Breguet Says Happy 200th Birthday to the Wristwatch

The watchmakers at Breguet have wished a very happy bicentennial to their own very first recorded wristwatch in an exhibition that started on January 16th and ended last Sunday (Feb 12th). The exhibition was held in Geneva’s Cité du Temps, and was coincided with the prestigious Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH ). The Geneva exhibition is designed for visitors to discover the unique history of this groundbreaking timepiece and the mystery of what became of it.

 

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Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, first wristwatch owner

 

As far as horological history can tell us the first record of a wristwatch was ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Caroline Murat in 1810. At the time, Murat sat on the throne as the Queen of Naples, and was a well-known admirer of the timepieces made by Breguet founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet. Yes, Breguet can say they made the first wristwatch for a queen. Queen Caroline’s wristwatch took two years to make and safely deliver, and was only one of the many she ordered from Breguet over the years.

 

Though the famous first wristwatch has never been found in any public or private collection, the little that is known of it is that the model number was N° 2639.

 

Nevertheless, Queen Caroline’s special relationship as the favorite customer of Breguet during this time produced something revolutionary. The watch as we know it was a very thin (for the time) repeating watch, had an oblong feminine shape, was set with a thermometer and used  hair intertwined with gold thread to create the strap. The concept must have certainly been innovative and fascinating for the time. As Queen Caroline was known to history as extravagant and ambitious, it is no surprise that she would dream up an ostentatious new watch to be paraded on her wrist at court.

 

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A Reine de Naples watch, inspired by the first wristwatch

 

The event in Geneva was also used by Breguet to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the more modern Reine de Naples ladies’ watch collection. The public re-discovery of the Reine de Naples collection also allowed for many experts in the horological field to offer their expertise on the Breguet line. These women’s watches are very much reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with their exaggerated and surreal numbers spinning around the watch’s face. Breguet’s official website states that the line was inspired by Queen Caroline’s first wristwatch, as well as others made for Marie Antoinnette and Empress Josephine. The collection was designed to create a symbol of feminine refinement and precision.

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Swiss Luxury Brands Bucked Western Economic Trends, Posted Record Profits in 2011

Despite international austerity and the depressing economic outlook of many countries, luxury retailers had a banner year in 2011, posting significant gains where other retailers are still seeing losses. The Swiss watch industry, the heart of haute horology, has been at the forefront of the recent boon and has been a huge factor in driving industry growth over the last few years; in fact, 2011 was a record-breaking year for many Swiss watch and jewelry brands. The Swatch Group, LVMH, and Richemont have all seen sales growth of 15 percent of more, crediting their fine jewelry and watch brands for generating much of that burgeoning bottom line. Much of this success can be attributed to opening markets on continents other than North America and Europe, as well as enhanced marketing practices.

The Swatch Group, home to such esteemed brands as Breguet, Blancpain, Tissot, Omega and Tourbillon, had a record year in 2011, posting a sales increase of 21.7 percent and an operating profit of 12.4 percent over the pervious year. Even while European economic turmoil and exchange rates had negative effects on the ultimate bottom line, the watches and jewelry sector still showed a gain of approximately $1.5 billion. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, “The group’s leading brands recorded very impressive rates of growth not only in the enlarged China, but also in all other regions and in all price segments. Despite the unfavourable economic situation, the Swatch Group maintained its consistent policy of renouncing short-term price increases, preferring to focus on gains in market share.” Stepping up marketing efforts within the watches and jewelry sector, instead of raising prices, the Swatch Group saw its operating profit grow by 8.4 percent.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA reported sales growth of 16 percent last year, with an operating profit increase of 22 percent and a net profit of $4.12 billion. The watches and jewelry group within LVMH recorded astounding increases of 98 percent in sales and 107 percent in operating profits. (Equating to +23 percent and 41 percent based on comparable structures.) Dedicated consumers in the Western Hemisphere responded well to marketing and innovative additions, while growth in Asian markets added to the LVMH global marketplace. Tag Heuer successfully launched the Mikrograph and Mikrotimer; Hublot introduced a popular new Masterpieces collection; Zenith and Bulgari brought back some well-loved classics.

