Each Breguet movement presents a combination of different finishes.
Today, guillochage has thus become a true signature element of the House of Breguet. The brand did not merely adopt the technique, but also pushed it to new heights: about thirty engine-turning lathes were built right at the Manufacture. Being similar to old machines, they were given a state-of-the-art update in terms of ergonomics, lighting, optics, and precision. The workshop thus fitted became one of the most important in the entire watchmaking industry, as its artisans are able to craft a wide variety of geometric patterns. Pushing for ongoing renewal and improvement, a research and creation unit was set up specifically for this technique, whose task involved the development of new shapes and patterns. Guillochage is added to almost all the watches at Breguet – to the dials, the cases, the rotors, the plates, or the caliber bars.
Engraving, too, has endured throughout the ages to become part of Breguet’s identity today. Having been trained mostly in-house, and with several years of experience under their belts, the engraving artisans have acquired an extraordinary capacity for respecting an “artistic grammar” unique to the House of Breguet, while preserving their own particular aesthetic vocabulary – the main asset of any artisanal work. While embossing (volute or scroll motifs) is the starting point for many of the designs, particularly those of caliber bars, plates, and casebands, other techniques, such as relief engraving, or its opposite, hollow engraving, also feature in Breguet’s know-how. So does a technique that is extremely rare in the industry, which consists of hand-engraving letters and numerals on the backs of watches.
Considered by anyone else to be a complex finish to achieve, although commonly recognised, anglage has been raised to the rank of an art form at Breguet. Requiring limitless dexterity, this technique is about filing off sharp edges from various components, thus creating a chamfer – or bevel – at a 45-degree angle, whose width must be constant, and its angles perfectly parallel. The polishing process must then ensure that the piece has a uniform reflection, without kinks or facets. Finally, and this is the true hallmark of a master, the inner corners must reveal no less than a sharp and clean line where the two bevels meet. Not only is there no machine that can produce such a result, but training programs for this craft have also disappeared. The anglage workshop at Breguet is, simply put, the most important in Switzerland, a choice that demonstrates the extreme attention paid to the quality of movements.
Grand feu enamel has also endured throughout the ages. Nowadays, only a handful of Swiss artisans master this craft in all its subtleties. A mixture of silica and crushed oxides, the colored powders are dissolved in water before being applied to a material by way of various techniques, such as champlevé, miniature painting, grisaille or plique-à-jour. But the actual secret to its fabrication, a crucible of unexpected know-how, lies in the firing process. Each additional layer, each color added, requires another round in the oven – at a temperature and for a duration that only the master knows. Producing a single traditional enameled dial can sometimes take up to several weeks.