Breguet, IWC and more

Breguet Type XX: One of Breguet's greatest!

Breguet Type XX: One of Breguet's greatest!

"Thank you for replying to my question about Breguet last week. I know Breguet is now owned by the Swatch Group. Jaeger Lecoultre and IWC owned by Richmont Group. Is Richmont a better group to be owned by vs. Swatch Group. I know you mentioned Jaeger and IWC to consider over the Breguet. I have a Jaeger Master reserve de march, love it! pure class and I have a Reverso tribute to 1931 another beauty. I know Jaeger is all in house movements and the top companies including Patek used their blanks and movements. Vacheron uses them in the Overseas. You said IWC over Breguet?I know IWC uses alot of ETA movements in some models. You like IWC over Breguet? Or is this just certain models. I read Breuget is more highend. Also thoughts on Richmont vs. Swatch Group?

Thank you,
David"

Thank you again David for the support! I'll try to give you my thoughts to each of your points and see where that takes us.

First, I'm a huge fan of Jaeger LeCoultre. As a company, as a body of work, their history and contributions overall, they really do belong on that top podium. In my view, the only thing that gives a company like A. Lange & Sohne or Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin an edge is the level of finishing those companies reach at that $150k price point and up.

Jaeger LeCoultre on the other hand, while they finish wonderfully, at that $150k and up level, are more modest, more simple, not as WOW. But thats ok, because it is WOW compared to everyone else. Furthermore, by choosing to make many models in steel, they have many options under $20k, where ALS and PP, etc., don't have much if anything (due to the *lack* of steel options), meaning at under $20k JLC is untouchable.

This is no accident, and like the watches you own, you're getting a big-bang for your buck. In fact, Jaeger LeCoultre is apparently what many of the Patek Philippe watchmakers wear. They're getting the movement quality of a Patek, but in steel they are much more affordable. This is why JLC is often referred to as a watchmakers watch.

And yes, they are part of the Richmont group of brands, but not entirely. If I'm not mistaken, they retained part ownership and sold off half or something, and it was Audemars Piguet that invested heavily in JLC to begin the process.

But being a part of a big conglomerate like Richmont or Swatch isn't necessarily always bad. Many brands have thrived under these companies and just imagine what would have happened had they not all been bought out.

The problem is when they get too involved and don't leave companies to function in the way that made them great. Longines is a very good example (as previously mentioned). Once a top brand, now a mid-tier brand.

Second, even though I am kind of classifying brands, it's more broad than that, and I don't like to do that a lot. One runs the risk of over generalizing and losing focus. For example, Omega is not a brand at the overall level of a Breguet or IWC, etc. But the manual Speedmaster is arguably the greatest watch (relatively speaking at least), of all time. In fact, Breguet now owns Lemania, a former subsidiary of Omega, which helped develop the c.321, in my opinion the greatest manual chronograph ever (Longines' 13Z gives it a run for its money though). But, if I had to classify Breguet, I'd definitely say Breguet is a "top-10" type brand.

Of course, it isn't as across-the-board as it would have been say 60 years ago. Breguet has watches in their collection, which are simply not worth the price or lack interest. But, of course they also have watches, like their Tourbillons, that certainly are and do. It's that overall inconsistency that I'd say tarnishes their overall appeal. The same can be said for Blancpain in my opinion.

Third, when it comes to IWC, overall yes, they are currently ahead of Breguet, but that's mostly due to what IWC has been doing since about 2015. There was that period starting around 2003-2004 up until 2015, that really had me scratching my head. And it wasn't the quality of their movements, but the esthetics. They really were prostituting themselves every which way and forgot what made them great.

Compared to Breguet, I'd also say Breguet is overall, as a general impression more luxury, where IWC, yes can be luxury too (think Portugieser or Portofino), but is really about the machine. And I prefer that. Form follows function after all.

