A very high-class watchmakers from Paris, Breguet had a branch in Switzerland, in Le Locle, for many decades an important centre for precision industries especially watch and clock making. Of approximately a 9-inch swing and 20-inches between centres, the lathe shown below would have been built during the first decade of the 20th century, possibly in 1908. Although badged as manufactured by Breguet Brothers and Co. Ltd. the lathe shown below has a design that imitated, to a great extent American design practice, then the world leader in this class of lathe with the introduction, in 1862, of the first Stark model.
Highly unusual for its type, the Breguet not only had a speed-reducing backgear but one that used helical gears - a type normally employed only when quieter running or the ability to handle heavier than normal loads is required. It is known that the Waltham Machine Works had strong connections with Switzerland through their Swiss agent, L.Ariste Gindrat, a man who had lived in Waltham for a number of years. It unsurprising, therefore, that the Breguet bears a close resemblance to Waltham models, being either a direct copy - or even manufactured in the USA to a specification chosen by Breguet Frèses and complete with their own badging for sale in Europe. As the example shown is in the United States - and the bed section, a flat top and bevelled edges, was common to many manufacturers, it has been fitted with the compound slide assembly from a Hardinge lathe. The 3-jaw chuck is also American, a period Skinner 3-jaw chuck with both a scroll to move the 3 jaws simultaneously and individual adjustment of each jaw by a screw. With the tailstock barrel graduated in inches not millimetres could this machine have been one of a batch left behind and sold into the US domestic market?
Another connection between Waltham and Switzerland was through the Juvenia Watch Company of La-Chaux-de-Fonds - this town, only five miles away, being the twin of Le Lochle and also heavily involved watchmaking and precision engineering. The Juvenia lathe was also closely modelled on the Waltham and , again, may have been either a copy or shipped from the U.S.A. complete with suitable branding. Mr. L.Ariste Gindrat must have been a busy and very successful agent.
On this page is an unusual Breguet milling machine used in the production of pocket-watch cases.
If any reader has a Breguet Frères & Cie. Lathe the writer would be very interested to hear from you.