By Breguet Blog
June 25th, 2021
Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vex’d and tir’d,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinn’d with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody—
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth, and brood
Until ye start, as if the sea-nymphs quir’d!
—John Keats, Sonnet on the Sea (1817)
IN 1814 ABRAHAM-LOUIS BREGUET was appointed to the Bureau des Longitudes and on 27th October 1815, King Louis XVIII of France made him Chronometer-Maker to the French Royal Navy. Although the King was in and out of exile on account of Napoleon, he had previously conferred upon Breguet the title of Horloger de la Marine. In 1816 Breguet was elected to the Académie Royale des Sciences and in 1819 received the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur from the hands of The King.
Breguet did not invent the marine chronometer, it is an honour rightly accorded to famed English clockmaker John Harrison (1693-1776), whose life’s work culminated in solving the problem of calculating longitude at sea.1
As the sea is acknowledged as the engine of globalisation and trade it is only fitting that Breguet made marine chronometers to aid the explorers of his day. Breguet began producing chronometers on a regular basis and used a variety of different escapements introducing improvements such as his notable twin-barrel chronometer which he designed ca. 1815. Breguet went on to create a good number of one-day, two-day and eight-day marine chronometers, three examples of which bear the signature that inspired the Marine Royale alarm wristwatch ref. 5847. These were no. 3118, 3rd series – a two-day marine chronometer, sold in 1822 and signed Breguet et Fils, Horologers de la Marine Royale; no. 3151, 3rd series – a two-day marine chronometer, sold in 1824, signed Breguet et Fils, Horologers de la Marine Royale; no. 3196 – a twin-barrel marine chronometer, sold on 14th January 1822 to the French Minister for the Navy for the sum of 2,400 francs, signed Breguet et Fils, Horologers de la Marine Royale.
Breguet’s son and grandson, Antoine-Louis (1776-1858) and Louis Clément François (1804-1883), both continued the tradition of supplying the navy and merchant navy with marine chronometers.
Of course, marine chronometers usually come in wooden boxes, the finest of which are high-grade mahogany boxes with brass fittings. The reason for the box is because marine chronometers are essentially meant as a ‘deck watch’ on-board ship; hardly suitable as pocket watches and certainly not destined for wrist use! The box also allowed the marine chronometer to be easily transported, stored and protected at the same time.
After the advent of the wristwatch, Breguet as a company continued to honour the contributions to marine horology by its founder, A.-L. Breguet. In 1990 the company introduced the ‘Marine’ line to its jewellery wristwatches, waterproof to a depth of fifty metres. In 2005, a new generation of sportier Marine watches was launched. The self-winding wristwatches were offered in a range for the gentleman and for the lady. Their development was influenced by the legendary Daniel Roth, whose long tenure as lead designer at Breguet from 1973-87 left an indelible mark on the Maison. The continuation of the Marine line is testament to Roth’s impact on the manufacture to this day.
In 2010, Breguet introduced the impressive Marine Royale Alarm ref. 5847, deep dive watch, to celebrate fine horology on the high seas. The Marine Royale has an alarm, date, alarm signal power-reserve indicator, automatic rewinding movement as well as separate power reserve for the alarm and is water-resistant to 30 bar (300m). The watch was released in eight models in the core range together with a Boutique Edition Chocolate Dial version of the watch.
The Marine Royale is a large watch that exudes executive presence among dive watches. This diver’s watch comes with an alarm mechanism that resonates above and below the waves. To ensure its status as a dive watch the Marine Royale sports an enormous water resistance of 300m. To put this into perspective, most timepieces at the level of haute horlogerie are humidity and dust protected only (not water resistant). The first level of water resistance is normally around 3 bar (30m), putting the Marine Royale in a league of its own as a truly functional high horology underwater watch.
The watch itself exhibits many details that completely set it apart from dive watches and submariners in general. Both the case and dial are harmoniously aligned with the aesthetic of the Marine line making the watch recognisable as a Breguet from afar. The applied Roman numerals are available in blued steel, rose or white gold, flanked by diamond-shaped hour indexes with LumiNova that double as five-minute markers. The alarm indicator at twelve o’clock and alarm power reserve at ten o’clock have blue LumiNova whereas the Breguet hour and minute hands have white LumiNova. The hour hand’s apple, or crescent moon, remains hollow for purely practical reasons as this hand crosses over the aperture of the alarm on/off indicator once every 12 hours. As a result, the hour hand is only lumed at the tip while the minute hand has its hollow fully lumed. In order to dispel any doubt, the dial is fully lumed in blue for usability and legibility at night. A large, sweeping, needle-style seconds hand and a date window complete the dial at six o’clock.
