MBA Luxury Brand Management

MBA Luxury Brand Management
Class of 2016-2017

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Visit to the Breguet Museum

By Pawel Zawisza, MBA in International Luxury Brand Management student 2013-2014, Poland

Paris holds infinite amount of attractions when it comes to luxury, one of which is the Breguet Museum located on the second floor of Breguet boutique at 6, Place Vendôme in Paris. The museum is free of charge, however only available every Tuesday by appointment. On January 7th some of us interested in the luxury watch industry were able to learn more about the craftsmanship of the Breguet maison with the help of the boutique manager, Mr. Richard Vassor.

Although many people associate luxury watch industry with Switzerland, Abraham Louis Breguet – considered by many to be the greatest watchmaker that ever lived – spent majority of his working life in Paris, giving rise to the Maison that today is the crown jewel of the Swatch Group. The importance of the Breguet Maison is further reinforced by the fact its CEO is none other than Mr. Marc Hayek, a son of Nick Hayek, current CEO of Swatch Group.

Tourbillon patent
Today Breguet watches are immediately recognisable by so-called 'Breguet hands' on the case. At the time, however, the master watchmaker gave the world multiple mechanical innovations, including the first self-winding mechanism suitable for repeated assembly, as well as one of the world's most recognisable watch complications – the tourbillon. The musuem features his original letter to the French ministry asking for a patent for this landmark invention, which was granted in 1801.

The museum features more than 50 watches made by Breguet at various points in his life and afterwards, which have since been methodically bought back by the maison.

First pocketwatch made by Breguet
First we were shown 'minute repeaters', a collection of pocket watches featuring sound effects at a certain time interval, be it a quarter of an hour, an hour, or a number of minutes. This way a person was able to tell the time without having to take out the watch out of his pocket.

Another interesting collection was that of 'tact watches', featuring an innovative hand design, where one was able to tell the time by touching the hand. During Breguet’s time it was considered highly impolite to take note of the time during a social gathering. ‘Tact watches’ were therefore a way for affluent people to tell the time simply by putting hand in their pocket and feeling the hand on the watch. Another variation involved placing a small hour marker at a predetermined position e.g. 12 o'clock. This way the owner was able to tell the hour in the dark.

A separate category of watches were so-called 'Turkish watches' with beautifully finished cases, made specifically for the Tuskish market. Only 30 pieces were ever made by the maison.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to see the register where all watch sales made during Breguet's life were recorded, including three watches sold to 'General Bonaparte' just before his campaign in Egypt. The register also recorded the sale of 'Marie Antoinette' – a pocket watch which, at the time of its creation, held every known watch function in the world, including a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, chronograph, thermometer, power reserve indicator, and many others.

"Marie Antoinette"
But perhaps the most significant transaction is recorded under no. 2639, for the sale of 'montre repetition de forme obloungue pour bracelet' for the queen of Naples, sister of Napoleon. Unknown to many, this is the world's first wristwatch, designed specifically from the beginning to be worn on the wrist. For 90 years after this creation, all wristwatches were in fact redesigned pocket watches. Today Breguet's watch line for women proudly bears the name 'Reine de Naples'.

The whole visit lasted a little over 45 minutes, and by the end of it we very extremely impressed by the true genius of Breguet. Hopefully one day all of us will be able to efford one of Breguet watches!

We would like once more to thank Mr. Richard Vassor, 'Responsable Adjoint de boutique', for his time and attention. His great passion and knowledge of Breguet greatly helped us in appreciating the extraordinary collection.