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Breguet's connections made during his apprenticeship as a watchmaker and as a student of mathematics helped him to establish his business. Following his introduction to the court, Queen Marie Antoinette grew fascinated by Breguet's unique self-winding watch; Louis XVI bought several of his watches. In 1783 the Swedish count Axel Von Fersen, who was the queen's friend and reputed lover, commissioned a watch from Breguet that was to contain every watch complication known at that time as a gift to Marie Antoinette. The result is a Breguet's masterpiece, the Marie-Antoinette pocket watch (Breguet No.160).
The business was a success, and around 1807 Abraham-Louis Breguet took on his son Louis-Antoine as his partner, renaming the firm "Breguet et Fils" (Breguet and Sons). Louis-Antoine took over the firm upon the death of his father in 1823. After Louis-Antoine retired in 1833 (he died in 1858) the business was passed to Abraham-Louis' grandson Louis Clément Francois (1804-1883).
Abraham-Louis' great-grandson Louis Antoine (1851-1882) was the last of the Breguet family to run the business. Although he had two sons and a daughter, they did not enter the business, so the Breguet company hired noted English watchmaker Edward Brown of Clerkenwell to manage the Paris factory. Brown eventually became a partner and, after Breguet's grandson's death, the owner and head of the company. When Brown died in 1895 the firm was taken over by his sons, Edward and Henry. On Edward's retirement in the early 1900s, Henry Brown became the head of the firm.
From 1870 to 1970, Breguet was owned by the English Brown family. But the ownership changed hands several times during the quartz crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, Breguet's then-owner Chaumet closed its French factory and moved production to the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland.
In 1987, Breguet was acquired by Investcorp which, in 1991, created the Groupe Horloger Breguet(GHB). The Breguet Group consists of four subsidiaries: Montres Breguet SA, Breguet SA, Valdar SA and Nouvelle Lemania SA (which Breguet Group acquired in 1992). As a result, Breguet-brand watches are now made at the Nouvelle Lemania factory in Switzerland. In particular, Montres Breguet SA is the main company that sells timepieces under the brand name of "Breguet", and Breguet SA is the name of Breguet Group's distribution company in France.
Breguet watches are often easily recognized for their coin-edge cases, guilloché dials and blue pomme hands (often now referred to as 'Breguet hands'). In addition to watches, Breguet also manufactures writing instruments, women's jewelry, and cufflinks.
In 2010, patented the magnetic pivot, used to improve watch precision using magnetism.
In 2010, introduced the magnetic strike governor.
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In December 2018, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released an official report giving environmental ratings for 15 major watch manufacturers and jewelers in Switzerland. Breguet, along with 7 other manufacturers including Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Rolex, was given the lowest environmental rating as "Latecomers/Non-transparent", suggesting that the manufacturer has taken very few actions addressing the impact of its manufacturing activities on the environment and climate change.
On May 14, 2012, a Breguet pocket watch, the Breguet & Fils, Paris No.2667, was sold in Christie'sGeneva auction with a final price of 4.69 million US dollars (CHF 4,339,000).
On May 14, 2012, a Breguet pocket watch, the Breguet, Paris, No.4111, was sold in Christie's Geneva auction with a final price of 2.75 million US dollars (CHF 2,547,000).
On December 4, 2012, the Breguet Sympathique Clock No.128 & 5009(Duc d'Orléans Breguet Sympathique, owned by Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans) was auctioned by Sotheby's for 6.8025 million US dollars in New York, making it the most expensive Breguet timepiece ever sold at auction. The clock was auctioned by Sotheby's for the first time in 1999, fetching a record-breaking US$5,777,500 in New York, after the shutdown of the celebrated Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois.
On May 16, 2016, a Breguet pocket watch, the Breguet & Fils, No.217, was sold in Christie's Geneva auction with a final price of 3.33 million US dollars (CHF 3,245,000).
Marie-Antoinette pocket watch
In 1783, an admirer of Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, commissioned a watch from Abraham-Louis Breguet as a gift for the Queen. The requirement was that the watch should be "as spectacular as possible, incorporating the fullest range of horological expertise known at the time". There was no time deadline or financial limit with the commission.