Robb Interview: Lionel a Marca, Breguet CEO

We sat down with CEO Lionel a Marca to discuss the new Type XX, and explore a manufacture that happily stands apart after nearly 250 years.

By Richard Clune 29/06/2023

Robb Report: History and heritage are key elements when speaking about Breguet’s longstanding excellence. Is it difficult to align such iconic brand components with a forward-looking, future-oriented strategy?

Lionel a Marca: This is a relevant and complex question. I think our great assets are our history and our expertise. The question we ask ourselves every time we start a new project is, ‘What would Abraham-Louis Breguet do today?’ Our mission is to perpetuate the history of this beautiful house while integrating the ‘innovation’ factor that is necessary to ensuring our founder’s heritage endures. Take for example our new perpetual calendar, Reference 7327: we wanted to create a dial design similar to those created by our founder and hence featuring the brand’s aesthetic codes, such as Breguet hands, an offset dial and extremely fine guilloché work. This watch is a perfect example of how we could easily have opted to take short cuts: we might have chosen a less-refined guilloché motif, which would save a lot of work time for the artisans and hence increase productivity. On the contrary, we went for a complex and extremely fine guilloché reflecting Breguet’s vision of excellence. We prefer to produce fewer timepieces, but be 100 percent proud of each one.

(r) Lionel a Marca, CEO of Breguet

Another term often used to talk about Breguet is savoir-faire. How do you personally define this term in relation to the brand?

Breguet’s expertise, in addition to that of our watchmakers, is linked to our artistic crafts. When Nicolas G. Hayek acquired the brand in 1999, he wanted to perpetuate what had been the essence of the brand since its creation. The guilloché, engraving and bevelling professions were no longer in fashion. He wished to invest in order to continue cultivating these skills that were verging on extinction. Today we continue writing this history and providing in-house training, for artisans who passionately handcraft each component. Nicolas G. Hayek was a visionary, because for us the term expertise not only refers to the professions relating to the finishing and assembly of our timepieces, but also the capacity for invention characterising our founder. For this reason, Nicolas G. Hayek also invested in the purchase of high-tech tools and in the R&D department. We strive daily to keep this expertise alive.

What are some of your key plans for the brand in 2023 and 2024?

As far as upcoming projects are concerned, I prefer to let you discover them as they are released—otherwise the surprise element would be missing… When it comes to what I’m especially excited about, I have to mention my core training, as I am basically a watchmaker. I have always enjoyed handling movements, understanding mechanisms, and drawing inspiration from the timepieces made by the brand over our almost 250-year history. I would thus say that what drives me most is product development: thinking about what’s next, working as a team to find ideas and solutions. I am lucky enough to know this job and therefore to understand the needs of a brand such as Breguet.

Breguet Type XX and Type 20

It’s here we need to discuss the return of the iconic Type XX. Why release it now, this piece that really has a robust and daily-wear spirit about it?

Whether we are talking about a watch or a collection, we release products once we are 100 percent satisfied with them. The movement of the new Type XX was entirely developed in our manufacture. It involved more than four years of work and the filing of several patents. We launched these timepieces simply because we were ready to do so. Moreover, a reinterpretation of this iconic collection had been eagerly awaited for several years and we are happy with the work done by the teams as well as with the highly positive feedback from our customers. Robustness is certainly what guided us in the development of this new calibre—and as for the “all-purpose” spirit of this model, I’ll let you judge for yourself.

For anyone who is not yet aware of its background, what does the Type XX represent for Breguet? And can you tell us more about the new and exciting Calibre 728?

The Type XX has been an emblematic brand collection for 70 years. This model was created according to specifications established by the French Air Force. Although Breguet did not have exclusive rights to it at the time, it quickly became one of the brand’s most iconic models. The new self-winding Calibre 728 powers the civilian version, while the military model is equipped with Calibre 7281. We wanted a robust and innovative movement. It does indeed feature all the characteristics of a modern chronograph: column wheel, vertical clutch, 5 Hz frequency and an innovative zero-resetting system. We naturally had to integrate the flyback function into both models, enabling zero-resetting and instant restarting of a new timing operation without losing track of the overall-time indication. Pressing the 2 o’clock pusher activates the timing, while the one at 4 o’clock zero-resets the chronograph and upon release ensures an immediate restart from zero for a new time measurement. This function is a precious asset for pilots, as three manoeuvres were previously required for the same purpose. Evaluating various durations and directions is thus easily done using the flyback function. Finally, its vertical clutch mechanism was chosen for its accurate activation, as the chronograph hand starts immediately without any initial jumps. As the devil is also in the details, we have also devoted particular care to the aesthetic appeal of the movement, and these two models feature sunburst and snailed patterns as well as circular graining and bevelling. Fans will also appreciate the blackened gold oscillating weight evoking the shape of an aircraft seen from the front and engraved with the Breguet logo.

