About 20 years ago, Lionel a Marca started his career in the watch industry as a watchmaker, a natural choice as he was born in Porrentruy, Switzerland, in the Jura region which is the cradle of watchmaking. Marca’s entry into the industry began in 1992 when he joined the Swatch Group at Frédéric Piguet located in the Vallée de Joux.
From here, the young and ambitious Marca’s path led him to the ETA Manufacture Horlogère, where he helped develop and improve several watchmaking complications. He went on to assume new roles such as a consultant in the areas of quality control and implementing new production lines for the different companies within the Swatch Group. It was during one such task that he met president and CEO Marc A. Hayek — the current President of Breguet and Blancpain — which marked a turning point.
For nearly two decades, Marca has contributed to the success of the brand located in Le Brassus, alongside Hayek. He has implemented Hayek’s visionary ideas of creating new products and in 2019, he joined the extended executive board of the Swatch Group, which is in charge of the House of Breguet and companies that produce dials.
Of his working relationship with Hayek, Marca says: “It is very inspiring for me to be able to work alongside Marc [Hayek] for 20 years. His knowledge of the products, the technique and his vision reinforce my knowledge day after day, for which I am grateful to him. All this allows me to realize both the set of tenets and outcomes linked to production as well as the overall strategy of a brand. Today, my objective is to use all this know-how in order to perpetuate the legacy of Abraham-Louis Breguet for all of his work.”
History states that scientist and technician Abraham-Louis Breguet linked his destiny to that of the French Navy in 1814 when he became a member of the Bureau des Longitudes by royal decree. One of the bureau’s roles was to solve astronomical problems related to the determination of longitude at sea. One year later, King Louis XVIII awarded Breguet one of the most honourable titles of the era — that of watchmaker to the Royal Navy. The fleets of the greatest explorers sailed equipped with a Breguet timekeeping system. Today, the Marine line with its elegant yet sporty look is one of the brand’s emblematic collections.
A good example is the newly launched Hora Mundi, a mechanical watch which had taken three years to develop and been awarded four patents, featured a critical asset in the shape of an instant-change dual-time display.
Today, Marca is one of the rare watchmakers at the helm of a renowned watch brand as he takes Breguet to a new era while respecting the watchmaking heritage and visionary spirit of both Maison’s founder and the Hayek family.
Marca started his journey as a watchmaker before becoming a brand CEO. He says: “This “double hat” makes it easier for me to have a global vision both in terms of the development of new products and the difficulties that can be encountered there in terms of their marketing. Since the start of my career, I have indeed gone through all the stages, from designing movements to managing production, managing not only the consistency of the collections but also the teams.”
In an email interview, Marca tells Options more about his role and why the Hora Mundi is a technical wonder within the Marine collection.
Bearing in mind that you took over during the pandemic, what were some of the things you did or changed when you started your new role?
It is obvious that this crisis has not been easy for anyone to manage. For us, the priority was to protect our life force, that is to say, our employees. Without them, the business does not run. We have therefore taken the recommendations of the Swiss Confederation very seriously, both in terms of barrier gestures and in terms of business travel.
From the production point of view, when I started as a CEO, my aim wasn’t to change everything but to observe. This period allowed me to have a re- flection on the various internal process- es, both in terms of the manufacture of movements and cases.
What are some of the significant changes you have seen in the world of watchmaking over the last 10 years? Clearly the speed of product release. I was able to see the desire of customers to be able to benefit from the watches as soon as they are presented. Previously, the pace was slower from this point of view: products could be presented in winter and sent to markets in spring.
What is the design philosophy behind the Hora Mundi model within the Marine collection?
We sometimes tend to forget that our founder was not only an outstanding technician and inventor but also one of the very first designers. This piece pays tribute to him both aesthetically and technically.
Our goal on this new Hora Mun- di was to create a 3D effect, a depth on the dial. Beyond realism, we also want to be able to offer great readability. To do this, we played on the superposition of different plates. The first, made of gold, is composed of hand-guilloché waves while displaying a sunburst dial, using light reflections to give a feeling of rolling waves.
