Some Comments on the Spelling of the Name Brequet
In a letter dated January 7, 1965, the Rev. J. C. Breakey of Belfast commented: “About our family name…Some time ago I read a most interesting book on old clocks, mostly French. Here reference was made to a ‘Breguet’ who was a clock-maker and one of distinction, it would seem….Of course that was somewhat after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the flight of our ancestors, but it may be that he was one of the same family and was (descended from) one who did not fly but perhaps conformed.”
In a letter dated April 9, 1966, the Rev. Dr. J. C. Breakey made these comments: “The book to which I referred is ‘Clocks’ by Simon Fleet, published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 20 New Bond St., London, W.1. On page 62 the following words occur: ‘…greater than all these (various clock-makers) were Pierre Leroy, Ferdinand Berthaud and Abraham Breguet….Abraham Breguet had great gifts, for everything he did worked well and yet bore his highly original inventive stamp. Perhaps his most important feat was to make a clock that was able to regulate a watch. It would correct the watch providing it was not more than twenty minutes out’.”(sic)
“Breguet would seem to have flourished about the time of the French Revolution. An example of his combined clock and watch, the watch being set to time by the clock, was made in 1814 for the Prince Regent and is still in the Royal collection. I cannot help thinking that perhaps this man was a relative of ours and was possibly (descended from) one who did not leave France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Possibly, also, this was the original spelling of our name.”
The Rev. Dr. J. C. Breakey’s observations point to a problem nearly all genealogical researchers meet with at some time in the pursuance of their work, that of variations in the spelling of family names. This seems to be a problem of recurring frequency, particularly to those concerned with names of French Huguenot derivation. Perhaps the following comments by one who had had much experience with the problem and the hazards involved will help the less experienced: W. H. Manchée in his “The Huguenot Regiments (Supplemental notes)”, Reprinted from the Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, Vol. XIII, No. 4, 1927, made this observation:
“In conclusion I would only like to add that the original records, written in many cases by Dutchmen make it very difficult to decide between the letters ‘F’ and ‘T’ and between ‘G’ and ‘Q’. There is also the ‘ij’ which is the Dutch ‘y’; quite apart from the universal similarity of ‘u’ and ‘n’ and the ‘r’ of the official hand with ‘v’. It may be well to remember these points generally when making any search in our printed Registers.”
Was our name originally spelled ‘Brequet’ or ‘Breguet’? According to W. H. Manchée’s reasoning, it could have been spelled either way. Only extensive research will provide us with the answer. Historical records show that the spelling ‘Brequet’ has been the accepted spelling of the British Branch of this Huguenot family Name.
Attached to the preceding article were copies of two source documents:
Baillie, G. H., Watchmakers and clockmakers of the world. London: N. A. G. Press Ltd.
Baillie, G. H., Clutton, C., & Ilbert, C. A., (Eds.). Britten’s old clocks and watches and their makers. New York: Bonanza Books.
The following is quoted from a letter we received from Constance A. Breakey of 45 Cadogan Park, Belfast, North Ireland. She is the widow of the late Very Reverend James C. Breakey, D.D. Her letter is dated 23 July, 1970:
“About the month of March we were watching a programme on TV about Antiques. There was a connoisseur on clocks speaking and he showed a clock signed Breguet de Paris. Since our name is said to have been associated with clock, we pricked up our ears and wrote to the expert and asked where we could fin out more about this man. He referred us to a book which we since borrowed from the library. Unfortunately, it came just after my husband’s death, but I copied out all it said about Breguet and am enclosing a copy for you. It does not prove anything, but I thought it would be of interest to you. The part about the spring has certainly been one of the traditions (unwritten) of the family.”
Mrs. Breakey’s letter sent us to the Tacoma City Library, where we found quite a complete account of Breguet’s activities and achievements in Britten’s Old Clocks and Watches by G. H. Baillie, C. Clutton, and C. A. Ilbert, published in New York by Bonanza Books.
See also, the book Clocks by Simon Fleet, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. Abraham Breguet is written up on page 62.
Edward P. Breakey, Ph. D
The British branch of the Breakey family usually spelled the name with a “q”, i.e. Brequet. We should be reminded that the scribes in King William’s army were Dutchmen and Dutchmen often confused their “G”s and “Q”s. The French spelled the name with a “G’, i.e. Breguet, and continue to do so.
 The tradition is that a Breguet, probably Abraham Louis (1747-1863) of Paris, invented the hair spring mechanism that made the modern watch possible.