Speaking in the present, the movements coming out of IWC are all wow! Their latest column wheel chronograph is spectacular. They're demonstrating some serious chops. In fact, when looking at patents issued for movement innovations, IWC is right at the top.

So, don't let their more masculine or more utilitarian image fool you. They've always been a man's watch (they rarely made watches specifically for women), and they are a serious manufacture with serious pedigree.

Fourth, you mentioned the use of ETA by IWC. The problem with using ETA movements is that most companies that do/did, would often times take an off-the-shelf ETA, slap their logo on the rotor and call it a day, but then overcharge, thus, making them no where near worth the money.

Thats not what IWC does. I'll give 2 examples:

1. The Doppelchronograph - a doppel or rattrapante or split chronograph is one of the coolest complications around. It's a chrono but made cooler with the split functionality. But get ready to go over the $20k. That is, until IWC and Richard Habring (of Habring 2), developed the IWC Doppel.

In a nutshell, he took a Valjoux 7750 (Valjoux of course has been owned by ETA for a while), and kept the core components, and integrated his own Doppel component. Habring himself uses the analogy of a hamburger. He says he took the buns off, added some ingredients, then put the buns back on and voila!

But thats simplifying it for us lay people, because it really was quite innovative. So much so it earned IWC a 20 year patent! And when that expired, Richard Habring started Habring 2 with his wife and developed the Doppel 2.0 and the Doppel 3.0. Making the IWC Doppelchronograph, technically the Doppel 1.0.

Pretty damn cool and a great buy in the vintage market (I prefer the pre-2003 dials though).

2. The Scafusia - believe it or not, this $800k, constant force masterpiece of a watch, which took 10 years to develop is also based on a Valjoux 7750.

To list what this thing can do would take forever, but it's one of only 2 or 3 movements to solve constant force and one of the most complicated grand complication watches of all time (actually I think when released it was the most complicated to that point).

Its a marvel to say the least.

So, the point is not whether or not ETA movements are used, but how they are used. I'll take an IWC modified ETA over the majority of in-house movements. In other words, in-house doesn't guarantee excellence and using ETA doesn't automatically mean the opposite.

The last point about how ETA are used (and as it pertains to IWC at least), is cost effectiveness, and the business part of that.

Lets look at the IWC Ingenieur. As is common knowledge, Gerald Genta was hired to design the Royal Oak, which had the Jaeger LeCoultre c.920 (developed exclusively for AP), and saved Audemars Piguet from disaster. Patek followed suit and hired Genta as well. They launched the Nautilus and bought the JLC 920 from AP, which they used for 10 years. Vacheron Constantin followed that, buying the same movement but designed their 222 themselves in the same style.

IWC didn't need the JLC 920, they had their own collection of equally great thin movements, but they did hire Genta to redesign the Ingenieur in the same style as the Royal Oak. The Ingenieur also had additional anti-magnetism features the others didn't.

All four watches are legends and would make an amazing collection. But as time went on, and IWC continued to develop their 85x series of movements they got thicker and would no longer fit in the original Genta designed Ingenieur case.

As a result, they started using ETA based movements in this particular version from then on (the other versions of the Ingenieur today include many of their in-house movements since they are bigger and they fit). Given the ups and downs every company, including IWC would go through, it just didn't make sense to develop a brand new movement when the ETA movements made such good movements that provided such a good starting point to build upon.

The bonus is that this strategy positioned their Ingenieur in a really nice part of the market. In other words, do you buy a Royal Oak or Nautilus for about $25k? Or do you get the Ingenieur for around $6k?

in other words, IWC uses the ETA based Ingenieur to make it a total steal! If you want to spend $25k on an Ingenieur, that's when you get the in-house movements and gold etc.. But for the purist, the Genta Ingenieur is a really really attractive option.

image.jpg

So, if you're shopping, and if a Brequet is what really gives you joy, especially after you try on a Portofino or Portugieser, or maybe even another Jaeger, honestly you can't go wrong. Breguet definitely passes all test and I would say Breguet would be an excellent choice.