A fine, sophisticated and very rare yellow gold tourbillon skeletonized wristwatch of the famous Swiss watch brand Breguet, founded in 1775. Estimated production period: 1998–2000, sold in 2006. Case made of 18k yellow gold, diameter 35mm, thickness 9mm, signed crown, sapphire caseback. 18k gold silver-plated open-worked dial with hand-made ‘filet sauté’ guilloché decoration. Caliber 558 SQ1, hand-wound, skeletonized and hand-engraved, Breguet hairspring, power reserve up to 50 hours. Functions – hours, minutes, tourbillon, three-pointed small seconds hand on tourbillon shaft. Brown leather strap with Breguet 18k yellow gold double folding clasp.
Abraham-Louis Breguet, founder of the brand, is one of the most prolific watch designers and inventors in watchmaking history. In particular, he has the honour of having invented the tourbillon, a complication mechanism with balance, hairspring and escapement parts installed in a rotating carriage. The tourbillon was invented in 1795, and a French patent was granted to Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801. The aim of this invention was to improve the accuracy of the pocket watch by averaging the positional error via the rotation of the tourbillon. In the modern era, the tourbillon has acquired legendary status in high watchmaking and is one of the most beautiful mechanical complications.
The Breguet brand was one of the first to undertake the development of serial production wristwatches with a tourbillon; this work was started by the watchmaker Daniel Roth, who worked for the brand in the 1970s and 1980s and under whose leadership the design of the caliber 558 (Nouvelle Lémania 397) was carried out at the Nouvelle Lémania manufacturer of watch movements. The manual-wound caliber has a one-minute tourbillon and characteristic design with upward-shifted hour and minute hands. Another of Daniel Roth’s design features that survives in Breguet tourbillon watches up to the current collection is the three-pointed small seconds hand, mounted on the tourbillon shaft to indicate the seconds on the sector scale.
The combination of impeccable technical workmanship, exquisite artisan finishing of the skeletonized and hand-engraved movement of the rare Type 1.3, discontinued approximately in 2000, recognisable design with a tourbillon open on the dial side and upward-shifted hour and minute hands undoubtedly adds to the appeal of this lot.
Breguet has produced reference 3350, the first tourbillon wristwatch of the respectable brand, since 1988. In the early 1990s the brand launched a version with a skeletonized movement and open-worked dial, under the reference number 3355. Both are based on the same hand-wound caliber 558, in regular or skeletonized executions, respectively.
Reference 3355 is currently the longest-running wrist tourbillon model still in production without significant changes in design and mechanics, which does credit to the brand that invented the tourbillon. There have been many versions over the entire period, with some variations in design and movement, meaning this reference is an incredibly attractive collectible and research item. Unfortunately, there is very little information available about its evolution, further adding to the interest of collectors.
The success of skeletonized models is largely due to the perception of tourbillon watches as a legend of traditional watchmaking. Therefore, the high-quality handcrafted finishing of the movement with skeletonization and hand finishing of all parts, with the chamfering and polishing of edges – including the extremely time-consuming meticulous finishing of sharp inner corners – and hand-engraving, appears to be an essential component of the image of such watches as being highly valuable and desirable. It should also be taken into account that, due to the peculiarities of hand engraving, each timepiece is essentially the only one of its kind.
According to our knowledge, in total there are seven main types of caliber 558 SQ1 with skeletonization and engraving, distributed over two generations of the caliber. We attribute the present example to the third type of the caliber’s first generation – Type 1.3, produced approximately from 1994 to 2000.
Reasons to bid
The Breguet Classique Grande Complication Tourbillon Ref. 3355BA/00/286 definitely would be a fine purchase for a collector, who will receive a beautiful, rare and skeletonized tourbillon wristwatch from a world-renowned traditional watch brand, most famous for the invention of the tourbillon. The combination of impeccable technical workmanship, exquisite artisan finishing of the skeletonized and hand-engraved movement of the rare Type 1.3, discontinued approximately in 2000, recognisable design with a tourbillon open on the dial side and upward-shifted hour and minute hands undoubtedly adds to the appeal of this lot. The present lot features an 18k yellow gold case with grooved caseband, smooth rounded bezel and rim of the caseback, and thin straight lugs, which also contributes to the list of the valuable aesthetic codes of the famous Breguet style.