Inspired by a long-lost wristwatch saying to 1812 that might have been the first-ever wristwatch, the Reine de Naples is Breguet’s signature watch for ladies. Quirky in form but elegant, the model is available in numerous iterations, but the latest is unusually stark but no less graceful: the Reine de Naples 8918 with a glossy black enamel dial.
Like the rest of the line, the new 8918 has its roots in the 19th century. Invented as jewellery that happened to tell the time, wristwatches of the period were fashionable accessories. One of the earliest known examples was an egg-shaped bracelet watch delivered in 1812 to Caroline Bonaparte, the younger sister of Napoleon and the Queen of Naples – reine de Naples in French.
Perhaps one of the most distinctive ladies’ watches on the market today, the Reine de Naples gets less attention than it deserves for a variety of reasons, including Breguet’s restrained marketing and the fact that brands like Cartier have more famous form watches. But the history and visual appeal of the Reine de Naples, as well as Breguet’s overall quality, makes it noteworthy.
The 8918 in black enamel preserves the essence of the model, but it instantly stands out for its high-contrast, monochromatic palette. But it’s not merely a pretty face, for the execution is also appealing since it’s fired enamel in black, an uncommon colour for the material.
Grand feu enamel dials are relatively uncommon in ladies’ watches, so Breguet deserves a round of applause for Breguet for doing something extra. At the same time, Breguet is also catering to those who want a more conventional ladies’ watch; the 8918 is also available with a mother-of-pearl dial that has a more feminine aesthetic.
Mechanically the 8918 is ordinary, but the movement is a high-quality calibre. As a result, the 8918 is one of the more affordable solid-gold models in the range at just under US$40,000. It certainly offers strong value considering features like the enamel dial.
Stark but elegantly detailed
While Breguet already has a Reine de Naples with a grand feu enamel dial in the catalogue, it’s in white enamel, the de facto standard for enamel that’s elegant but not especially striking.
Notably, the black enamel dial bears the same details found on Breguet’s mens’ watches with enamel dials, namely fancy minute markers inspired by the dials of vintage Breguet pocket watches. The minute markers on the dial consist of three different shapes: stars for the minutes, lozenges for the quarters, and a combination of dots and a “V” for the five-minute markers.
The black enamel dial of the 8918 is not only extremely striking but also sets it apart from the typical ladies’ watch, which tend towards light or pastel colours. In fact, Breguet actually introduced something more typical alongside the version with a black dial. The other new version of the 8918 is almost identical but dressed in white and red. The dial is mother-of-pearl with red numerals, while the bezel is set with rubies, resulting in a watch that is very much an orthodox ladies’ watch.
Both versions of the 8918 are powered by a tiny automatic movement developed for ladies’ watches. Like most Breguet movements, it is evolved from an older Lemania calibre but substantially upgraded since. Amongst other things, it’s kitted out with an escapement and hairspring in silicon. The smallish movement is visible in the lower half of the case, which translates into the beautifully off-centred dial on the front.
Key facts and price
Breguet Reine de Naples 8918
Ref. 8918BB/2N/764/D00D (black enamel)
Ref. 8918BB/5R/964/R00R (mother of pearl)
Diameter: 36.5 mm by 28.45 mm
Height: 10.05 mm
Material: 18k white gold, set with diamonds
Water resistance: 30 m
Movement: Cal. 537/3
Functions: Hours and minutes
Frequency: 25,200 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 45 hours
Strap: Leather strap
Availability: At Breguet boutiques and retailers
Price: Black enamel US$37,400, and mother-of-pearl US$39,900
For more information, visit Breguet.com.
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