Without a doubt, Abraham Louis Breguet is considered the most influential watchmaker of all time. With inventions such as the over-coil hairspring and the Tourbillon amongst a myriad of others, the brand has one of the richest histories out of any manufacture in the world today.
It wasn’t always like this though. While the brand enjoyed great success in the 18th and 19th centuries, producing pocket watches for the most influential people in the world, by the mid 20th century, the brand was decrepit and nearly nonexistent. Other than producing the occasional piece here and there, they were predominantly supplying Type 20 watches to the military. In terms of design language, the Type 20’s were a brutish, far cry from the beautifully elegant timepieces that preceded them.
In the mid-’70s, the Chaumet brothers, famously known for their jewelry brand bought over Breguet and decided to reinvigorate the manufacture and bring it back to its former glory. With François Bodet heading the company and their move from Paris to Switzerland, they hired a certain Daniel Roth to lead the watchmaking team and the rest, as they say, is history.
To this day, the style reintroduced in the ’70s and ’80s remains, most notably the engine-turned dials that feature contrasting guilloché patterns, the coin case with its fluted middle section and straight lugs, and the pomme shaped ‘Breguet’ hands.
The Classique Chronograph Ref. 3237 was one of the earliest models released by the brand and in my opinion one of the most historically important. It features all of the aforementioned design cues, with a cross-hatch guilloche pattern on the solid gold dial contrasting with a vertical wave pattern within the subdials. This is topped off with the outer chapter ring featuring a circular brushing and blued steel Breguet hands.
It is elegantly sized at 36mm and quintessentially Breguet in its looks and proportions. Powered by the venerable Lemania 2310, it is the same used on similarly important references such as the Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques Chronographe and the Patek Philippe 5070. The column wheel movement features a swan neck regulator and is beautifully finished.
This particular example has aged beautifully, with the dial displaying a light champagne patina that has developed over time. I do think that they are many gems within the ’80s and 90’s that are being overlooked, with this Breguet 3237 being one of those. Historically important, beautifully designed, and with a top-tier movement, it doesn’t get better than this.