A very rare, charismatic and exquisite rose gold minute repeating wristwatch of the famous Swiss watch brand Breguet, founded in 1775. Estimated production period: 2011–2014. Case made of 18k rose gold, diameter 42mm, thickness 12.35mm, signed crown, sapphire caseback. 18k gold silver-plated dial with hand-made guilloché decoration and Breguet double secret signature between XI and XII and XII and I. Caliber 567/2, hand-wound, hand-engraved, Breguet overcoil hairspring, power reserve up to 40 hours. Functions – hours, minutes, minute repeater, two-pointed small seconds hand at 9 o’clock, 24-hour indication at 3 o’clock. Brown leather strap, Breguet 18k rose 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. Also in the list of Breguet’s remarkable inventions and innovations is the improvement of the pocket watch with a repeater or sonnerie by the incorporation into the chiming mechanism of flat wire gongs, a development believed to have been carried out by the master in 1783. Though there is evidence that French watchmaker Julien Leroy began to use flat wire gongs prior to Breguet, the widespread use of this design happened thanks to the latter, as well as the possibility of subsequently applying this scheme in wristwatches. The Breguet company has been producing wristwatches with minute repeaters since the early 1990s, in particular the excellent reference 3637, launched in 1993. The caliber 567 of this reference, produced for the brand by the Nouvelle Lémania movement-blanks factory, was developed on the basis of classic pocket watch calibers from the Vallée-de-Joux, in a characteristic design with three straight bridges. It is the so-called ‘three-finger’ wheel-train bridge caliber.
Production of reference 3637 was most likely discontinued in 2003–2005 (the latest 3637 models we studied are marked with N-series case numbers). In 2008, the brand modernised caliber 567, mainly focusing on its acoustic properties. In the caliber, the gongs, gong holders and hammers were replaced, and new materials are now used for these parts. In particular, the new gongs are made of gold, and the gold gongs match the shade of the watch’s gold case. Meanwhile the hammers are now in ‘hard-metal’ (most probably tungsten carbide). It should be noted that these ‘hard-metal’ hammers, in accordance with the rules of high watchmaking art, have been polished and bevelled. The modified caliber is designated as 567/2, and it powers the Ref. 7637 watches, launched a year later, in 2009.
Very few examples of this highly complicated minute repeating wristwatch have appeared at auction, so the present lot affords collectors the opportunity to acquire one of the classic high complications of Breguet’s modern production.
Two early models in rose gold (as the present example) and in white gold (Ref. 7637BB/12/9ZU) feature the classic Breguet dial in silver-plated solid gold with elaborate guilloché made by hand, with five motifs of this decor on the dial. The new design clearly differs from the previous reference 3637 due to a fan-shaped small seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock. The style of the caliber finishing has also changed. Whereas the caliber 567 was finished in the traditional Swiss style with Côtes de Genève on the bridges, the new caliber 567/2 was given a different, decorative finish, with all bridges and the mainplate engraved by hand. We have already seen references with engraved movements, e.g., the Tourbillon Refs. 3350 and 3357, and there are varieties of engraving – in addition to the fact that hand engraving itself makes each example one of a kind.
Obviously, the production of minute repeaters is very small due to their high cost. Nevertheless, we managed to find evidence of the existence of at least three types of caliber 567/2 engravings. The first version (Type1) used in the pre-production prototype presented by the brand in 2009, and probably also in the earliest series, is characterised by the inscription “Breguet” written downwards (toward the barrel; this was the orientation of the inscription engraved on the barrel bridge in reference 3637) and bee and scroll motif engravings. This option is still presented on the brand’s website at the time of writing. In the second engraving version, Type2, evidenced in the present example, “Breguet” is written upwards, while the bridges are decorated with a fleur-de-lis motif. Type3 differs from Type2 only in the direction of the engraved “Breguet” inscription, which is again written downwards.
Reasons to bid
Very few examples of this highly complicated minute repeating wristwatch have appeared at auction, so the present lot affords collectors the opportunity to acquire one of the classic high complications of Breguet’s modern production. The Classique Grande Complication Répétition Minutes Ref. 7637BR/12/9ZU Type2 is a very rare, charismatic and exquisite wristwatch from a world-famous traditional watch brand, one of the undoubted leaders in the haute horlogerie watch market. The sophistication and rarity of the mechanical function of the minute repeater, the highest of the four traditional complications, is complemented in this example by the classic artisanal Breguet guilloché dial, as well as the hand-engraved Type2 finishing of the caliber, which significantly increase the perceived value of the watch and underscore the aesthetic character of this model, endowed with the finest signs of the famous Breguet style.