Just recently, a book about an important historical pocket watch was released by John Biggs. Now, (cue Troy McLure voiceover) you may know Biggs from the HourTime Show podcast or his writing at TechCrunch and WristWatchReview. What you may not know is that he is also an author of books. While his previous release, Mytro, was a fictional outing; his most recent, Marie Antoinette’s Watch: Adultery, Larceny, & Perpetual Motion, is an exploration of many histories.
On the surface, you’d expect that the book is a history of the Marie Antoinette pocket watch, and it certainly is. It is also an exploration of Abraham-Louis Breguet, who created the watch. At the same time, it is a history of the watch industry, a history of France around the time of the revolution, and a history of the biggest theft to occur in the world of horology. So, no matter what your own particular interest is in history, there is some facet of it here that should grab your attention, provided you are starting from a base of being into watches.
In Baselworld 2016, Breguet debuted a new “line extension” of the Form XXI using the mention 3817ST/X2/3ZU 2016 Breguet Type XXI 3817 that conveys a vintage-style dial with light tan coloring accents. This is my favorite line of watches from Breguet at this time, and like sister manufacturer Blancpain in The Swatch Group, I continue to urge that these two manufacturers promote their excellent sport watches individually from their more classic style of timepieces that they’re often more known for.Premium-priced but excellent in style and mechanics, the Breguet Type XXI is one of the sexiest methods for demonstrating that you’re a watch nerd. For me personally, this is among the finest pilot-style chronograph watches currently available. While nearly all of Breguet’s recent lineup of watches are inspired by the work of Abraham-Louis Breguet (the brand’s namesake), the Breguet Type XX, Form XXI, and Form XXII pilot-style watches are inspired by 20th century Breguet timepieces that were made long after Abraham-Louis’ departure in the early 19th century.In fact, it was Louis Charles Breguet (the great-great grandson of the founder) who had been in charge of creating the new pilot watches in the early-mid 20th century. From what I can tell, Breguet’s family was first involved in actually making a plane, and then only later, around the 1960s based on Breguet, did they create their first aviation wristwatch (after making a couple of cockpit instrument clocks). With that said, it was not until the 1950s, I think, that Breguet introduced the original Type XX watches that were in service by the French army until the 1980s. Yes, the Breguet Type XXI 3817 is a cosmetic upgrade to the existing collection, but it is a collection which, in my opinion, deserves more choices – as a whole lot of watch fans will truly enjoy these timepieces. It is logical for a brand to offer an aesthetic array because of its very best models, and while Breguet does have more than one Type XXI, the more the merrier, in my opinion. In a 42mm-wide steel case (water resistant to 100 meters), the Breguet Type XXI 3817 includes a slate gray-colored dial together with Arabic numerals and hands painted with a tan-colored luminant. This is attached to a matching calf leather strap. The Breguet Type XXI does look great on a strap, but for me personally, it also looks killer on a bracelet – therefore I hope that’s an option also, today or later on.
Fortunately for us, Biggs has a way of writing all of these various threads of history in a way that is engaging, and almost carries a feel of a novel. In other words, it’s engaging. The various court intrigues that occurred around Marie Antoinette (the actual queen) could have been dry, but Biggs breathes life into it, focusing especially on the special relationship that planted the seed leading to the commission of the pocket watch.
Like so many additional Breguet watches, the 7787 balances its smaller diameter with some unnervingly directly lugs that are just the right length — that the designer managed to not make the lugs a compensatory element, something that generally still occurs too often on otherwise nice looking instances. As such, the 7787 is a comparatively small watch by 21st century watch criteria, but it nevertheless has enough presence to look elegant — rather than apologetic. Most manufacturers have a tendency to struggle greatly either when it comes to making these layouts look great extended to above forty wide — that is just the nature of proportions — or using timid-looking, miniature watches rather than This Breguet is neither stretched, nor timid. It’s only about right.Breguet hands fulfill Breguet numerals on the dial up and that by itself is a solid recipe for success. Just both of these components are like the touch or even a fingerprint of a genius. It is something that has been created centuries ago and has been working in perfect harmony since. Kudos into Breguet for not butchering the hands but retaining them the suitable length — public service announcement: palms must at all times reach their individual monitors, not stage at them!Things get messy when another three indications enter the picture — these would be the seconds hand, the phase of the moon screen, and also the power reserve indication. Strangely, I don’t mind this unorthodox layout for a dress watch. Dress watches, and particularly those which follow the apparel watch code as just as this one tries, are more often than not worn on dreary long days where everyone is wearing the same sort of clothes and shoes and ties and watches and talking exactly the exact same type of talk to one another. I know today somehow it is hip to wear derby shoes with training shoe soles (a vomit-inducing disgrace, in my opinion), so if you are to perform with the “business attire” rule publication, you may as well opt for something which stays classy but also puts a smile on your head every once in a while.
Biggs also could have chosen to give short shrift to Breguet (and his eponymous company), but he manages to weave in the personal history and accomplishments of the man in a way that humanizes him, and paint a vivid portrait of the man who was driven to complete his most famous commission. It also provides a backdrop for understanding what the clock and watch industry was going through in Breguet’s time, and how he drove a lot of the direction that brings us to where we are today.
