A fine, charismatic and rare white gold tourbillon wristwatch of the famous Swiss watch brand Breguet, founded in 1775. Estimated production period: 2009–2010. Case made of 18k white gold, diameter 35mm, thickness 9.15mm, signed crown, sapphire caseback. 18k gold silver-plated dial with hand-made guilloché decoration, signed “Swiss guilloché main”, double secret Breguet signature between XI and XII and XII and I. Hand-wound caliber 558.1 hand-engraved, Breguet hairspring, power reserve up to 50 hours. Functions – hours, minutes, tourbillon, three-pointed small seconds hand on tourbillon shaft. Breguet black leather strap with Breguet 18k white 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.
Breguet has produced reference 3357 tourbillon wristwatches in 18k yellow, rose and white gold, according to our estimates, since the early 2000s. Ref. 3357 is an updated version of the classic reference 3350, the first tourbillon wristwatch of the respectable brand, launched in 1988. Both references are based on the same hand-wound caliber 558, and both have an almost identical design.
The new tourbillon carriage shape is a three-beam equidistant one. It is interesting to note that the same design was used in the pocket tourbillon No. 3357, which was made in the 1940s for Breguet by the watchmaker Fritz-André Robert-Charrue, who became famous as the master of the smallest tourbillon in the world.
The transition from reference 3350 to 3357 took place, according to our estimates, in the early 2000s. This transition was most likely caused by a modification of the original 558 caliber (though unfortunately there is no official information about this). The most notable design change is the new shape of the tourbillon carriage and the placement of some parts – the new caliber version is referred to as 558.1, although Breguet currently defines this movement as 558T as well. The peculiarity of this carriage is the transition from using an escapement with a regulator index of the effective length of the spiral, found in the original design, to a free-sprung balance scheme, in which the regulator index is not required. The new tourbillon carriage shape is a three-beam equidistant one. It is interesting to note that the same design was used in the pocket tourbillon No. 3357, which was made in the 1940s for Breguet by the watchmaker Fritz-André Robert-Charrue, who became famous as the master of the smallest tourbillon in the world. It is also worth pointing out that in the latest generation 3357 models, information about which is available on the brand’s website, Breguet returned to the original design of the tourbillon carriage, and again designates this movement as 558T (although we were unable to find any confirmation of such examples being sold or appearing on the secondary market).
References 3350 and 3357 are currently the longest-running wrist tourbillon models 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 of references 3350 and 3357, with some variations in design and movement, meaning these references are incredibly attractive collectible and research items. Unfortunately, there is very little information available about the evolution of references 3350 and 3357, further adding to the interest of collectors.
The present lot dates back to the classic period of reference 3357. The watch retains the 35mm case of the original design, has a signed crown and an exquisite hand-guilloché solid gold and silvered dial – one of the most popular brand markers of what is commonly called the Breguet style. The dial has the inscription “Swiss guilloché main” (“Guilloché produced by hand in Switzerland”), one of the mandatory features of reference 3357. The reverse side of the movement deserves special attention – it is exquisitely and lavishly engraved by hand, and, moreover, there exists at least five basic engraving types, including the type presented now on the site, with the assumption of the possibility that such examples were not available for sale. The caliber 558.1, marked as No. 4473, belongs to the fourth generation of the five existing (again keeping in mind the caliber version presented now on the site, with the assumption of the possibility that such examples were not available for sale). The present watch features the engraved decor of type 4. Remember that the engraving is done by hand and although it follows one of the four (probably five) basic designs, it is different each time in tiny details. Therefore, any watch is essentially a unique piece.
Reasons to bid
The Breguet Classique Grande Complication Tourbillon Ref. 3357BB/12/986 is a fine and attractive purchase for a collector, who will receive a beautiful and rare tourbillon watch 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 hand-guilloché dial and hand-engraved fourth-generation caliber, 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 white 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 signs of the famous Breguet style.