Then, an additional plate made of sapphire is composed of metallic meridians. The continents benefit from a horizontal satin treatment and their coastlines are subtly drawn with a metallic turquoise border. Finally, an outer flange maintains the various elements presented on the dial. A result with perfectly executed dimensions and surfaces thanks to various treatments that required several weeks of work. It is this clever mix of perspectives and details that makes this timepiece so special.
From a commercial standpoint, how well do you think this watch is perceived?
This complication was expected in the Marine collection. It provides a very relevant alternative for all watch lovers who appreciate less classic pieces. Moreover, this watch evokes travel and we have a great history within maritime navigation since Abraham-Louis Breguet had been appointed member of the longitudes office and watchmaker of the Royal Navy. It is an iconic collection and therefore a part of history that buyers wear on their wrists. Moreover, this is a watchmaking complication highly appreciated by our customers due to its ease of use. Indeed, the Hora Mundi complication benefits from a dual time zone with instantaneous change. Having defined the first city, the time and the date, it is sufficient for the holder of the watch to set only the second city. The timepiece mechanism then calculates its time and date using a clever system of cams, hammers and an integrated differential. By simply pressing the pusher, it is, therefore, possible to pass from one end of the planet to the other without disturbing the precise rate of the watch.
Which piece stands out for you and why?
The Tradition 7057. I really like this watch. This timepiece is inspired by the creations signed by Abraham-Louis Breguet, in particular the off-centred dial guilloché by hand. I find this Tradition watch as elegant as timeless.
What are the next 12 months looking for Breguet?
It would not be a surprise if I revealed everything to you. I suggest that we talk about it in the next interview.
The Hora Mundi by Breguet
Within the Marine collection, successfully combining technical and aesthetic features
Three years and four patents later, Breguet débuts the Hora Mundi mechanical watch that features an instant-change dual-time display that is done via the pusher and crown. Simply put, select the first city’s time and date, then set the second city. The watch mechanism then calculates the time and date by means
of a clever system of cams, hammers and an integrated differential. The unique dial features a play on materials and superimposed plates. On the first gold base, the hand-guilloché waves lap gently against the shores of the continents. The sunburst dial base in abyssal blue creates the impression of a permanent movement of the wave motifs. An additional plate made of sapphire is composed of the metallised meridians and the continents are treated to horizontal satin brushing, while their coastlines are subtly outlined with a metallic turquoise border. Final- ly, an outer flange serves as a support for the various elements on the dial. The result is brilliantly crafted dimensions and surfaces thanks to various treatments that require several weeks of work.
Making the dial legible is in the aesthetic details such as why the hours and minutes hands, as well as the hour-markers, are adorned with luminescent material ensuring nocturnal legibility. The Sun and Moon positioned at four o’clock are hand-hammered to create a strongly realistic result. While the sun is luminous rose gold, the moon is rhodium-plated and exudes a mysterious grey appearance. Displayed through a 12 o’clock aperture, the date features an additional retrograde hand ingeniously placed beneath the aperture dial and featuring a delicately rounded “U-shaped” tip serving to encircle the date of each passing day. The 43.9 mm-diameter case, available in a choice of white or rose gold, houses Calibre 77F1 while the mechanical self-winding movement is fitted with an escapement made of silicon — a material with multiple properties that is resistant to both corrosion and wear. It is also insensitive to the effects of magnetic fields. Calibre 77F1 features a unique asset in the form of its patented additional modules for the dual time-zone mechanism, the second time-zone display, the programmable and reprogrammable mechanical memory wheel and the pointer-type day and night display.
Timepiece has a 55-hour power reserve that is viewed through the sapphire caseback, adorned with Côtes de Genève, guilloché and snailed finishing.
Marine Hora Mundi – 5557BR/YS/5WV and 5557BB/YS/5WV
Case: white gold or rose gold
Diameter: 43.9 mm
Thickness: 13.80 mm
Dial: sunburst blue, guilloché and sapphire plates Movement: self-winding Functions: hours, minutes and seconds, calendar, dual time zone, day/night indicator
Escapement: inverted lateral lever escapement with silicone horns, escape-wheel and flat balance-spring.
Water resistance: 10 bar (100 m)
Frequency: 4 Hz
Power reserve: 55 hours
Strap/Bracelet: leather strap, rubber strap and gold bracelet. Triple-blade folding clasp