ALERT! This post has almost nothing to do with Fitness, Fashion, Nutrition or Travel, but it WAS a lot of fun to put together and it teases out a little passion of mine! Last weekend I went to the classic car Concours of Elegance at the majestic abode that is Hampton Court Palace. I was invited by a sponsor of the event, whom I believe to be the most magical of Swiss watch manufactures, Breguet. As I have a clockmaker in the family, I’ve long known of and marveled over this company’s virtuosic mechanical genius; all who call themselves ‘horologists’ worship at the shrine of Abraham Louis Breguet, the godfather of the temporal arts! In 1815, he was officially appointed chronometer-maker to the French Navy and as a keen sailor myself (you might recall my Bronze at Cowes Week) I was quite keen to discover the heritage and credentials of their Marine collection first hand, whilst seeing some of the most fabulous classic cars. Click MORE below to see it all…
Hampton Court Palace, once the residence of Henry VIII, and a sprawling labyrinth of confused semi-Tudor, quasi-Baroque architecture, hosted the Concours of Elegance which recalls the days when the Parisian aristocracy would parade around in their civilised horse-drawn carraiges. These days, it’s an excuse to polish up the most rarefied specimens of automotive heritage and show them to the world. My affections were taken by this pristine 1958 Mercedes Benz 300SL roadster!
To the Watches now, if I may. The resourceful creativity of Breguet totally astounds me. In an era when I can globally accomplish more communicative productivity with my smartphone in 60 seconds than Breguet perhaps did in a lifetime, I still completely fail to wrap my mind around the inventions he pioneered; almost because of our nonplussed response to digital technology’s capabilities these days, the romantic fascination grows stronger for mechanical genius, for devices imbued with life from breathing springs and whirring cogs. Apart from the first ever wrist watch, the self-winding rotor, the perpetual calendar, and the mother of all complications, the tourbillon, he also dreamed up the ‘Equation of Time’, to help sailors navigate better with their chronometers. The company describes it as follows:
From time immemorial, the Sun has served as the basis of time measurement. Nonetheless, the visible orbit of the Sun – the true solar time shown on sundials – is irregular.
The equation of time is the difference between mean solar time – our civil time based on a conventional twenty-four-hour period – and the true solar time, which varies with the earth’s irregular orbit round the sun. Mean solar tune runs up to 16 minutes behind true solar time, as is the case on November 3; or up to 14 minutes ahead of it, as is the case on February 12. The two values are exactly matched on just four days a year.
Appointed “Chronometer-maker to the French Royal Navy” in 1815, A.-L. Breguet and his son created the most elaborate equation of time models of their time.
My own fascination was for the Marine 5817, which I perceive to be the watch for a keen sailor to wear on an everyday basis. A polished steel case, a screw-lock crown, waterproof to 100m, a simple and focussed rubber strap, and a set of muscular lugs protruding out from the circular case; these are the practical and sturdy components of the design. But looking a little closer reveals beautiful signature details which speak to me of passion and heritage; the enchanting Breguet hands in blued steel, the engine-turned face with that oceanic maelstrom pattern, and the sapphire glass to the rear guarding the guilloche-patterned rotor which itself unveils the beating heart of the watch, the silicon balance spring and spidery escapement wheel. It is the meeting place of functional and magical…
… But if you’ve made it this far and still aren’t convinced, then the following video shows basically the most sublime piece of mechanical engineering I’ve ever laid eyes upon, and wraps it all up beautifully, in this quite movingly portrayed video!
The Concours was quite an experience in a gorgeous heritage location, and overall a superb day out in Blighty to steal one of the final days of summer! Thank you for the invitation Breguet.