As exciting as a new release can be, the best kind of story is the one that can travel through the years without losing any of its pomp. The same is true when it comes to watches.
So we were delighted when Breguet invited us to get an exclusive preview of Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking. This one-of-a-kind exhibition, which will take place in September 2015 at the Legion of Honor, in San Francisco, will explore the history of the watch and clock maker through some of its most important pieces.
“I am enormously proud of the association between our prestigious institutions: Breguet and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,” said Marc A. Hayek, president and CEO of Breguet.
Most of our readers will know Abraham-Louis Breguet as “the father of modern horology.” The Swiss watchmaker, born in 1747 played a key role in the history of watchmaking with great technical developments such as the self-winding watch, the first wristwatch, the repeating mechanism and most notably, the tourbillon, a revolutionary movement that neutralizes the negative effects of gravity on pocket watches.
Breguet’s watches were considered objects of great prestige, and were collected by the powerful and elite in Europe, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Tsar Alexander I and Queen Victoria. Below we take a closer look at three exceptional timepieces that will be on display when the exhibition opens next year:
Referred to as a “carriage clock”, it features a half-quarter repeater, alarm function, phases and age of the moon, complete calendar with day, date, month and year apertures, silver milestone-shaped case, engine-turned silver dial.
The Travel Clock bears Breguet’s signature hands in blued steel, and features two subdials for the moon and the alarm, eight-day movement, lever escapement. It sold on 18 March 1812 to Caroline Murat, the Queen of Naples, to whom Breguet has since dedicated one of its collections. Next up is the Breguet N°3519, a first class dumb (à toc) half-quarter repeating watch:
This pocket watch features second hand, date and day of the week, gold engine-turned case with hidden miniature portrait of young woman on ivory, gold engine-turned dial with subdials for seconds, date and day of the week, and a ruby cylinder escapement.
The blued hands are fading slightly, an imperfection that only increases the interest in a piece that was clearly well taken care of.
The Breguet N°3519, first class dumb (à toc) half-quarter repeating watch sold on 8 March 1822 to General Davidov, the father of Hussar poetry. Finally, we were shown the Breguet N°4111, a thin flat equation-of-time and repeater watch:
The Breguet N°4111 is built on the chronometer principle, with hour, half-hour, quarter-hour and half-quarter repeater. It features an annual calendar and manual perpetual calendar on an engine-turned silver dial.
To the left, there’s a true solar time subsidiary dial with Arabic radial numerals, while a mean time subsidiary dial with radial Roman numerals brings symmetry to the right.
A Subsidiary dial for the seconds features at noon, with a fast/slow setting aperture above 6 o’clock surmounted on the left with days of the week aperture, and on the right with leap year indication aperture. An annual date track with indication of the month of the year and their length and date of the months is given by a long “serpentine” yellow gold hand making one revolution in one year. This pocket watch sold on 10 January 1827 to Mr. Peyronnet, a French politician who rallied himself to the Bourbons during the Restoration.
“This exhibition will also give our visitors an in-depth look at the innovative technology and intricate workings found inside these historic Breguet watches and clocks,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. One simply cannot imagine what these pieces would have witnessed in the hands of the great men and women that collected them.
Photo Credit: Bruce Brown. For more information, please visit the official Breguet website.
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with Montres Breguet. It will open to the public from September 19, 2015 to January 10, 2016.
Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; open select holidays; closed most Mondays