WHAT IF… Breguet were also able to use the co-axial escapement? WHAT IF… Breguet were also able to use the co-axial escapement?

WHAT IF… Breguet were also able to use the co-axial escapement?

Zach Blass

As the focus on independent watchmaking grows, one brand I feel is yet to capitalise on this surge in interest is Breguet. Of course, Breguet is not an independent brand – they are a part of the Swatch Group conglomerate – but, their brand of watchmaking, legendary origins, and spirit are very much in line with being independent. Breguet, in my opinion, makes phenomenal watches. At least more often than not. On the secondary market, however, I am seeing their elaborate creations sold for a fraction of the retail price.

Breguet tradition retrograde date breguet blue zach portrait 2

Now, while part of the Swatch Group, their annual production is not super large, certainly when compared to other group brands like Omega. So, in a market where people have been lining up for years to purchase a Roger Smith that would inevitably sell over its list price, why are Breguet watches not always getting the attention they are due? Well, speaking of Omega and Roger Smith, this led me to wonder: what if Breguet were also able to use the co-axial escapement? Could such a move give Breguet a beneficial boost in the limelight?

What excites me about the thought

Breguet Daniels side by side

The watches of Roger W. Smith, and especially those branded with his mentor George Daniels’ name, are some of the most sought-after pieces in the world. Daniels, who invented the co-axial escapement, and Smith, who refined it even further, create hand-made watches at the highest level – and while this level of finish and hand construction are huge elements of their allure, the co-axial escapement is also a large draw.

But, look at the pictures above. The Daniels and Smith style of movement design has a very traditional, almost pocket-watch-like feel. The Breguet Tradition is a collection that features the Breguet pocket watch aesthetic front and centre on the dial side. Also, you have a true-guilloché sub-dial on the Tradition, and both Daniels and Smith perform engine-turning by hand on their dials. There are a ton of parallels. This is why I have long wondered, with such a queue or inability to purchase Smith and Daniels watches, if Breguet could stand to bridge the gap with a co-axial offering that scratches the itch for watch buyers. Whether on the front of the watch like a Tradition, or on the back for watches within the Classique line, Breguet is fully capable of a pocket watch aesthetic for their movements.

It may not be finished to the hand-made level of a Daniels or Smith, but aesthetically I believe they could have a near-identical look while also being distinctly Breguet. Therefore, Breguet could theoretically have a segment of watches that use co-axial escapements with a slightly larger production scale and slightly lower price. Wouldn’t collectors love that? I do not know the exact terms of Omega’s license and acquisition of the co-axial escapement, but if it is simply a matter of an internal Swatch Group discussion, what would Breguet stand to lose?

Why it would not make sense

breguet classique extra plate 5157 rose gold
Just imagine if this Classique 5157 watch had a pocket watch style movement with a Co-Axial escapement. Alluring, no?

Well, what they would stand to lose is the purity of Abraham-Louis Breguet in their watches. Breguet as a brand acts as a steward and guard of their namesake’s spirit and innovation. While they have certainly innovated in the modern era with things like the magnetic pivot, much of what influences a Breguet watch is their founder’s style and devices. Incorporating the work of Daniels into their watches could be construed as a dilution of Breguet were the brand to leverage the work of external watchmakers.

Perhaps pride or ego, if Breguet himself, or a Breguet watchmaker, has not invented it, then it cannot be incorporated into their watches. There is also the red flag of such watches being considered second to or derivative of another watchmaker, even if watchmakers like Daniels and Smith are influenced by Breguet themselves.

The Breguet Swatch Group collaboration that actually makes sense


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To be clear, I am only inferring the Breguet brand’s perspective on such a prospect. Assuming I am correct that they would not want to dilute or overshadow Breguet with an external innovation like the co-axial escapement, it stands to reason Breguet would not feel comfortable doing so in a watch with just their name on it. This then raises the question: what if there were two names on the watch? With the Swatch x Omega MoonSwatch and Swatch x Blancpain Fifty Fathoms BioCeramic Scuba collaborations, many believe the third in line is Breguet’s Type XX.

The problem, theoretically, is that Breguet, like Blancpain, does not do quartz and Swatch does not have a mechanical chronograph movement in their current arsenal. This makes the matchup feel a bit forced. Were it to happen, I would assume it would be more of a push from Mr. Hayek and Swatch Group than it would be from Breguet’s end. But why do the Swatch Group collaborations have to be limited to Swatch as a participant? Yes, involving the Swatch brand keeps things more affordable. A more interesting pairing, however, would be if Breguet and Omega worked together – lending their co-axial escapement to Breguet. Just imagine a Breguet Tradition or Classique in Moonshine, Sedna, or Canopus gold with a pocket watch-style movement and co-axial escapement. That would be very tasty in my book.