Blog posts tagged "History"

Breguet Modern History - 2015/03/12 by Dale Vito


Breguet_1160_lg

As you might have noted, Breguet is one of the bigger names that is not yet listed in our WatchBase database and I briefly pointed out why over here. However, the crown-jewel of the Swatch Group has a long and interesting history that could easily make for a book or two – after all, the Breguet name has been gracing watches since 1775. And while it would make much more sense to post this after adding a big load of Breguet watches to our database, my fingers are itching to write about a part of their history that is arguably put under the rug and not often talked about: the Chaumet and Investcorp years, finally resulting in the sale to the Swatch Group in 1999. So rather than the stories often found featuring kings, queens and emperors, we’ll take a look at the history of Breguet as it unfolded in the last 40 years.

In 1973, the Brown family -who acquired the Breguet watchmaking business from his direct descendants a hundred years earlier- sold of the company to the Chaumet brothers, Jacques and Pierre, stemming from a family of Parisian jewelers.  While their name was highly respected for their jewelry creations, the brothers were inexperienced when it came to watches. They nonetheless had great plans for Breguet, for which they needed only two things: a talented watchmaker and for the brand to move to Switzerland.

The watchmaker that came to the rescue was a young guy by the name of Daniel Roth. After graduating from a watchmaking school in Nice, Mr. Roth had worked for some seven years at the prestigious Audemars Piguet where he learned the ropes of high-end watchmaking. However, after seeing the job offering by the Chaumet brothers and being intrigued by the Breguet name, he agreed to join them as master watchmaker – but not after he’d polish his skills at complicated watchmaking in school in Le Sentier. After this one year study, he started making watches for Breguet, based in Le Brassus.

At this time, Daniel Roth focused on two things: aesthetics and complications. Out of a number of styles that A.-L. Breguet employed during his days, it is often said that Roth picked the one that is emblematic for Breguet as it is known today, with its signature guilloche dials and pomme hands. Complication-wise, Roth introduced the perpetual calendar and the tourbillon to the collection – the first of the former being in fact based on a pocket watch that he had made during his time at the Le Sentier watchmaking course. For simpler models, movements were acquired from third parties such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Nouvelle Lemania and Frederic Piguet.

Breguet Classique 5177 Red Gold

Despite their good intentions, the plans didn’t work out quite that well for the Chaumet brothers. With severe tax issues they went bankrupt in 1987 and the Breguet company was sold to Investcorp. For Daniel Roth, this was a sign to leave the company and go on his own adventure – he’d  start his own Daniel Roth brand (now incorporated to Bulgari) two years later.

Under the reign of Investcorp, the Breguet name would go through what many consider to be not the best of its years. While the investment company acquired both a movement maker (Nouvelle Lemania) and a supplier of micromechanics (Valdar) to its portfolio in 1991, Breguet struggled to uphold the great name that many felt it was owed due to its long and impressive history. High-end movements now came from an in-house supplier, yet they were equally supplied to other brands. At the same time, more pedestrian (in terms of complications) movements were obtained from third parties. With its clientele becoming increasingly knowledgeable, many of Breguets offerings seemed like poor choices compared to its competitors- mainly Patek and later on also Lange & Söhne. Little, if not none, of its movements were exclusive to the brand and they could be had from other manufacturers at substantially lower prices, not helping the prestige and perceived value of Breguet. In turn, a substantial part of Breguet’s production was dumped and sold grey market.

Then there was the Type XX. Based on a model that Breguet had made for the French airforce, it was powered by a movement by Nouvelle Lemania that was deemed by many to be sub-par for the Breguet name. It was housed in stainless steel and destined to become the entry-level watch for the brand, yet its early days were clouded by movement issues and a skeptical reception by cognoscenti. How things can change: the Type XX is still part of the Breguet collection today and earlier perceptions do not seem to have any effect on its status as a luxury sports watch today.

Enter the Swatch Group. With Blancpain, SG had already tried to climb to the top of the watchmaking hill – with disputable success. While the watches boasted impressive (and sometimes unseen) complications, the brand lacked a certain cachet. Blancpain was founded in 1735, yet there were major gaps in its history that did not give it the credibility of Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Do you know of a vintage Blancpain that sold for crazy money? Breguet was seen as the gateway to haute horlogerie fame and succes when it was acquired (together with Nouvelle Lemania and Valdar) in 1999.

