If one delves deep into records, the first wristwatch—an ‘oblong’ repeater, presented on a bracelet of hair entwined with gold thread was created by French watchmaker, Abraham Louis Breguet in 1812 for Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, who was also Napoleon’s younger sister. This was way ahead of time, as that was an era when wearing a ‘time-telling’ mechanism on the wrist was highly frowned upon. This also set the ball rolling for advancements in women’s wristwatches that went from bejewelled timepieces or ‘wristlets’ to more functional watches on leather bands, used for outdoor activities like hunting and equestrian sports. Breguet’s enigmatic Reine de Naples collection also draws inspiration from this first-ever wristwatch, and the signature oval shape of these timepieces— whether gem set or lacquered—makes them instantly recognisable.
The two new additions (9835 and 9838) are no exception and stand out for their inherent originality and powerful characteristics.
The highlight here is the flexible minutes hand, gracing the dial of these two new models, which makes for an intriguing display. This ingenious mechanism enables it to change shape according to its position on the oblong dial. Devised and patented by Breguet, the variable-length minutes hand is composed of two arms, linked at one end yet independent of each other. These arms change shape, thanks to a clever set of gears. This results in a playful time-telling display especially when the hand is stretched at 12 o’clock, while it turns more rounded at 6 o’clock. Enabling this optical game is an oval cam, reminiscent of the Reine de Naples’ characteristic curves, where, as time elapses, each arm operates at a different speed. The dimensions of the hand are constantly adapted in step with its path around the dial, thus perfectly following the shape of the watch.
Both watches are crafted in 18K white-gold cases, distinguished by dial and gem-setting variations. The 9835 model features a midnight blue mother-of-pearl dial, offering a mysterious elegance as the subtle hues vary when light plays over it. Its flange, bezel and lugs are set with 161 diamonds, the crown is topped by a briolette-cut diamond, while its folding clasp is adorned with 28 diamonds. Time is indicated by an aperture, right at the dial centre and the powdered silver-toned minutes numerals, featuring a font reminiscent of hand-drawn designs, are subtly offset. This version is available with an alligator leather strap matching the dial colour and is issued in a 20-piece limited edition.
The second iteration 9838 comes with a white lacquered dial and makes a striking contrast with its midnight blue alligator strap. Here, the white-gold case bezel, flange, and crown are set with blue sapphires. While time here is also indicated through an aperture, right at the centre; the offset Arabic numerals provide a strong play of proportions as they also seem to expand and contract alternately, following the path of the minutes hand.
They are driven by Breguet’s 78A0 self-winding movement, composed of 252 components with an oscillation frequency of 3.5 Hz. It is equipped with a balance spring as well as an in-line Swiss lever escapement—both made of silicon, a material endowed with multiple properties. In addition to being resistant to corrosion and wear, it is impervious to the influence of magnetic fields and enhances the precision of the timepiece. The gear trains of this complication, like all components of the calibre whether visible or invisible, are carefully hand finished, aligned with Breguet’s traditional craftsmanship. One can admire this mechanism on turning the watch over, as the sapphire caseback reveals the movement’s platinum oscillating weight as well as the Côtes de Genève motif and bevelling. Upon closer inspection, one can also see the gold rim engraved with the individual watch number, recorded in the Breguet archives that have been maintained since the end of the 18th century.