PERRELET

Perrelet, in the tradition of its founder Abraham-Louis, the inventor of the automatic movement, places the movement at the heart of its priorities. As worthy heir of the invention, which today pulsates in all automatic watches, the Perrelet brand draws its dynamism and creativity from its legitimate patrimony and gives birth to timekeepers inspired by modernity and a resolutely future-orientated originality. The Perrelet brand reflects a timeless atmosphere that is inherent to traditional luxury watchmaking, as characterised by the key qualities of authenticity, reliability and quality.

Abraham-Louis Perrelet

Abraham-Louis Perrelet was born on the 9 January 1729 in Le Locle, during one of those long winters that numb the Neuchâtel Mountains. The fairies, mischievous companions of these wild regions, were generous when they bent over the child’s cradle: they offered him intelligence, clear-sightedness, imagination and know-how. With these exceptional gifts and his passion combined, Abraham-Louis Perrelet would inscribe his name in golden letters in the annals of watchmaking and in those of craftsmen of genius.

His father, Daniel Perrelet, was a farmer and a carpenter. During the interminable winter months he made tools, some of which were extremely fine and designed for watchmakers’ use. From his adolescence onwards,it was only natural for Abraham-Louis to follow in his father’s footsteps and work in the field of toolmaking. His path in life seemed clearly mapped out: he wanted to become a watchmaker. From that moment on, he found his vocation, in which he would more than excel and accomplish as much on a professional as on a human level. He innovated and perfected a range of new combinations to improve the way timepieces ran. He thus became the first person in Le Locle to produce cylinder escapements, duplex escapements, perpetual calendar escapements and equation of time escapements. He created the draft model, gave it the finishing touches, pinions, wheels, escapement and winding mechanism.

In spite of his young age, he had already built himself a solid reputation and his expert opinion was much sought after. He was also one of the most popular master watchmakers of his time. Abraham-Louis Breguet was trained in his workshops, as was his own grandson, Louis-Frédéric Perrelet, who went on to become official watchmaker to the Kings of France. He readily answered every one of the questions his colleagues asked him when they were faced with all sorts of difficulties, and at a single glance he was able to spot all the flaws which spoilt his competitors’ work. He spent his entire life at his family home, and remained very attached to his town and his origins. He passed away at Le Locle in 1826 after working for almost 80 years on perfecting his art, the art of watchmaking.

In the world of watchmaking, there are those who invent and create and those who, with skill and patience, perfect the designs of others. In this world you will rub shoulders with excellent craftsmen, who are often greatly admired. Praiseworthy representatives of contemporary watch-making. This world also includes men whose genius at a given moment revolutionised the way things were done: these are the discoverers, and Abraham-Louis Perrelet was one of them. There are innumerable accounts testifying to this fabulous discovery of inventing the automatic watch by Abraham-Louis Perrelet.

Thus, in 1777, Professor Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, one of the founders of the Société des Arts de Genève (Geneva Arts Society), embarked on a journey through the Neuchâtel region to make some useful investigations by visiting the watchmaking manufacturers and craftsmen. He informed the committee that a certain Mr Perrelet, a watchmaker from Le Locle, had made a special watch constructed in such a manner that it wound itself automatically in a person’s pocket just by the movement he made while walking, and that it ran for eight days.

In his personal notes, de Saussure noted: «…from there we went to Mr Perrelet, the inventor of the watch which self-winds just through the movement of the person carrying it … He had to make the first model again because he hadn’t installed a stop mechanism and, on one occasion, when the selfwinding mechanism was shaken too much by a man running to the post office, it broke the watch. Mr Perrelet has now integrated an efficient stop mechanism. He had a lot of trouble finding out how to make it, but it works».

As for Frédéric-Samuel Osterwald, whom you may recall contributed to the editing of the Encyclopaedia of Diderot and d’Alembert, he asked Jacques-Louis Perrot for news about the watchmaking industry in the Neuchâtel Mountains. The latter replied as follows: «The perpetual motion watches which were invented two or three years ago in our mountains have aroused considerable curiosity and have done more than merely bring fame to these parts; these are bigger watches than usual and they are self-winding: all the wearer has to do is to walk around the room several times during the day, 8 minutes’ walk is enough to wind them up for 24 hours…».

At the Court of Versailles, the Abbot of Versailles and Paris, Joseph-Grellet Desprades, expressed a marked interest in this invention, regarding which he had written seventeen letters to Mr Osterwald. Over the past 100 years, numerous historians have studied the rich heritage of Swiss watchmaking and extolled its origins. They have contributed as much to specialist publications as they have to prestigious brands in researching their past and have paid tribute to Abraham-Louis Perrelet, recognising him as the inventor of automatic watches.

