It is hard to imagine where the world of watchmaking without the influence of Abraham-Louis Breguet. Forever known as the inventor of the tourbillon, but to only credit him for this is not doing him justice. Many of the pocket watches he created during his life were ahead of their time, not only regarding finish but also concerning complications.
Breguet No. 217 was crafted by Breguet in 1800 for General Moreau. Initially an ally of Napoleon Bonaparte, he played an active role in bringing him into power. Later on the two grew apart and eventually, Moreau would aid the Swedish and Russian forces into defeating Napoleon, who suffered a fatal wound during one of the battles.
What makes Breguet No. 217 so unique is that it combines an equation of time display (the amount that the time we use divides from the actual solar time) with an automatic movement. While Breguet didn’t invent this device for pocket watches, he played a crucial role in perfecting it. He made it so that even with the slightest movement, the platinum weight would wind up the two mainspring barrels, which combined gave the watch a power reserve of 60 hours. Because it was so sensitive the watch even came with the option to lock the weight so that the movement wouldn’t be damaged from rapid movement when one would, for example, be horseback riding. Only two pocket watches are known that combine an equation of time complication with the perpetuelle movement.
The No. 217 can only be mistaken for a Breguet, as it visually carries all the hallmarks of the master. From the decorated gold case to the intricate dial with Roman numerals. This dial features not only the time and the equation of time but also a month and day indicator, as well as the power reserve. Up until today does Breguet continue the legacy of combining the finest craftsmanship with innovative movements, as the master himself started with watches like this Breguet No. 217.
When you are ever in Paris, make sure that you visit the Breguet boutique on Place Vendome. Not only do they stock the most beautiful and complicated Breguet watches from the current collection, but the boutique also features a museum with many vintage Breguet’s on constant display, and houses the archives of the brand.