Two different guilloché décors are engraved on the rose-gilded gold or rhodium black dial of the Marine Royale. Hand-engraved on a rose engine: a repeating sunburst motif adorns the chapter ring, beautifully accentuated by applied diamond-shaped hour markers; for the main dial, a sunburst motif mirrors the twenty-minute ascension index on the dive bezel delineating the time in five-minute increments with a flammé décor from four o’clock till twelve o’clock. The outer perimeter of the guilloché is decorated with blue dots for every half hour and smaller blue dots for quarter hours (both in blue LumiNova). Beneath the applied Roman numerals, the dial exhibits a brushed, satin finish customary to many of Breguet’s watches.
Few dive watches are as finely finished as this one. The fluting on the case band, also known as coin-edging, is a hallmark of Breguet and has long been inspired by the Empire style as found on many classic pocket watches especially those made by Abraham-Louis Breguet.2 Breguet’s stylish lugs are also unique to the Marine collection and are welded onto the case band for added strength and aesthetic consistency. Screw-pins are used for extra security to hold the rubber strap or metal bracelet between the horns. All of the watches in this line are finished with a high mirror polish that befits Breguet’s skill and stature.
The bezel is one of the many highlights of this watch and sports a fit, finish and quality that are unmatched. Breguet has fitted this watch with an 18-carat rose or white gold unidirectional bezel with a fine satin/brushed finish and polished bevelled edge that matches the watch’s domed sapphire crystal. The bezel also has polished notched markings and Arabic numerals. Most dive watches display a 15-minute index on the bezel for the diver’s ascent but the Marine Royale uses a more traditional 20-minute index that is left blank save for 5-minute intervals.3 From the 20-minute mark the bezel exhibits notched markings for every minute and Arabic numerals with 5-minute intervals from 25 to 55 minutes. A beautiful LumiNova triangle or ‘pip’ as it is sometimes known, when represented by a dot at twelve o’clock, is set in precious metal to match the case and screwed separately into the side of the bezel. The bezel turns with 60 clicks and has the most tactile, satisfying feel, giving an audible rapport that is far superior to the competition. Additionally, the bezel is fitted with a ratchet lock that prevents accidental bidirectional deployment, represented by a wave-like motif between the screw-down crowns at two and four o’clock, respectively.
The watch is powered by calibre 519 R adjusted to five positions and visible through a sapphire case back. This movement is based on Blancpain’s calibre 1240H and winds both the mainspring as well as the alarm; however, the alarm power reserve can be exhausted fully without draining power from the watch. The movement beats at 28,800 vph (4 Hz) and when fully wound the watch has a power reserve of approximately 45 hours.
The movement is finished to a high standard: polished bevels adorn the bridges and mirror-polished screws enhance the play of light when viewed through the open case back. The circular graining or perlage is visible on the base plate and the bridges are finished with Geneva stripes or côtes de Genève. The movement exhibits tremendous depth and elegance with the alarm striker or hammer physically massive but light afoot. The Marine Royale movements are presented with a beautiful rotor in 18-carat rose or white gold that bears the name of the manufacture and is finished with a sumptuous guilloché swirl evocative of the high seas.
To set the watch, begin by ensuring the watch is fully wound. Gently unscrew the crown at two o’clock (crown I, see Fig. 1) until it reaches position 2 from which you can wind both the watch and alarm. It will take about 57 turns to wind the watch from complete exhaustion but less if rewinding the alarm power reserve. When the watch is worn the movement will automatically rewind the watch and alarm function. If the watch is not worn it will stop after about 45 hours.
The next step is to pull crown I until it reaches position 4, which is the time-setting function. Turn the crown clockwise to set the required time. While setting the time, the central seconds hand stops moving as the watch has a ‘stop-seconds’ function. If you change the time by more than 12 hours, look for the advance of the date indicator at six o’clock to set the time as either AM or PM.
To set the date, pull crown I until it reaches position 3 for the rapid date correction. Turn the crown clockwise until the correct date appears in the window. Note: Never attempt to adjust the day or date on an annual calendar between the hours of 9pm – 3am as this is when the gears of the date jumper are engaged and damage can result. It is prudent to get into the habit of adjusting annual calendars only between the hours of 4pm – 8pm.
To set the alarm, gently unscrew the rubber-coated crown at four o’clock (crown II, see Fig. 1) until it reaches position 7 for the alarm-setting function. Turn the crown anti-clockwise until the short arrow-head hand with blue coloured LumiNova reaches the desired time on the blue-coloured minute/hour dot chapter ring at the centre of the dial. Note: changing the alarm time is always done by turning the hand backwards. The alarm is approximate to the nearest five minutes so setting the alarm time may lead to an actual result within a few minutes of your desired time.