With the financial backing of the Swatch Group and the personal interest of the late Nicolas Hayek, Breguet set out on a new path: a restoration of the Breguet philosophy, much inline with the watches manufactured by the master himself. Nouvelle Lemania ebauches would no longer be delivered to third parties, creating an air of a true manufacture as had become de rigueur in the post 1990’s era. Original Breguet watches were scooped up to be on display in the Breguet Museum. At the same time, many of the Chaumet and Investcorp models slowly seemed to disappear from the market as if the brand itself was erasing part of its history.

Breguet Tradition

And today? For many collectors, the Breguet name still lacks a certain charm that is very much present in the family-owned Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet companies. Lange & Söhne has proved to be a serious contender on this stage in recent years, while high-end independent watchmaking has also taken a huge flight. Recent introductions such as the Tradition collection however seem to be received quite well among collectors and past mistakes are quickly forgotten (and erased?). I for one applaud the modern Breguet for its distinct, recognizable and unique style.


Rolex Day-Date History - 2015/02/21 by Dale Vito


Two of my favorite watches EVER are the Rolex Datejust and the Rolex Day-Date. I’m dead serious. There is something about these two; the perfect fit on the wrist of their subtle 36mm cases, their cultural significance, their bulletproof quality and iconic designs: these are iconic watches. Plus, these were made in an unimaginable number of configurations, making the search for the one that speaks to you -or has the best investment potential- a fun challenge.

Rolex Day-Date History
Rolex Day-Date History

 

In-depth articles on these I’ll save for a later date. But as our archive is rapidly growing, for now I’ll make do with a moderately revised version of a history of the first four generations of Rolex Day-Date, that was previously hosted on RLXDD.

Make sure to check out the archive we’ve built up on the Rolex Day-Date so far right here.

Most of the info below is rather to the point and might puzzle some of you. Don’t worry though. Main points for budding collectors;

  • First two generations (6511, 6611 and variations): if the price is right, buy if case condition is good / acceptable and if dial, hands and discs are original. Dial exchanged to later gen – no-go.
  • Third generation (1800): for early versions, make sure they sport the right dial (markers!) and matching hands. For later ones, I suggest to focus on unusual colors. Materials other than yellow gold are an instant plus. As production numbers on these were considerably higher, condition becomes increasingly important. While the first two generations are considerably rare, this one in general isn’t.
  • Fourth generation (18000): re-read the above. And focus on rare materials – stone, wood and whatever came out of the Rolex factory, including rare diamond-set variations. Thank me later.

So, for the geek stuff;

6511

To the best of my knowledge, there have been a few distinctive versions of the 6511 since it was first introduced – notwithstanding minor differences. This very first Day-Date model is said to be somewhat flawed movement-wise, notably the day & date change causing lag in the movement making the overall performance less-than noteworthy.

Rumour has it that the very first Day-Dates made their appearance in 1955, the same year the patent was filed. Supposedly these were delivered only to the Italian market – more or less prototypes, with the ever watch-crazy Italians serving as guinea pigs. To be frank, I wouldn’t be surprised if this story turned out to be completely flawed. However, these should have a few distinctive marks;

Rolex Day-Date 6511 first generation

  • Only white/silver dials
  • Day-Date wording in red
  • Brevet case
  • Inner caseback signed 6510, crossed out, signed 6511
  • Italian Day disc
  • Dial markings include 50m – 165ft
  • Dial markings include Superlative Chronometer by Official Test. Please note that the word Superlative can be considered somewhat of an anomaly considering the what I’m about to write further down the road.
  • Dauphine hands / Alpha hands
Rolex Day-Date 6511 gen 1
Rolex Day-Date 6511 gen 1

 

As far as I know, the next generation 6511 is the one which still has the depth-rating on the dial;

Rolex Day-Date 6511 second generation

  • Dial colours available unknown. Likely only silver/white.
  • Day-Date wording in red (6:00)
  • Case details unknown
  • Likely inner caseback signed 6511
  • Day disc in various languages – English and Italian confirmed
  • Dial markings can include 50m- 165ft
  • Dial markings include Officially Certified Chronometer
  • Dauphine hands / Alpha hands
Rolex 6511 gen 2
Rolex 6511 gen 2

 

So the first two iterations are covered. The next one is what I would consider to be the most common, the standard, 6511. Let’s consider this one the 1956 Basel model – the official 6511.