Whether one likes them or not, watch fairs are a means of increasing brand awareness and sales. Can you explain why Breguet avoids large exhibitions such as Watches and Wonders? Does the fact that this fair’s program now enables the public to learn more about watch brands change your view of the show—and would you consider attending in future years?

We respect the existence of these events as well as those who wish to participate. However, after years of participating in Baselworld we have changed our strategy. We now prefer to enjoy a closer relationship with our markets by spending time in them. As mentioned earlier, our product development is a lengthy process and we prefer to launch our new products throughout the year, doing so when the time is right for us rather than based on a given trade fair’s calendar constraints in which we have no say. This is done through worldwide launches, collaborations (we are partners of the Frieze contemporary art fair) and roadshows. This approach involving regular travel to specific countries is more personalised and enables us to take time with our partners and to discuss the challenges each faces in terms of various market imperatives. We have noticed that this modus operandi is very popular, and we prefer to continue in this direction that more accurately reflects our current vision.

How does immediate product availability that can be used as a sales tool affect or hinder the brand?

We live in an age where people admittedly tend to want everything all at once. Our brand is not a trendy brand that releases a massive number of new models per year: such an attitude is not part of the company values, nor do our customers expect it. The scale of our manufacturing facilities, as well as the fact that all our components are hand-finished, would not permit us to increase our production quantities overnight. We do however attach great importance to being capable of satisfying our customers’ requests within a reasonable timeframe and this seems to be appreciated.

August marks two years for you as CEO of Breguet. What have been some of the most rewarding achievements, as well as the challenging lessons, during this time?

Two years have passed, in a fraction of a second. When I arrived, I realised that our production flow was not optimal and so one of my first tasks was to increase the smooth operation of our workshop processes. I think that we are now both more productive and more consistent. In terms of projects, I immersed myself in the archives and the history of the brand, which inspired me enormously. I am quite proud of the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat 5365 which has “my touch”. It is on this timepiece that I introduced the very fine guilloché work (hand-engraving on a rose engine) done back in the day by Abraham-Louis Breguet. Otherwise, of course, I would say that for us the launch of the Type XX represents the culmination of a project that is both ambitious and essential to the brand. It is an honour for me to be serving as CEO of Breguet at the time of the relaunch of this iconic collection.

Where do you see the future of Breguet, both in the Australian market and at a global level?

Australia is a geographically large market and we want to engage more closely with our customers by developing our point-of-sale network across the country. After the Type XX, we are committed to another ambitious undertaking: the brand’s upcoming 250th anniversary. We have been working on it since I took office and our ambition is to pay tribute to our brand founder while focusing on future innovation.

breguet.com

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy night in Sydney, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy fused with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of mixology magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci was wearing hair-to-brogue Gucci for her session of flair bartending art El Primo Sanchez. Smiling and dancing behind the bar, she was backed up by a bevy of handsome colleagues wearing smart yellow dinner jackets. IMAGE: GUCCI.
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence. IMAGE: GUCCI.

This past Tuesday Giardino 25 took bloom at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington, the Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney, a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city and curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster an atmosphere of excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas so this festival gives people the opportunity to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it, without the cost of a plane ticket.”

IMAGE: GUCCI.

Taking the bar as her personal catwalk, and dressed head to toes in Gucci, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both Bargiornale Awards and Blue Blazer Awards—prestigious accolades in the bar industry. Gucci Giardino 25 has proudly secured a spot in the 50 Best Discovery, an international list recognizing expert-recommended restaurants and bars, featuring some of the most interesting venues across the world.

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long sting at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known her use of agave, favours drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavours. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to travel to Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am-3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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