Once the alarm has been set the user has a choice between activating and de-activating the alarm. To do this, push the wave-shaped rubber-coated button at eight o’clock (button III, see Fig. 1) and look for the appearance of the musical note symbol » ♪ « in the small circular aperture located underneath the name of the manufacture at twelve o’clock, the on/off indicator. If the note symbol is visible the alarm is activated and if the note is not visible the alarm is de-activated (silent). When the alarm is activated, it will ring at the time indicated by the alarm hand. The alarm will ring until the alarm power reserve is exhausted or until it is stopped manually by pushing button III. It should also be noted that the alarm rings every 12 hours if it is not de-activated. It is further recommended to de-activate the alarm whenever it is not needed to avoid accidental alarms. The alarm will also not ring if crown I is in position 3 or 4.
How does the alarm sound? The tone is excellent on the wrist or when held to one’s ear. The sound is further amplified when the watch is placed on a hard surface that resonates more and it is much louder under water. Having said that it is important to remember to always screw down both crowns I and II, even if the watch is not worn under water.
Although the watch does come on a rose or white gold bracelet if the prospective owner desires it, the Marine Royale is most at home on a rubber strap. The watch has been given some spectacular finishing touches by the manufacture that blend seamlessly with the case: on the tapered rubber strap the name of the manufacture is discreetly displayed between the lugs (only on the rubber strap) and the facing side is handsomely decorated with pyramidal triangles called clous de Paris; the underside of the strap is decorated with a wave pattern to help ventilate the wrist and the name of the watch – Marine Royale – displayed in a vibrant ocean blue; the strap comes fitted with a lavish double-folding clasp and an easy adjustment pin buckle, together with two gold fasteners shaped as waves, all in 18-carat rose or white gold, depending on the model.
All in all, this watch is a lavish tribute to marine horology, a field in which Breguet has great historical heritage. Although the watch is undoubtedly large it is absolutely smooth on the wrist, especially when worn on a rubber strap. The comfort level is extremely high. There is no doubt that the Marine Royale excels as a high horology diver, for it is imbued with class from all angles. The immaculate finishing, case band fluting, superior case design, Breguet hands, applied Roman numerals, alarm and phenomenal water resistance, merge into a ‘magnum opus’ of dive watches. These watches are expensive and rich in attention to detail. They are also a pleasure to wear and extremely beautiful to look at.
The Breguet Marine Royale has since been discontinued. The watch featured in this article was previously available from The Watch Club: https://www.watchclub.com/breguet/marine-royale/box-and-certificate-ref-5847brz252v-year-2011.
Marine Royale alarm wristwatch in 18-carat rose or white gold. Self-winding movement with date. Alarm power-reserve indicator. Self-winding alarm with on/off indicator. Rose-gilded gold dial, hand-engraved on a rose engine. Sapphire case back. Screw-locked crown. Water-resistant to 30 bar (300m). Diameter: 45mm. Available on a rubber strap or with rose or white gold bracelet.
Power reserve: 45 hrs
Calibre: 519 R
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Balance-wheel: Regulating screws
Escapement: Swiss straight-line lever
Oscillating weight: 18-carats
Metal: Rose gold
Sapphire case back: Yes
Case shape: Round
Case thickness: 17.45mm
Water-resistant: 30 bar (300m)
Price (illustrated for two models)
5847BB/12/5ZV (White gold with white gold guilloche dial)
£ 41,100.00 *
* Recommended retail price (incl. VAT)
5847BR/32/5ZV (Rose gold with rose guilloche dial)
£ 40,200.00 *
* Recommended retail price (incl. VAT)
We would like to thank The Watch Club for permission to use their excellent photographs.
1 Harrison’s chronometers were rediscovered after World War I at the Royal Greenwich Observatory by retired naval officer Lieutenant Commander Rupert T. Gould. Gould rescued the timepieces from further decay and documented them, giving them their affectionate monikers of H1, H2, H3, H4 and H5. Today, the chronometers H1-4 can be viewed in person or online at the Royal Observatory, London: https://www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory. H5 is owned by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of London and on loan to The Clockmaker’s Museum at the Science Museum, London: https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.
2 See the entry for case band fluting in the glossary for a more detailed explanation: https://breguetblog.com/a-f/.
3 Many divers use the 60-minute subtraction formula: 60 – Dive profile bottom time = Bezel time. To do this, make sure the pip, which is the ascent indicator, is located at twelve o’clock. Turn the bezel anti-clockwise until the pip lines up with the minute hand. Then turn the bezel anti-clockwise again so that the dive time now aligns with the minute hand. For example, if the dive time is 15 minutes, turn the bezel and align the pip with the minute hand; then turn the bezel once more to align the bezel with the minute hand at the 45-minute mark. The minute hand will then count up 15 minutes and once the minute hand aligns with the pip at twelve o’clock, that indicates it is time to ascend. The 15 or 20-minute index on the dive bezel thus serves as a clear indicator for the ascent. Most dive watches are equipped with 15-minute indexes.
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