Amid the seemingly never-ending hype around vintage sports models from Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Audemars Piguet, the pendulum has begun to swing, ever so slightly, toward dress watches. Cartier has been the trend’s main beneficiary thus far, but there have been recent rumblings that Breguet, too, is getting ready for a rise.
The consensus among cognoscenti is that the Daniel Roth–era models are the ones to get your hands on. Roth, a highly regarded Swiss watchmaker, worked for the house from 1975 to 1988 and was largely responsible for its renaissance during the period. According to Vincent Brasesco, watches specialist at Sotheby’s New York, this stretch—when Roth was inspired by Breguet’s old pocket watches and transformed their aesthetic for 20th-century wrists—represented a turning point for the manufacture. He also cites the current resurrection of the Daniel Roth brand, now under LVMH, as a cause for renewed interest.
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But which watches, from that 13-year span, are the blue chips? Brasesco’s standouts are references 3330 (above) and 3350. “The 3330 is a brilliant adaptation of a 19th-century Abraham-Louis Breguet pocket watch with unique apertures for the day and date, a dial resplendent with handworked guilloche, and the whimsy of a moon phase at 12,” he says. Meanwhile, “the 3350 shows Roth’s ability to riff on the design language of Breguet and innovate with the dial-side exposed tourbillon, which was a true feat of engineering at the time of the model’s launch in the 1980s.” A pink-gold 3330 was listed at the Sotheby’s Fine Watches sale in September for an extremely reasonable estimate of $7,000 to $9,000; it sold for $20,320. Last year, a 35 mm pink-gold 3350 from 1995 sold at the Phillips New York Watch Auction: Six for $56,700, more than double its top estimate of $25,000.
“Typically, when there’s a resurgence of interest in a particular brand, the earliest pieces get the most attention,” says Joshua Ganjei, CEO of European Watch Company. Like Brasesco, he also favors the 3330 and 3350 as up-and-comers but adds that the perpetual-calendar reference 3050 and the chronograph reference 3237 have likewise “begun their early stages of collector interest and price increases.” The ultra-traditional 3237 has nearly tripled in price in the past five years. Christie’s sold a yellow-gold version at an online auction in November 2018 for $7,500, which was $2,500 under its top estimate; in April, European Watch Company sold the same reference, in the same case material, for $22,000.
While Breguet’s dress pieces are receiving the bulk of the attention at the moment, some collectors also have eyes on its vintage tool watches. David Chang, a Boston-based finance executive, says he gravitates toward midcentury military fare such as the Type 20 that Breguet created for the French Ministry of Defense in the 1950s. “I own one that was previously owned by a captain in the French Air Force,” he says. “It has an extremely simple dial, often called a sterile dial, commissioned by the French Air Force to maximize its legibility. It’s also engraved with dates that correspond to end-of-warranty periods. The last date on mine happens to be seven days before the day I was born, hence a very personal connection to the watch.”
Of course, because a rising tide lifts all boats, neo-vintage pieces are also hitting some collectors’ radars. Breguet has been owned by Swatch Group since 1999, and certain early models produced under the conglomerate are also starting to go up.
“I never consider watches as investments; however, I do find Breguet to offer excellent value today,” says Mike Nouveau, a vintage-watch specialist at Craft & Tailored. “I’ve watched the price on a Breguet Tradition go from just around $7,000 to nearly double that in less than a year. If anyone else is paying attention to this, then I imagine we’ll see a lot of speculation on the future of Breguet’s offerings.”
Brasesco also cites the Tradition collection as one to watch. Topping his list is the reference 7027, known for its small guilloche dial at 12 o’clock that shows off the model’s golden components. In March, Sotheby’s sold a yellow-gold version, circa 2006 and estimated at $7,000 to $9,000, for $10,625; five months later, Chrono24 and 1stDibs were listing the same model for about $15,000.
The long waiting lists, knife-fight politics, and astronomical secondary-market prices that are now par for the course for the most sought-after houses are also helping shift focus toward less-hyped names. “People have seen pricing for the other brands hit the roof and are looking for a more affordable entry to what they think might be the next big thing,” says Nouveau. As the creator of many design elements that have come to define a classic dress watch, Breguet seems like a natural choice.
“As collectors are looking for new places to go, it’s no surprise that there’s been an increased interest in Breguet,” says Ganjei—and it doesn’t hurt, of course, that “the manufacturer was started by Abraham-Louis Breguet, one of the most important masterminds in the history of horology.”
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