Self-winding

A sprung weight on a pivoting arm jumps up and down to wind the mainspring. The modern self-winding wristwatch has a spinning weight.

1780, THE "PERPÉTUELLE" WATCH

What Abraham-Louis Breguet set out to achieve was at once simple and highly ambitious : a watch which would wind itself, without the aid of a key or any other external agency. In his customary fashion, Breguet never laid claim to either the idea or the term "perpétuelle", taking credit merely – if that is the appropriate word – for the invention of a system that was reliable and effective : an oscillating weight "à secousses" which responded to the wearer’s movements and ordinary walking. The oscillating weight, sprung so that it returned to its original position after each movement, pushed up two going-barrels, stopping when the springs were fully depressed.

1780, THE "PERPÉTUELLE" WATCH

The perfection of this system was the first major success of his career. At a time when several of his contemporaries were engaged in work on the problem without achieving any convincing results, he became the first to discover, through his oscillating platinum-weight watch a formula which would produce a reliable automatic watch. His first perpétuelle was sold to the Duc d'Orléans in 1780.

From the 1780s, his "self-winding watches" were to bring him considerable fame both at the court of Versailles and throughout Europe. Unique in its time, both technically and aesthetically, the perpétuelle – the watch of kings par excellence- remains today one of the most powerful symbols of the phenomenal creative genius of its inventor. A.-L. Breguet made and sold some sixty examples from 1787 to 1823, and we may assume (in the absence of documentary records) that in the years between 1780 and 1787 he made another twenty or thirty.

The Classique Grande Complication Tourbillon 5317 provides the perfect setting for Breguet’s most spectacular invention and undeniably the most beautiful of all horological complications, developed over 210 years ago to compensate for the effects of gravity. On the back, the "B-shaped" oscillating weight reveals the beauty of the meticulously hand-engraved movement.

Models with this invention

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