The Perrelet family constitutes a true dynasty in watchmaking. The descendants of Abraham-Louis Perrelet, known as «the elder», took up the torch, although they did not have his talent, with the exception of his grandson, Louis-Frédéric (1781-1854), whose name also went down in the history of watchmaking inventions. When he was born on 14 May 1781, Louis-Frédéric Perrelet inherited the ‘watchmaking genius’ of his grandfather, Abraham- Louis Perrelet. They resembled each other and were hungry to discover. Abraham-Louis detected at a very early stage this predisposition of Louis Frédéric for mechanics and mathematics. Having been trained by his grandfather, Louis-Frédéric headed for the French capital. At that time, the value of a period abroad to accomplish a vocation was inestimable.

At the age of 21, Louis-Frédéric joined Abraham-Louis Breguet, in whose workshops he perfected the training he had received from his grandfather. He was given the task of training watchmakers, however his growing interest in areas related to astronomy, physics and mathematics, led him to conceive so-called “scholarly” clocks. It wasn’t long before he proved himself as an independent watchmaker, thanks to an astronomic clock conceived in 1815 and presented at the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1823.

It was during this period that Louis-Frédéric Perrelet founded his own atelier in partnership with his son Louis. At that time he was at the height of his career and perfectly integrated in the very closed circle of talented watchmakers. His reputation as a man of science extended to all the courts of Europe. He became watchmaker-mechanic to 3 kings of France – Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis-Philippe.

In 1827, on the occasion of the Exhibition of Products from French Industry, he presented his exceptional counter of physics and astronomy with a fly-back hand. This article, for which he was officially awarded a patent in March 1828, earned him the Medal of the Academy of Sciences in 1830.

As honorific proof of his Europe-wide reputation, Louis- Frédéric Perrelet, esteemed for his talent and his perseverance and besides the many gold medals he received, was elevated to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1834.This chronograph counter with fly-back hand is currently on display at the Patek Phillipe Museum in Geneva. Preserved under the best conditions, it will remain one of the most beautiful watchmaking pieces of the period and magnificent evidence of a period of industrial creativity, which was incredibly productive.

On Louis-Frédéric’s death in 1854 his son Louis, who was also a watchmaker to the king, took over his father’s business and carried on with the family tradition. It is thus thanks to the descendants, many of whom were watchmakers themselves, that the tradition of Abraham- Louis Perrelet, known as «the elder», has lived on to the twenty-first century. Today, the brand Perrelet considers as one of its most important missions to interpret the rich heritage of its founder in a true and modern way.

Time line

  • 1777: The automatic watch movement with a central oscillating weight (“central rotor”) was invented by Abraham-Louis Perrelet.
  • 1780: Development of the pedometer.
  • 1827: Louis Frédéric Perrelet, Watchmaker to the King of France, submitted the patent for his split-second precision stop watch.
  • 1827,1828 & 1834: Three gold medals at chronometry contests.
  • 1834: Louis-Frédéric Perrelet was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honour as a reward for his talent and perseverance.
  • 1995: Perrelet launched Double Rotor movement,which reveals one rotor on the dial side, and is linked and perfectly synchronised with a second, housed beneath the mechanism.
  • 2005: Presentation of Retrograde second with double parallel rotor” limited edition, developed and manufactured in association with Paul Gerber.
  • 2006: Introduction of Grand Central Moonphase Ladies watch Collection.
  • 2007: Introduced Titanium Collection
  • 2008: Award winning Diamond Flower Collection marks the launch of a new category of ladies’ watches: ‘Joaillerie Horlogère’. Perrelet joins the prestigious circle of the 24 partner brands comprising the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie.

All Perrelet watches are fitted with automatic movements. The brand makes no exception to this rule. In most cases, Perrelet movements are individually fitted with the exclusive “tapestry decoration” and equipped with an exclusive rotor which is protected worldwide. An important part of this rotor is glass-covered, showing off the movement’s meticulous finish to its full advantage. The complications introduced by the collection are both highly functional and extremely easy to read. Some of these are manufactured exclusively by Perrelet, and are internationally unique.

All Watch cases are manufactured in true materials such as platinum, gold, palladium, steel and titanium. All cases are set with the highest quality diamonds, and all models are fitted with non-reflecting sapphire glasses.

Official website: www.perrelet.com

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