The Breguet Marine is a remembrance of those marine chronometers made in the days of AL Breguet
Marine chronometers have become such arcane objects that people are either extremely obsessed by or completely indifferent to them. These relics of the past however were the GPSs of their time. An accurate marine chronometer sometimes meant the difference between a successful sea voyage and being completely lost. The margin of error is so slight that if the instrument is off by just one second, the ship incurs 15 seconds of longitudinal error – or approximately half a kilometre at the equator. In the early 19th century, AL Breguet made the best marine chronometers in France.
Among many other brilliant watchmakers, Breguet studied under Ferdinand Berthoud, who was an expert on marine chronometers. While Breguet was famous for inventing the tourbillon, he also contributed greatly to the production of marine chronometers and was so renowned that in 1815 King Louis XVIII appointed him horloger de la marine – chronometer-maker to the French Royal Navy.
This was a prestigious title. Dominion over the seas meant political strength over the other nations and to have a strong navy, the fleets must be equipped with the best marine chronometers.
His first contribution to the French Royal Navy was a marine chronometer with two going-barrels. It was said that he was fastidious as to how the instruments were used, so in 1817 he published a book that contained detailed instructions on their use as well as guidance on how to maintain them and verify accuracy.
As official clockmaker, he placed the production of marine chronometers above everything else and he continually improved the instruments. In 1822 he made the Breguet No. 3196 housed in a wooden box and equipped with a suspension system for the clock, which featured two barrels and a detente escapement.
This inspirational period in the history of Breguet Montres allowed the brand’s modern custodians to create a collection that embodies those maritime conquests. Thus was born the Breguet Marine in 1990. In a sense, it was a military watch made in the spirit of Breguet even though by today’s standards it’s considered a classic piece. The watches were robust and clearly intended for sports.
Following the 1999 takeover of Breguet by the Swatch Group, the Marine line saw the creation of complicated models such as the reference 3700 Hora Mundi. Then CEO of Breguet Nicolas G Hayek revamped the line in 2005 with the reference 5817, a gorgeous reinterpretation that’s decidedly modern yet respectful of tradition.
This became the new look of the Marine. Growing stably, the collection proved popular with existing Breguet clientele who were looking for something less dressy than the Classique.
Models with additional functions such as the chronograph, GMT or alarm joined this piece, as did a tourbillon chronograph released in 2006. For the 200th anniversary of AL Breguet’s appointment as horloger de la marine, the company made a Marine Chronograph 200 Ans de Marine in 2015.
In 2017 Breguet introduced the Marine Equation Marchante 5887 grand complication model that had a redesigned case and dial. The watch now has integrated central lugs and a wave-inspired guilloche dial. This piece offered an equation of time complication along with a perpetual calendar and tourbillon. Not since 2005 had there been any major refurbishment done on the collection.
Additional novelties launched at Baselworld 2018 join the reference 5887, all of them sporting the new look of the Marine.