A rare pocket watch crafted by the hands of Abraham-Louis Breguet himself has surfaced from the private collection of a European noble family to be auctioned through Christie’s in Geneva May 14. It is one of the most important watches to appear in a generation.
Breguet, known as the “watchmaker of the kings, the king of watchmakers” was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and spent most of his productive life in Paris.
His inventions changed the course of watchmaking—from his self-winding “perpetuelle” watches and the introduction of gongs for repeating watches to the first shock-protection for balance pivots, the Breguet balance spring, and the famed tourbillon. He even created the world’s first watch for Caroline Murat, queen of Naples.
Breguet watches are among the most prestigious and costly, and in his day, only royal and aristocratic families, high-ranking generals or politicians or exceptionally wealthy individuals could afford these timekeepers. Breguet made only 4,500 watches during his lifetime, so it’s an extraordinary event when a original piece appears in the market.
The treasure is an experimental “Montre à deux movements” (no. 2667). It was created with two complete movements to exploit the phenomenon of resonance in order to increase precision. It was originally sold in August 1814 to a Mr. Garcias of London for 5,000 francs and later to the Prince of Carignan, Count of Villafranca, for the amount of 4,500 francs.
Breguet only made three examples of this type of watch: this one; a second created for George IV, King of England; and the third for the French crown; the latter two are now housed in the Jerusalem museum.