One of the cornerstone marketing strategies of the luxury watch industry is its alignment with other aspirational pursuits. Brands across the industry approach this in a myriad of ways, connecting with motorsports, deep-sea diving, tennis, polo, golf, music, fashion, and far more in ways ranging from simple branding exercises to decades-long involvements at the fundamental level. While so many of these aspirational pursuits work to highlight the utility of timepieces in a variety of environments, relatively few celebrate the process of watchmaking itself as an art form. Even among those more artistically-focused brand connections, it’s rare to see the art make a meaningful connection with the brand and its story beyond a unique new limited edition. Breguet stands as an exception to this. Over the past year, its ongoing partnership with Frieze, the global series of modern art fairs, has allowed it to showcase the artistry of its own products alongside custom-made installations by Argentinian illustrator Pablo Bronstein that combine mechanical details from Breguet movements with ornate rococo motifs that tie directly into the Ancien Régime France that gave birth to the brand.
Our aBlogtoWatch team was able to tour Breguet’s installation during Frieze Los Angeles on February 18, 2023, and had the opportunity to explore the unique intersection between the brand’s own horological artistry and Pablo Bronstein’s fanciful graphic reinterpretations. While art galleries from around the globe showcased multimillion-dollar works of modern art to legions of enthusiasts and collectors across the rest of the show’s sprawling exhibit halls, the Breguet space offered guests an expansive, peaceful oasis to explore at their own pace. Breguet craftspeople were on hand to provide live demonstrations of both movement assembly and guillochage, while the walls of the exhibition space itself were papered with Bronstein’s artwork.
Overall, Bronstein’s custom Breguet-inspired piece, titled “Scenic Wallpaper with Important Machinery of the 18th Century: Gold Rust,” combines ornate, Versailles-inspired rococo architectural elements fused to antique watch assembly and finishing tools, along with movement elements taken from brand founder Abraham-Louis Breguet’s famous Souscription pocket watches of the 18th and 19th centuries such as the 1807 Souscription pocket watch pictured in this article. The end result is an opulent, dreamlike reflection of Breguet’s early working environment, with knowing, sometimes darkly humorous nods to the brand’s extensive history. Take, for example, the lavishly decorated and filigreed guillotine prominently displayed in the layout. Beyond simply evoking the French Revolution that helped to define Breguet’s early years, it’s a sly reference to one of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s highest-profile historic customers – the famously executed French queen Marie Antoinette. Furthermore, Bronstein’s art is continually evolving. Over the course of the 2022-2023 show season, this artwork appeared at Frieze New York, Frieze London, Frieze Seoul, and Frieze Los Angeles, with each event revealing a new iteration of the artistic concept.
While these fantastical, ornate artistic elements certainly pay homage to the early years of Breguet, the brand carefully maintains many of these visual hallmarks into the present day. This is especially true for models in the Tradition series (such as the pictured Tradition Chronographe Indépendant 7077), which maintains the symmetrical twin wheels at 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock that helped to visually define the Souscription family more than two centuries ago. Of course, in the modern Tradition Chronographe Indépendant 7077, these are a pair of balance wheels, with one to regulate normal timekeeping functions while the other is dedicated to the watch’s complex retrograde chronograph complication.
Although brands in the watch industry almost always aim to connect themselves with other aspirational lifestyle pursuits, few choose to follow the complex moving target that is modern art. Of this small group, perhaps no other brand connects the artistry behind its own products to the creativity of the fine art world as deeply, as thoughtfully, or as compellingly as Breguet. When Frieze New York 2023 debuts on May 17, 2023, the brand will unveil an all-new art series, but in the meantime, Pablo Bronstein’s work will remain an evocative tribute to the mechanical and historic core of Breguet. The Breguet Tradition Chronographe Indépendant 7077 featured in the article is available now through authorized dealers, with an MSRP of $83,000 USD as of press time. For more information on Breguet, please visit the brand’s website.