Rolex Day-Date 6511 third generation

  • Dial colours available unknown. Likely only silver/white.
  • Day-Date wording in black (12:00)
  • Case signed 6511
  • Inner caseback signed 6511
  • Day disc in various languages – English and Italian confirmed
  • Dial markings no longer include depth rating
  • Dial markings include Officially Certified Chronometer
  • Dauphine hands / Alpha hands
Rolex Day-Date 6511 gen 3
Rolex Day-Date 6511 gen 3

 

6611

After only a year -or two, depending on which story you’re going with- the 6511 got replaced with the near identical Rolex Day-Date 6611 in 1957. This model was now fitted with the free sprung balance calibre 1055. Being much more accurate than the previous model, it now earned the designation ‘Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified – the first Rolex to be fitted with this text, designating ‘especially good results’ in the chronometer-tests. Besides the chronometer text, the most distinctive change is that from the Dauphine-hands to Alpha-hands. But then again – no hard and fast rules. Many transitionals exist and many parts have been exchanged in service. This is also the very first Day-Date to be available with the President bracelet and different bezels; either fluted, smooth or diamond-set.

Rolex Day-Date 6611

  • Dial colours available unknown. Silver/white, black and gold confirmed.
  • Day-Date wording in black
  • Case signed 6611, 6612, 6613
  • Inner caseback signing unknown – yet to be confirmed
  • Day disc in various languages
  • Dial markings no longer include depth rating – last mention of this fact
  • Dial markings include Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified
  • Alpha hands – so far Dauphine hands seem acceptable too though.
Rolex Day-Date 6611
Rolex Day-Date 6611
6612
Rolex Day-Date 6612
Rolex Day-Date 6613
Rolex Day-Date 6613

 

Note the Dauphine hands on the last example. No hard and fast rules.

The one below deserves a special mention, with the chronometer-script being in German. I will work out the story behind these in time.

Rolex Day-Date 6611 Amtlich Geprüft
Rolex Day-Date 6611 Amtlich Geprüft

 

6611b to be added

1800

1959 marks the release of the 1800-generation, powered by calibre 1555. The official introduction is supposed to have been on September 1st, 1960. This is where the real fun starts; an sturdy and reliable movement and, throughout the years, a crazy number of dials, bezels and bracelets.

Noteworthy updates include the 1963-64 change from radium to tritium and the 1965 switch from calibre 1555 to the higher-beat 1556. Hacking introduced in 1972.

Rolex Day-Date 1800

  • Many dial colours available
  • Day-Date wording matching the other text
  • Case signed 1802, 1803, 1804 et cetera, designating the type of bezel fitted
  • Inner caseback signing 1800 (180x)
  • Day disc in many languages
  • Dial markings include Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified
  • Hands in different styles; early transitional ones fitted with Alpha-hands, others include the most common Baton-type, tapering Cigarette, Wide Boy et cetera.
Rolex Day-Date 1803
Rolex Day-Date 1803

 

18000

1978 marks the release of the 18000-generation, powered by calibre 3055. This is the first Day-Date to feature the quick-set date. This generation was the first to see the Tridor or BIC.

Rolex Day-Date 18000

  • Many dial colours and materials available
  • Day-Date wording matching the other text
  • Case signed 18038, 18039, designating the type of bezel fitted and the materials used
  • Inner caseback signing 18000(180xx)
  • Day disc in many languages
  • Dial markings include Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified
  • No rose/ pink

1831

A special mention is in order for the elusive reference 1831, said to be made in no more than 8 examples as a custom order in platinum only. It uses an OysterQuartz-type of case, while using a integrated bracelet in King Midas style – strangely neither of these models was made in platinum though. Exceedingly deep pockets needed.

Rolex Day-Date 1831
Rolex Day-Date 1831

 

Pic credit;

  • Stefano Mazzariol
  • Yorktime
  • Antiquorum
  • Bonhams
  • John Goldberger
  • Amsterdam Vintage Watches
  • Amsterdam Watch Company

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