In 2001, Breguet had the wild idea of launching a collection of highly decorated ladies’ watches with mechanical movements at a time when most watches for women were still quartz, and naming it after a queen. The Reine de Naples was ahead of its time, but it was also a nod to watchmaking history. Inspired by a watch Breguet made in 1812 for Caroline Murat, the Queen of Naples and sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, historians believe the original was the first wristwatch ever made for a woman. It was one of 34 watches and clocks the Queen acquired from the company during her lifetime.
The modern collection has become a successful platform for Breguet’s expertise in mechanical movements for women. The original Reine de Naples was a minute repeater with a moon phase indicator and a thermometer function. Every piece in the collection has a dial that is decorated in some way, most set with diamonds. Surprisingly, the new Reine de Naples 8918 is the first to have a grand feu enamel—an elevated and difficult-to-create dial treatment, typically used for dress watches—and it is one of the most understated pieces in the collection so far.
The Reine de Naples’s egg-shaped case and decorative personality seem worlds apart from the rest of Breguet’s rigorously classic oeuvre, yet there are signature Breguet elements: coin-edged or fluted case bands, Breguet-style numerals and Breguet open-tipped hands. The egg-shaped case symbolizes the origin of life and mirrors the shape of the original from 1812.
The 8918 ($37,400) is pared down compared to some of the previous models in the line, which has included tourbillons, fully set jewelry watches, and plenty of guilloched and lacquered dials. The 8918 is endowed with some of the more subtle hallmarks of high watchmaking. The grand feu enamel gives it a sheen unlike any other dial surface, including an impressive rendition of Breguet’s stylized Arabic numerals, painted in two-dimensional tones of blue. A carat of diamonds spread out along both the flange and the bezel also adds depth to the dial. Two larger, more decorative diamonds add to the sparkle, including a 0.08-carat oval cut diamond mirroring the case shape, set at the 6 o’clock position, and a 0.26-carat briolette diamond on the crown, positioned at the line’s signature 4 o’clock position. The folding buckle is set with another 28 diamonds for a total of 1.5 carats.
Inside, the Reines de Naples 8918 contains the Breguet automatic caliber 537/3, with a 45-hour power reserve. The decorated movement can be seen through the sapphire crystal on the back of its very wearable 36.5 × 28.45 case, which is 10.05 mm thick. Breguet will engrave your name on the caseback and record it in its archives, where it will reside alongside the names of emperors, kings and queens—Marie Antoinette included.