Tag Heuer Mikrograoh (right) and Mikrotimer (left)
Tag Heuer Mikrograoh (right) and Mikrotimer (left)
Hublot Masterpiece #1 (on left) and #2 (on right)
Hublot Masterpiece #1 (on left) and #2 (on right)

Richemont, the Swiss luxury holding company that boasts subsidiaries such as Baume et Mercier, Cartier, Piaget and Montblanc, increased its sales by 33 percent and gross profit by 38 percent – a gain of approximately $1.6 billion. Operating profit grew by nearly double that amount – 63 percent. The highest sales growth occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, at 48 percent (or, by $3.67 billion) and sales in Japan were up by 18 percent. “We will continue to invest in their organic growth through higher levels of capital spending in manufacturing capacity and in the further development of the group’s own retail network,” said Richemont CEO, Johann Rupert. “Particularly in growth markets.” To that end, the company grew its freestanding boutique stores to a total of 876 last year – primarily in growing Asian markets.

Cartier in Tokyo

While the Asian continent currently represents the largest growth market for the industry, Australia, South America and Africa have also been the focus of luxury brand marketing efforts. Tag Heuer, an LVMH brand that began opening North American retail boutiques only last year, has established stores in Australia, South Africa as well as across the Middle East and India. They have a retail location in Argentina and a customer service location in Chile also, catering to a small but dedicated (and growing) clientele in those regions.

Map of Tag Heuer Brand Boutiques Worldwide
Map of Tag Heuer Brand Boutiques Worldwide

It would certainly seem that a truly global reach is the safest buffer against increasingly unpredictable western markets. But it probably doesn’t hurt to be well known and widely respected for beautiful and high quality products either.

Irish Company Hijacking Russian Domain Names from Swiss Watchmakers? Tissot is the Latest Member of Swatch Group to Bring Charges against Holmrook, Ltd.

An Irish Company seems to have set its sights on Russian domain names that have been trademarked by makers of luxury Swiss watches who are members of The Swatch Group.

Holmbrook Limited, a company based in Dublin, has found itself in legal battles brought by the brands Longines Watch Co., Rado Uhren and now Tissot AG for hijacking Russian (.ru) domain names that the watchmakers believe are rightfully theirs.

In earlier proceedings, the Moscow Commerical Court sided with Longines and Rado, prohibiting Holmrook from using the domain names and awarding the claimants modest monetary damages, but Tissot has not been as successful. On December 6, 2011, the court ruled against the company, stating that Holmrook was neither the owner of the tissot.ru domain name, nor its administrator. Apparently, Holmrook had given the name and well as administration rights to an individual named Nikolai Mikhailyukov free of charge. Mikhailyukov has been using the site to post information about the French painter, James Jacques Joseph Tissot.

Tissot AG claims that the site was not dedicated to the painter until after charges had already been filed.

Tissot: The Watch and Tissot: The Painter

Why Holmrook is targeting Swiss watchmakers is unclear; what the company even does is hard to pin down with a simple Google search. Holmrook Limited has no website, no Wikipedia page and no presence within social media. In fact, the bulk of its public activity seems to be defending itself in court against angry Swiss watchmakers.

Steve Levy, a writer for The Fair Winds Blog: DomainStrategy.com, has a theory. “It would seem Holmrook’s main function is investing in domain names (some may call it cybersquatting instead of investing), and I view the use of content relating to the artist James Tissot to be a clever ruse which was specifically intended to avoid enforcement. It would be like someone registering apple.ru and posting pictures of fruit but with the real intention of waiting for the famous computer/mobile device company to seek out the owner and offer them a huge sum to buy the domain.”

