I would like to take this blog as an opportunity to thank Abraham Louis Breguet, for no other person has done so much for the world of watchmaking. His inventions include the first wristwatch, the tourbillon, and the Breuget spiral to name a few. This leaves us with a “little bit of Breguet“ in almost all modern luxury watches, and makes Breguet the father of modern watchmaking. In this blog I’d like to focus less though on a list of achievements but rather look a bit more at the man behind these incredible feats, and what we can learn from him.
Breguet was born 1747 in Switzerland and came into watchmaking by pure chance. After his father died while he was young his mother remarried a man called Joseph Tattet. Tattet was from a family of watchmakers and although it took several attempts he finally managed to introduce young Breguet to the trade. What followed was a lifelong learning experience filled with travels around Europe to meet with and study from the world’s best watchmakers.
What was noticeable about Breguet from a young age was his drive for perfection, studying Mathematics in evening classes at the renowned Collège des Quatre-Nations in Paris. It was during his studies where he started making the connections which would later foster his incredible rise to fame. Through the help of a friend he had the chance to meet with King Louis XVI of France. The king was so impressed with Breguet’s work that over his lifetime he made several royal commissions.
An old sketch of the Collège des Quatre-Nations
This connection to the European Royalty proved vital, as soon royalty of all Europe ordered watches with Breguet. In 1793 those same connections put a temporary end to Breguet’s work. During the political instability France suffered Breguet was being marked for the guillotine. With the help of the famous revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat (whose life Breguet had saved earlier) he managed to escape France.
What would have been a death blow for most was an inspiration for Breguet. Two years after having to leave the country he was able to return to Paris and brought with him a wealth of fresh ideas. It was at this point also that he set himself apart from the competition by only to employing master watchmakers rather than unskilled apprentices. This decision, driving by a hunger for perfection, was just another reason as to why he created the world’s best watches.
Abraham Louis Breguet, equally as fashionable as his watches
Not only did he decide to employ only the best in the profession, but also his attitude towards his workers was one filled with passion rather than making a quick buck. He encouraged a friendly and supportive work environment, and made sure his workers got paid fairly. He would tell them “Do not be discouraged, or allow failure to dishearten you.“
Latest at this point it becomes clear that the man behind the achievements is just as remarkable as his work. With a work ethic focused on fairness, teamwork, and perfection Breguet’s success is no surprise, but the deserved fruit of years of hard labour.