For a history book, there is plenty of present-day included as well. While the creation (and subsequent theft) of the Breguet Marie Antoinette watch certainly come up from the mists of time, Biggs covers the story from the current day too, showing the reader what the Breguet company has become today, and its efforts to reproduce the Marie Antoinette watch, with the recreation having been in production for years before, and arriving shortly after the original was recovered.
Suffice it to say, I really got into the subject matter Biggs presents. That said, it is not a flawless book – there were a few passages I needed to re-read a few times to get what was being said – but, on the whole, I found it to be an excellent read. The research is top notch, and the writing style is done in such a way that the reader is kept engaged, even if they are not particularly into books of a historical nature. Even if you do not have a particular interest in (the) Marie Antoinette, I would recommend this book for anyone with an interest in watches, given the insight provided into the history of the watch industry – from pre-revolutionary France up through the modern day. For more on this book, and others written by John Biggs, you can head over to his website (linked to below).
We also got some time with Biggs, and threw some questions his way about the book and its subject. Often times with books of this nature, it can be helpful for the reader to sort of understand where the author is coming from, and what drew them to the subject in the first place. Without any further ado, here’s our interview with John Biggs.
aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): When did you first settle in on the idea to write about the Marie Antoinette?
John Biggs: I got the idea when I was learning about watches in about 2001. It’s the one story in the watch world that truly has it all – the mystery, the suspense, the romance, and the beauty. I was hooked from the beginning.
ABTW: With all of the locales involved in the story, I assume that there was no small amount of travel involved with researching the book. How did that go?
John Biggs: I visited France, Sweden, Israel, the UK, Switzerland, and Austria. It was an exhausting process. At one point, I was hospitalized for some kind of weird stomach thing I picked up as I was traveling. Writing a big book like this is hard.
Breguet Watch Marie Antoinette Replica creates a sufficiently broad array of traditional dress watches, but once you’ve possessed those — or if you can envision what it would be like to have a safe dress watch — you will probably begin to appreciate the quirky-cool versions a bit more. It is a watch that’s far from ideal by conventional criteria, but it does not seem to have attempted to maintain the first place; and I sort of love it because of this. The reason most watch cases are around is because designers have the easiest time making round-cased watches seem nice. Therefore, making a non-round situation such as something square, rectangular, otherwise geometric, or tonneau (barrel-shaped) is a special challenge. The threat is that despite the best attempts these non-round cases will not look attractive… but the reward of getting it right is a really distinctive wrist-wearing experience which has the capacity to be a long-term classic.The Breguet Heritage 5410, that comes with a tonneau-shaped situation together with identifying Breguet elements is a very well made bundle. Tonneau watches have been in existence for nearly 100 years, but have most recently become popular thanks to two extremely different brands: Franck Muller and Richard Mille. Each of these two companies offers distinct executions of the same theme – but it’s done right in the two instances. Those are in fact the exclusion of the standard as, in my opinion, most other tonneau-shaped watches on the market aren’t a perfect hit. The Breguet Heritage 5410, however, is one of the rare tonneau watches that I love to wear.
Breguet Watches Malaysia Replica 160, aka the Marie Antoinette
ABTW: With this sort of research, it seems there are inevitably surprises about the subject that the writer does not expect. What caught you off-guard when you discovered it?
John Biggs: I was surprised to know that it had a dead-beat seconds hand. This is a hand that “ticks” like a quartz watch, which is very unusual. They used to add those to make watches be more like mantle or pendulum clocks. It’s a strange feature but very cool.
ABTW: Given the main subject of your book, did you get to see the Marie Antoinette in person?
John Biggs: I did. I saw the original in Israel, and I even saw the recreation in Switzerland. Breguet Watches Value Replica and Nicholas Hayek built the watch on a whim just before the watch was rediscovered.
ABTW: Your book contains a lot of background on Breguet and the company he built. Given this knowledge, do you feel drawn to own a Breguet some day?
John Biggs: I love Breguet. I don’t like frou frou watches, so I’d prefer to get a Transatlanique versus one of their more filigreed models. However, I’d be happy to wear any Breguet – as long as I don’t need to swipe my credit card.
ABTW: The Marie Antoinette is certainly a milestone in the history of watchmaking. What place do you think it has in today’s world of horology?
John Biggs: The sad thing is that it has no place. It’s like a clockwork bird – it makes no sense that it exists. It’s cute and it’s fun, but it can easily be recreated electronically. These watches were the pinnacle of the arts and sciences in the 1700s and 1800s, but they don’t mean much to the average person of today. However, thanks to sites like ABTW and WWR we can build groups of people who love watches and truly appreciate what Breguet did so many years ago.
