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Abraham-Louis Breguet, Winston’s watchmaker

Churchill may not have been the public’s choice, but Breguet certainly was his; he was one of many high-profile figures to select Breguet as his watchmaker of choice

Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill
Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill | Image: Universal Pictures

The former prime minister and a lifelong patron of the brand, Sir Winston Churchill wore his beloved Breguet No 765, affectionately known as “The Turnip”, all his life. A replica of this exceptional chronograph was made specifically for the film Darkest Hour by the House of Breguet and worn by Gary Oldman, who plays the prime minister in the award-winning film.

Churchill’s Breguet pocket watch No 765, “The Turnip”
Churchill’s Breguet pocket watch No 765, “The Turnip”

The Breguet No 765, with minute repeater and flyback seconds hand, was commissioned in 1890 by John Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough and great grandfather of Sir Winston Churchill. It became Churchill’s faithful timekeeper, which he would use in preference to all other clocks, but was not his only Breguet. Churchill was a frequent visitor to the House, sometimes in order to make a purchase and on other occasions to have his pieces serviced.

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The exceptional pocket watch No 765 features two of AL Breguet’s key inventions. The Swiss watchmaker was hailed for anticipating the modern chronograph, an invention that dates back to 1820 and continues to feature on a variety of models, including the Classique 5287 and Marine 5823 and 5827, alongside the Heritage 5400. Breguet’s manual wound chronograph movement has acquired a reputation for reliability and performance since its introduction to the public in the 1940s via the Caliber 2320 or 533.3, as it’s commonly known. Today, Breguet makes the world’s smallest column wheel, self-winding chronograph movement with date and small seconds, measuring 10½ lines and 6mm in height. The House also boasts the world’s first tourbillon movement equipped with a silicon escapement, as seen on the Marine Tourbillon Chronograph.

Chain details of Churchill’s Breguet pocket watch No 765
Chain details of Churchill’s Breguet pocket watch No 765

Another important feature of the Breguet No 765 is the minute repeater. Today this mechanism ranks supreme among horological complications and is universally admired for its intricate construction; the Gong Spring movement is mastered by only a few highly skilled and patient watchmakers. An exceptionally useful invention, it was adopted immediately by most contemporary watchmakers, who admired Breguet’s multiple striking mechanisms for repeating watches, notably for the quarters, half-quarters and minutes. Having invented the Gong Spring in 1783, Breguet continued to develop this movement, perfecting and tweaking the invention, before unveiling a new way of designing these technological marvels, fitting them with an entirely re-engineered movement in 2008. Models showcasing this movement marvel include the Classique Répétition Minutes 7637, Classique Complications 5447 and Reine de Naples 8978 wristwatches.

Darkest Hour poster featuring Gary Oldman as Churchill
Darkest Hour poster featuring Gary Oldman as Churchill | Image: Universal Pictures

Like many men of his stature, Sir Winston Churchill favoured his Breguet No 765 pocket watch over a wristwatch, which is considered the more practical choice for the modern gentleman. Yet, testament to AL Breguet’s keen eye for refined aesthetics, the unmistakeable Breguet style codes engineered in the 18th century continue to be honoured today. They remain a constant feature, unchanged and instantly recognisable. Today’s wristwatches not only showcase the historical artistry of the House of Breguet, but simultaneously epitomise the style of the modern gentleman, offering exceptional dress watches and uniquely handcrafted pieces that will last a lifetime, both aesthetically and in their movements.

V for victory – Gary Oldman playing Churchill in the Darkest Hour movie
V for victory – Gary Oldman playing Churchill in the Darkest Hour movie | Image: Universal Pictures

The original Breguet No 765, of which a replica was made for Darkest Hour, sits proudly on display within the Imperial War Museum in central London. The yellow-gold timepiece remains in perfect working order.

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