On his website, Levy makes the comment that these problems tend to abound in Russian web spaces, due to “lax copyright enforcement and a rampant counterfeiting industry.” His suggestion to businesses is to register any important trademarks in the .ru domain quickly, before cybersquatters do.

An appeal by Tissot was scheduled for Feb. 8, 2012 before the Russian Ninth Commercial Court of Appeals. And it’s a good bet that Omega, Union Glashütte, Breguet, Tourbillon, Calvin Klein and other Swatch Group companies are registering .ru domain names as quickly as possible.The Swatch Group Pic and Logo

Breguet Releases Le Quai De L’Horloge

Admirers of Breguet can now keep up with every event held, every new insight and every new treasure that the brand releases with its new corporate magazine “Le Quai De L’Horloge”. This January marked the first edition to be released of this publication. This magazine will be published annually. If you are interested in purchasing this magazine, one can do so through an authorized Breguet dealer. Inside this Breguet publication one will find technical, historical and cultural articles, all meant to bring a philosophical feel to the reader. Breguet is currently working on creating an app for the iPad so that this magazine can be viewed electronically, thus making it available to a larger range of audience.

Breguet's first edition of Le Quai De L'Horloge
Breguet’s first edition of Le Quai De L’Horloge

This magazine’s main focus revolves around the brand’s philosophy, its amazing heritage, the precise expertise, the cultural perspective, its unique products, the brand’s high ranking partnerships, as well as its impressive aesthetics and technical innovation. Within this publication one will discover historical facts about the first wristwatch to ever be made for the Queen of Naples in 1812. One can read interesting details on the extraordinary life of Abraham-Louis Breguet. One can also get the latest gossip on the newest wristwatch creations, as well as the latest technology secrets from Breguet.

Breguet offers this magazine to a wide portion of the world. It’s available in eight languages, Spanish, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, German and simplified Chinese. The magazine was named after a road in Paris that was named Le Quai De L’Horloge and is also known to be the location of the first Breguet watchmaking company. The road was named Le Quai De L’Horloge because of the vicinity of the clock of the Palais de Justice.

Since Breguet is one of the finest luxury watchmakers in the world, this magazine doesn’t appeal to just the Breguet followers, it attracts luxury watch lovers all around the world. People who respect the Breguet brand are very excited about this publication and can’t wait to get their hands on a fresh copy.

Breguet was founded by A.L. Breguet (1747-1823) who happens to be known as one of the fathers of time. The brand has been a part of the Swatch Group since 1999 and continues to make technological success as we go into 2012. Breguet is certainly number one when it comes to luxury watchmaking. Breguet expects the publication of Le Quai De L’Horloge to be a hit amongst its buyers.

Breguet in Literature

The writer who alluded to Breguet in his writings

The watch manufacturer is frequently mentioned in literature, something in which avid readers might find interest.

Victor Hugo’s “The Songs of the Streets and Woods” states, “At times the heart plays tricks and lets us down. The vigilant are right. For God (the night Breguet) gave us faith, and seeing it was good, improved it with a watchful eye.” Putting Breguet in the same sentence as God is impressive, showing Hugo’s utter respect for the brand.

Patrick O’Brian, less poetic than Hugo, writes, “They were both indeed Breguet watches, wonderfully accurate, wonderfully resistant.” This is more of a straightforward promotion of Breguet’s high quality products. O’Brian was known for his navigation of the sea, so he wanted to pay homage to the watch that got him so far.

Max Jacob’s Filibuth ou la Montre en Or has a central theme revolving around this type of watch. He writes, “My brother left his family a gold watch which, apart from its intrinsic worth in gold, was endowed with the value of its age. It was bought for one hundred francs by my grandfather Bastien Rafleur in 1804, from Breguet, the greatest watchmaker of the period.” Jacob chooses Breguet for its fame and beauty.

To view a selection of Breguet watches, click here.