Breguet Watches Pronunciation Replica creates a sufficiently broad range of traditional dress watches, but once you’ve possessed those — or if you’re able to imagine what it’d be like to have a safe dress watch — you will likely begin to enjoy the quirky-cool models a little more. It is a watch that is far from ideal by traditional standards, but it doesn’t seem to have tried to maintain the first place; and that I sort of love it because of that. Last, but not least, these quirky layouts are in line with lots of the great Abraham-Louis’ work too.While many men’s watches Breguet produces are around, the Breguet Heritage 5410 is a rare exception. The reason most observe instances are around is because designers have the easiest time making round-cased watches seem fine. Therefore, making a non-round situation like a thing square, rectangular, otherwise geometric, or tonneau (barrel-shaped) is a special challenge. The risk is that despite best attempts these non-round instances will not look appealing… but the benefit of having it right is a really distinctive wrist-wearing experience that has the capacity to be a long-term classic.The Breguet Heritage 5410, which comes with a tonneau-shaped case along with identifying Breguet elements is a really well made package. Tonneau watches have been in existence for almost 100 decades, but have most recently become popular thanks to two extremely different brands: Franck Muller and Richard Mille. Each of those two companies offers distinct executions of the same theme – but it is done right in both cases. These are in fact the exclusion of the norm as, in my opinion, most other tonneau-shaped watches out there are not a perfect hit. The Breguet Heritage 5410, however, is among the rare tonneau watches that I really like to wear.
Like a legitimate aviator watch, the rotating bezel in the case goes bi-directionally, and sporting comfort along with legibility is quite good. The Breguet Type XXI remains among my own grail watches, and now I wonder exactly what version I’ll end up becoming at some stage in the future. Available soon, the 2016 Breguet Type XXI 3817 reference 3817ST/X2/3ZU see has a retail price of $13,900 USD. The Breguet 1160 Marie Antoinette pocket watch is truly one of the most striking and interesting horological items of our modern times. In various ways, this watch and the story around it have formed the basis for what keeps me in love with timepieces and why I began aBlogtoWatch at the first location. This article is perhaps not true a “hands-on,” as nobody but a select few “watch handlers” at Breguet are even allowed to touch what’s possibly the most precious modern pocket watch of all time. Its true value could be much longer but will likely never be tested during my lifetime, since this product remains a permanent part of the Breguet brand.Even though brands such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin now have more complex pocket watches, the more Breguet 1160 Marie Antoinette remains the 5th or 6th most complicated pocket watch in the world, even though it is based on the original Breguet 160 pocket watch, that held the place since the most complicated watch ever made for approximately 100 years later being completed in 1827 (45 years after it was originally commissioned in 1782). My friend and fellow watch buff John Biggs chronicled the modern and past history of this Breguet Marie Antoinette watch in his book here.
Nicolas Hayek and the Queen
Having a massively sized instance in solid 950 platinum, over 30 carats of diamonds, along with a showy, complicated movement, this is maybe the very simple wristwatch approach to become the top oligarch in your neighborhood.I’m in love with watches in this way because they represent one extreme side of the luxury watch spectrum when it comes to patently anti-discreet means of a wearer “saying something” with their timepiece. Few folks will actually have a wrist that the 50mm-wide case of this Breguet Watches Dallas Replica Double Tourbillon 5349 will look proportionate on. Although it is wearable, the point of the design would be to look quite literally “oversized,” like this Breguet functions as some sort of a wrist-worn crown.Breguet’s smaller 5347 watch contains exactly the same 676-part in-house made Breguet movement, but in a 44mm- versus 50mm-wide case. The movement, which is manually wound and very lovingly decorated with engravings, offers just the time. The dial is chiefly focused on presenting the two non-flying tourbillons, one of which doubles as the flip side. Fundamentally, the two 60-second tourbillons are mounted into a movement that itself makes a full rotation once every 12 hours. That means the dial itself is the hour hand, using a minute hand over it. The spinning tourbillon cages behave as small seconds indicators.
ABTW: It is unfortunate that that’s the state we’re at, with the Marie Antoinette being a historical curiosity more than anything at this point. If you could pick any one facet of what went in to creating the Marie Antoinette, and have it executed in a modern watch, what would it be?
John Biggs: The passion. The Marie Antoinette was a library of amazing features inside a timepiece that is literally breathtaking. It’s the perfect marriage of form and function and it showed Breguet’s true love for the craft.
ABTW: This book is fairly extensive, and covers one of the most intriguing modern horological mysteries. Is there some other watch-related topic you think you’ll dive into next?
John Biggs: I’m probably taking a break. If you’ve heard me on the podcast you’ll see that I’m kind of watched out. I love them a lot, but at this point, I need to expand a little. I’d like to write about humans a little more in my next non-fiction book.
ABTW: Last, but not least, let’s get your love of technology (and 3D printing) in the mix. Do you think the world of 3d printing will be able to approach the level of precision that would allow something like the Marie Antoinette to be produced, assuming the assembler had the requisite skills to put it together?
John Biggs: Oh man. That would be cool. I can imagine a time when we are able to generate objects using 3D printing and nanobots. I could imagine feeding in plans and having a watch appear a few hours later. It would be amazing.
You can read more about John’s new book in his own words and a chapter from it, as well as enter for a chance to win one of three signed books that he is giving away right here. johnbiggsbooks.com