3350 Breguet Tourbillon in Yellow Gold
The tourbillon makes no sense in the modern context. It’s designed to counteract the pull of gravity, down, on a balance. In a pocket watch, that’s great, because it’s always vertical. But in wristwatches, well, it’s about as useful as a chocolate teapot. Nonetheless, a rotating tourbillon cage does provide quite the visual drama and for that reason alone it’s a word that esteemed artists such as Rick Ross and DJ Khaled now use. As an aside, if I ever hear the word ‘turb’ again I’m going to vomit in Kevin Hart’s face (anyone else wholly bored there?). Until then, if anyone can get away with it gracefully, it’s Breguet. In fairness, they did invent the complication.
Yes, the very first tourbillon complication was masterminded by A.L. Breguet. That complication runs rich in the Breguet vein. However, where wristwatches are concerned, Breguet were a bit late to the party. In 1988, they released this 3350 on the heels of the quartz crisis. It was a celebration of a return to form for the whole industry, shortly after AP’s 5548 and the other holy trinity perpetual calendars gave a sense of optimism to the battle. This wristwatch was in fact Breguet’s first ever wrist-worn tourbillon and a welcome return to their rightful throne. In fact, it was only the second wrist-worn tourbillon ever, behind AP’s 25643 ‘Sun-Ray’ which I could also write a book on. What a return though. I particularly love the three blued steel seconds hands, which rotate through a 20 second scale below the dial in perfect thirds of the one-minute full rotation (did you know there’s no English word for quadrant as applied to three?).
The Chaumet brothers, famously, maintained Breguet’s classic watchmaking aesthetic in wrist format. This meant engine-turned dials, coin-edge cases, blued steel hands, and hand engraved details where possible. On this display back, there’s no restraint. This design was made possible through a Lemania partnership-borne calibre 558 with details perfected by Daniel Roth, yeah that Roth. When Investcorp acquired Breguet, this was one of the only references they kept alive in a slightly larger ref. 3357, about the only wisdom they showed. It’s a gem with roots in classic horology, viewed through the lens of an early independent. And if you call Roth’s bewitching effort a turb, I’m coming for your family first.
This example sports a very light visible surface wear on the extremities of its highly polished bezel. The lugs are sharp, caseback engravings deep. The A following its production number means it was made around 1989, the same year Roth left. It comes from a well-regarded Shanghai retailer, watch only.