frequency watch, I want every press kit we give out to have the information, the performance statistics and charts that empirically substantiate the watch’s performance. I want everything we do to have this credibility.
Condensed from an article by Wei Koh in REVOLUTION’s archives.