While the originators of many remarkable inventions are now lost to time, ironically, the watchmakers of today know exactly whom to credit with many remarkable innovations still in use. Abraham-Louis Breguet, founder of his namesake luxury watch company, was an incredibly prolific genius of horology whose work is the foundation of the most sophisticated timepieces of the modern era.
The lever escapement, first invented by British clockmaker Thomas Mudge in 1755, allows the balance wheel that governs a watch’s accuracy to move freely. Breguet improved upon the initial mechanism, creating a part 1814 that is still in use today.
The tourbillon (“whirlwind”) invented by Breguet in 1795 and patented in 1801, rotates the escapement of a watch in such a way to combat the effects that gravity and outside movement may have on a watch’s accuracy. This design is a feature of the most prestigious and extravagant watches and is considered a wonderful technical and aesthetic achievement in the watch world, adding as it does to the precision, appearance, and price of a timepiece.
Even as contemporary watchmakers compete to produce evermore novel, beautiful, and expensive designs, much is still owed to Breguet, the godfather of horology. The most famous of his original designs was only finished four years after his death: the Marie-Antoinette Watch, thought to have been commissioned by an admirer of the ill-fated queen. It was valued at $30 million in 2013.
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