Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak was launched on the market a year before I arrived at Les Ambassadeurs – namely in 1972. It represented an almost complete break with the traditional style of mechanical watches. It was the first steel watch with a price that matched that of classic gold men’s wristwatches at the time. The truly revolutionary element was its steel case, which was a perfect combination of elegance and sportiness. Its octagonal bezel was inspired by the porthole of a British warship called the HMS Royal Oak. Eight gold screws secure the bezel to the case to form a single whole. It is not only decorative but also functional.
Abraham-Louis Breguet was undoubtedly one of the most amazing watchmakers of all time. In 1801, he invented the tourbillon, a device that made light of gravity. The heart of the watch rotated once a minute around its own axis, thus correcting what might call centre of gravity errors. In the 1980s, this principle developed for pocket watches was reintroduced for wristwatches and met with huge success. For historical reasons, the Breguet brand was thus predestined for the tourbillon. I often observe that this type of piece is passed on from father to son – a sure indication that tourbillon watches never lose their value.
The Emergency by Breitling “Breitling built its reputation on the Navitimer pilot’s watch. In 1995, the brand launched the Emergency, which deserves a special mention. When we began presenting this watch, a private pilot from Alaska came to the boutique and said: ‘That’s the watch I’m looking for!’ And he wasn’t the only one. One can legitimately consider that Breitling played a pioneering role by equipping the Emergency with a built-in emergency signal transmitter. In the event of an emergency, you need to deploy an antenna. In addition to pilots, cross-country skiers and sailing enthusiasts swear by this model.
Cartier was one of the earliest partner brands of Les Ambassadeurs. Cartier’s Tank was quite simply part of an excellent collection. Louis Cartier (1875 – 1942) introduced this model for the first time in 1919 after a long period of development. The jeweller and designer’s objective was to give a perfect aesthetic shape to the wristwatch which was just becoming fashionable. Cartier’s idea was to combine the technical side of things with a formal modern style to make an exceptional piece of jewellery. Its external characteristic was the rectangular shape that broke away from traditional round stereotypes. Its form was inspired by the silhouette of the tanks used for the first time in the First World War which had just ended. That is how the watch got its name. Another characteristic was the butterfly clasp hidden on the leather strap. This watch has often been fitted with a dial featuring radiating Roman numerals.
Vacheron Constantin appeals to aficionados by combining the highest standards with extremely small production volumes. It is all about the very soul of movements. Its timelessly elegant appearance radiates peerless understated elegance. Only a connoisseur will know what he is wearing on his arm. At a very early stage, Vacheron Constantin embraced the criteria laid down by the Poinçon de Genève (Hallmark of Geneva), an independent official label of quality establishing technical standards that must be met, notably with regard to the specific finish of ébauches (movement blanks). Assembly must be performed exclusively in Geneva. The Hallmark is an exclusive label that guarantees four invaluable properties in a watch: origin, extreme precision, longevity and horological expertise.
Polo players always came up against the same problem: the glass of their wristwatches was repeatedly scratched or broken after an intense match. Famous manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre developed the Reverso with its reversible case at the request of British officers deployed in India. The back of the watch was generally engraved with a coat-of-arms. This model was launched in 1931 and the Reverso is a true icon of the Art Deco movement, with the cult still very much alive. This watch is characterised by a space that may be completely personalised – and anything is possible, from engraving to precious stones. Most clients choose a monogram. Jaeger-LeCoultre also has the particularity of manufacturing the world’s smallest mechanical watch movement. It is used for specific models made by the brand.
When moon phase watches were fashionable 30 years ago, many brands made them. While not many have lasted, one of them is a Blancpain watch that has become a great classic: an authentic and enduring legend displaying the calendar, moon phases and leap years. Blancpain has opted to focus on just such precious details and reintroduced the traditional classic to the market, with a modern new look. Moreover, Blancpain produces watch movements that are amongst the thinnest and most complex in the world!
The launch of an exceptional Curvex design in the 1980s came at exactly the right time. Franck Muller’s watches became an overnight sensation. The best known amongst them are models with barrel or “tonneau” shaped cases giving them an aesthetically harmonious appearance. Franck Muller is distinguished by its precious dials. Like the dial, the glass is also convex. The perfect shape is sheer extravagance. We love showing off what we have.
Whenever one mentions Girard-Perregaux, many people immediately think of the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges. But my opinion is that one should also pay particular attention to the Cat’s Eye, one of the most beautiful ladies’ watches on the market. The case is oval and positioned horizontally, as implied by the name of the watch. This is the perfect watch for a slim wrist. It can be very restrained, covered in diamonds or equipped with complications that will undoubtedly fascinate the women who wear it.