The History of Breguet: The Beginning
Breguet’s rich history in the field of watchmaking spans nearly 250 years. The business remained in the family for three generations. They then passed the torch onto the trusted head of the workshop, Edward Brown. After the company thrived under the Brown family’s leadership for a century, they entered the modern era with the backing of larger firms, first Investcorp and later The Swatch Group. Over the years, these changes in leadership have brought a fresh perspective to the brand’s approach to watchmaking and opened doors that have allowed the company to constantly grow and evolve. We take a look at the history of Breguet.
Abraham-Louis Breguet knew he was destined for a life devoted to watchmaking when he enrolled in an apprenticeship as a teenager. In 1775, at the young age of 28, he established his workshop in the Ile de la Cité on the Seine River in Paris. In those early years, a renowned mathematician named Joseph-François Marie mentored him. Marie introduced Breguet to the French Court, and the French aristocracy quickly became his clientele, including patrons like Queen Marie-Antionette and Napoleon Bonaparte.
10 Years In
For a decade, Breguet’s business grew and prospered. During those years, he began to establish elements that have become trademarks of the brand. For example, in 1783, he designed the now-famous open-tipped hands, known as Breguet hands, and the distinctive Breguet Arabic numerals. Then, in 1789, the French Revolution changed the scope of the country. Breguet had to leave and put his work on hiatus until it was safe for him to return. In 1795, he reestablished his workshop in France and began rebuilding his business.
During his time away from France, Breguet set the foundation for establishing foreign clientele. He found particular success in Russia and set up a second workshop in Saint Petersburg in 1808. However, his business there ended was short-lived. He had to close the workshop just three years later when the Tsar Alexander I forbid French products on Russian soil due to political strife between the countries.
Abraham-Louis Breguet Passes Away
By this time, Breguet’s son, Antione-Louis, had joined the family business, and Abraham-Louis began training him as his successor. Breguet passed away at the age of 76 in 1823, and his son prepared to perpetuate his legacy. Antione- Louis had also begun training his son, Louis-Clement. Louis-Clement brought a modern and fresh perspective to the business. Coming from a newer, younger generation, he could see the shift in watchmaking. Watches we no longer just reserved for the elite. They were becoming more accessible to everyone.
Over the next few years, Louis-Clement’s interest in other developing sectors, like electricity and aviation, began to grow. He ultimately decided to sell the company in 1870. The head of the workshop, an Englishman named Edward Brown, took his place. Breguet continued to remain in the hands of the Brown family for the next 100 years.
The 1900’s and Later
In 1970, the Brown family sold the company to the Chaumet brothers. Their stint with Breguet was relatively short-lived, and the business was sold again in 1987, this time to a larger private equity company called Investcorp. The change in ownership allowed Breguet to grow in a way it never had before. It afforded the brand the opportunity to relocate its production to the heart of the watchmaking in the Vallee de Joux in Switzerland. In addition, the brand was able to expand into the Asian and North American Markets. Now, Breguet had a global presence as well as the backing of the prestigious Swiss reputation.
Just before the new millennium, Breguet experienced another period of expansion. In 1999, they joined the ranks of the powerhouse manufacturer The Swatch Group. The acquisition continued to open more doors for Breguet and brought a new dynamism to the brand. Today, Breguet continues to thrive under the umbrella of The Swatch Group and assert itself as a leader in the industry.