With its Reine de Naples series, Breguet has created an immediately recognizable collection of women's watches, based on its historical precedent built for Queen Caroline Murat of Naples 200 years ago. The series shows great sensitivity to different aspects of watches for a female audience, with pure beauty in the form of diamonds and other precious materials, and watchmaking refinement with features such as phases of the moon, power reserve and minute repeater. All the designs are hallmarked by the elliptical, egg-shaped case, the eccentric dial position, and the unusual treatment of strap attachment lug and crown.
For example, the model shown above is reference 8908BB/5T/J70 D0DD, in white 18-carat white gold, with a fluted caseband, and a white gold thread bracelet. The dial has a power reserve indicator at the top, and small seconds at 7 o'clock. The dial itself is in engine-turned silvered gold and black Tahiti mother-of-pearl. The self-winding Calibre 537 DRL1.40 movement provides 40 hours of power reserve, and it can be observed through the sapphire caseback.
The Cammea watch (below) in white gold is more decorative, with a dial hand-carved from a seashell into a sunflower pattern. Each piece is unique. The bezel is set with 40 diamonds, with a briolette diamond set into the crown. The automatic movement provides 40 hours power reserve. The artistry of the sculpture is accompanied by refined horology, visible through the sapphire caseback.
The reference 8967ST/58/986 (below) is a contemporary version of a classic design, with fluting on the case sides, and a white mother-of-pearl dial bearing the hand-written Brequet signature and number. The stylish dial design features two giant numerals, and original blued steel hands. The self-winding movement has a gold oscillating weight.
This reference (below), 8939BB/6D/864 DD0D, is ideal for the most important society events, in white gold set with 91 baguette diamonds, with indices in natural mother-of-pearl. A single pear-cut diamond is set at 6 o'clock.
Likewise, this essay in intertwined gold, 8928BA/51/J20 DD00, is a glittering piece of haute joaillerie, with 139 diamonds on bezel, the rim of the dial and the ball-lug holding the strap. The Roman numerals beautifully expand the circular eccentrically-positioned dial to fill the entire area available. The natural mother-of-pearl dial provides a translucent effect of depth. The oscillating weight of the self-winding movement is in 950 platinum, visible through the sapphire caseback.
Shades of Dalí in this piece, 8918BR/58/864 D00D, in which the numerals swerve sensually around the dial, starting from the pear-cut diamond at 6 o'clock. A testimony to the value and tradition of Breguet is the fact that this piece incorporates "Breguet" numerals and "Breguet" hands - instantly recognizable visual motifs that are part of watchmaking history.
The Reine de Naples Reference 8908BB/V2/864 D00D is haute horlogerie for women, a beautiful composition in which content on the dial – time, small seconds, power reserves, phases of the moon – is artfully contrasted with empty space in the form of blue natural mother-of-pearl. The bezel is set with 128 diamonds, but it is the horological brilliance that takes centre-stage.
And then, a Grande Complication. Reference 8978BB/58/974 D00D is deceptively simple as regards the appearance of the dial, with blued steel Breguet hands on a white mother-of-pearl base, framed by a bezel set with about 3 carats of 30 diamonds. The piece incorporates an hour repeater complication, in which the watch strikes the hours on the hour, with two strikes repeated three times. The function can be activated and deactivated by means of the push-piece at 2 o'clock, and its status is shown by a diamond in a small circular window at 12 o'clock. Two elegantly-shaped windows enable the striking mechanism to be seen. The watch becomes an audio-visual performance.
Reference 8909BB/VD/J29 DDD0 is a tribute to decoration, with bezel and caseband paved with 86 baguettes, and a bracelet set with 650 diamonds and 11 sapphire cabochons. An amazing jewellery tour-de-force, matched by the perfection of the dial in blue mother-of-pearl with hours and minutes on a circular dial at the base, and phases of the moon and power reserve at the top.
References 8908BB/5T/J70 D0DD (below) and 8928BB/51/J60 DD0D (the last image) show just how much the character of a watch can be changed by design. In the first, the bracelet in white gold thread provides a slightly Mediaeval appearance, while in the second, the combination of bluish mother-of-pearl and the Charleston bracelet in white gold creates a feel that is in part gloriously 1920s, and in part unashamedly Rastafarian.
All in all, a series of contemporary masterpieces. The only problem is deciding which.