On June 26th, 1801, a patent was registered for the tourbillon by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the founder of the House of Breguet. Noticing that gravity affected the regularity of watch movements—especially because timepieces of that era hung vertically on the body—he devised a mechanism to counteract these discrepancies. His solution: place the escapement inside a rotating carriage, turning once every minute. The rotation negated the positional errors due to gravity, ensuring consistent timekeeping. This was further enhanced by the perpetual movement of the balance pivots within their jewelled bearings, promoting optimal lubrication.
Fast forward 220 years, and the tourbillon remains an emblem of exceptional horological craftsmanship. It holds such significance that Breguet incorporated it into its esteemed Marine collection. Encased within a 42.5 mm diameter is the self-winding Calibre 581. With a slim profile of just 3 mm, this movement contains 330 distinct components. Its slender design is a result of a peripheral rotor.
With a balance frequency of 4 Hertz, it boasts a power reserve spanning 80 hours. The modern iteration is crafted with a titanium carriage and a silicon balance-spring, ensuring resistance to wear, corrosion, and magnetic fields. Upon inspection through its sapphire case-back, viewers observe a compass rose on the barrel drum and distinct Marine line motifs like the straight ribbed design.
For the 5577 model, the dial adopts a sunburst pattern. The rose gold version uses slate-grey, while the platinum model showcases navy blue. At 5 o’clock, the rotating tourbillon cage completes its cycle every 60 seconds. The off-centred chapter ring focuses attention on the tourbillon, with luminescent hour-markers and open-tipped gold Breguet hands ensuring visibility.
In 1814, Breguet’s expertise in watchmaking led to his association with the French Navy. He joined the Bureau des Longitudes, an institution dedicated to the complex task of using astronomy for sea-based longitude determination. The following year, King Louis XVIII granted Breguet the title of Chronometer-maker to the Royal Navy. This recognition ensured that prominent explorers embarked on their voyages with Breguet’s precise timekeeping instruments. The recent timepiece release embodies Breguet’s dual legacies—in maritime navigation and in the realm of astronomy.