3947 | white gold
Based on the venerable Lemania 2320 ébauche, this Breguet Split Seconds Chronograph 3947 combines a classic white gold case with a hand-finished guilloché dial. Though simple in appearance, split seconds chronographs can be particularly difficult to produce, with this being one of the few examples from modern times.
The Breguet Origin
Born in Neuchâtel, Abraham-Louis Breguet would go on to pioneer significant technical and aesthetic innovations during his career, with his influence carrying through to the present day. The watchmaker spearheaded a number of inventions, including the over-coil hairspring and the tourbillon, which he first invented in 1795 and patented in 1801. It is no coincidence that he remains the most cited reference point for accomplished watchmakers centuries later, from George Daniels to François-Paul Journe.
The brand bearing his name enjoyed success during the 18th and 19th century, producing pieces for distinguished European figures, from King Louis XVI to Queen Marie Antoinette. As it moved into the 20th century, the brand dramatically changed its focus, principally producing pilot’s chronographs for the military. Though they occasionally made more classical timepieces - such as one of only three retrograde perpetual calendars from the 20th century - their focus was decidedly more utilitarian than Abraham-Louis Breguet had initially intended.
The Rebirth of Breguet
In 1970, Jacques and Pierre Chaumet took over Breguet, in the hopes of reinvigorating the brand and renewing the connection between the Breguet name and high-end watchmaking. Shortly thereafter, the brothers closed the French factory and moved production to the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland, the epicentre of Swiss watchmaking.
In order to restore the brand to its former glory, Jacques and Pierre would need a Master Watchmaker to help. They approached Daniel Roth, who’d demonstrated his talent over seven years working at Audemars Piguet, which he’d joined as the only watchmaker who didn’t come from Le Brassus, the brand’s historic home. Inspired by the work of the famous watchmaker, Roth agreed to help resuscitate the manufacture, though only after going back to school to further study Breguet’s archives and techniques.
François Bodet, the director of the brand, and Roth worked together to define the Breguet aesthetic in wristwatch form, as well as introduce a range of new models and complications to their collection. The engine-turned dials, coin case and distinctive Breguet hands have become signature features of these pieces. From perpetual calendars to tourbillons, they embraced the high-end complicated watchmaking first personified by Abraham-Louis Breguet.
The Split Seconds
This Breguet ref. 3947 integrates an unusual and distinctive split seconds function. The sophisticated complication controls the two chronograph hands, one of which may be stopped to measure an intermediate or lap time, or to retain a reference time, while the other continues its course unaffected. When released, the spilt-seconds hand instantly catches up with the primary hand and the two stacked hands move together.
Breguet used the Lemania 2320 as their ébauche, which is perhaps the most respected manual-wind, column-wheel chronograph ébauche from the 20th century. It is believed that only two manufactures have attempted to build a split seconds version of this Lemania ébauche - Patek Philippe, with their reference 5004, and Breguet.
Though simple in appearance, split seconds chronographs can be particularly difficult to produce, hence why so few watchmakers have tackled the complication. One challenge is that the force needed to activate the various chronograph hands, and their jumping motion, can negatively affect the movement - this is known as rattrapante drag. To tackle this hurdle, Patek Philippe created a second mechanism known as an isolator, that sits on top of the split-seconds brake. Breguet adopted a similar approach, by also having an isolator mechanism, which they borrowed from the Frédéric Piguet 1185.
With most Breguet pieces from the period being housed in gold, this ref. 3947 stands out thanks to its distinctive white gold case. The case is typical of the Breguet style of wristwatches which Bodet and Roth helped cement. Classically sized at 38mm, it features straight lugs and a distinctive fluted middle section, reminiscent of a coin. The caseback displays the watch’s serial number, which matches the one displayed on the dial.
The design is that of a two-register chronograph, with contrasting textures and tones throughout. Made out of solid gold, the dial features a sharply executed Clous de Paris pattern in a silvery, grey colour. Meanwhile, the chronograph counters feature a contrasting guilloché pattern, surrounded by a brushed contour. The chapter ring is executed in a brushed silver, with Roman numerals printed in black. The subtle contrast in colour and finishing, as well as the layout on several levels, gives a satisfying depth to the design. Two pushers on the right hand side of the case, and one pusher on the left hand side, help activate the chronograph functions.
The dial is signed “BREGUET” at 12 o’clock and “RATTRAPANTE” at 6 o’clock, with the watch's number also displayed alongside the brand. The tradition of numbering watches on the dial appears to have been carried over from earlier wristwatches by Abraham-Louis Breguet. The Breguet hands, another visual inspiration from the watchmaker, are rendered in blue steel. As is typical of Breguet pieces from the period, the dial is also hand-finished.
A Venerable Ébauche
Assembled by hand in the brand’s Vallée du Joux workshop, this Breguet Chronograph ref. 3947 is powered by a finely-finished Lemania 2320 ébauche. At the time of production of this piece, Breguet actually owned the Nouvelle Lemania manufacture, which they’d purchased in 1991.
The movement features a 23 jewel, straight-line lever escapement, a monometallic balance adjusted to 5 positions, a self-compensating Breguet spring and swan-neck micrometer regulator. Aesthetically, the calibre is finished to a very high standard. It features exquisite chamfering on some angles, polishing and decoration, in the form of Geneva striping.
The watch comes with an outer box, wooden Breguet box and Breguet pouch. It is also accompanied by a black leather strap and white gold deployante buckle.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Breguet 3947 will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.
|Model:||Split Seconds Chronograph ref. 3947|
|Movement:||manual-winding calibre, based on Lemania 2320|
|Functions:||chronograph, hours, minutes, sub-seconds|
Clous de Paris dial, white gold case
|Crystal:||sapphire front and back|
|Strap:||Tokyo strap, Breguet alligator strap, white gold Breguet deployante buckle|
|Box & papers:||outer box, wooden Breguet box and Breguet pouch|
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