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    Sale 1413

    Rare Watches Including Important Private Collections

    16 May 2016, Geneva

  • Lot 123

    Breguet, No. 217 “montre perpétuelle à répétition à quantième de mois et dates et équation, échappement libre à ancre”. An exceptional and historically important, probably unique 18K gold self-winding à toc quarter repeating lever watch with sectoral equation of time, day and month calendar and sectoral power-reserve indication, constructed on the principals of the garde-temps, in a Desoutter gold tooled red morocco fitted box No. 217

    SIGNED BREGUET ET FILS, SOLD IN GERMINAL AN 8 (1800) TO GÉNÉRAL MOREAU FOR THE SUM OF 3,600 FRANCS, RESOLD TO MR. HAVAS ON 31ST DECEMBER 1817 FOR 4,800 FRANCS

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Breguet, No. 217 “montre perpétuelle à répétition à quantième de mois et dates et équation, échappement libre à ancre”. An exceptional and historically important, probably unique 18K gold self-winding à toc quarter repeating lever watch with sectoral equation of time, day and month calendar and sectoral power-reserve indication, constructed on the principals of the garde-temps, in a Desoutter gold tooled red morocco fitted box No. 217
    Signed Breguet et Fils, sold in Germinal an 8 (1800) to Général Moreau for the sum of 3,600 Francs, resold to Mr. Havas on 31st December 1817 for 4,800 Francs
    Gilded brass movement with two mainspring barrels, early jewelled lever escapement with steel lever and pallet frame, brass escape wheel, four arm compensation balance supporting two compensating affixes with adjustable weights on screws at the free ends, platinum shield-shaped oscillating weight, blued steel helical balance spring with terminal curves and screw stud, parachute suspension, equation of time cam mounted on the month calendar wheel, à toc quarter repeating with one hammer onto the case, weight lock and advance/retard levers in the band, engine-turned silver dial, Roman numerals on plain chapter ring, outer dot minute divisions, gold Breguet hands, two fan-shaped sectors for 60-hours power reserve and equation of time calibrated from +15 to -15 minutes, large subsidiary seconds concentric to the month ring, aperture for the date with gold arrow pointer, circular polished case with concealed hinge, back secured by two screws in the band, quarter repeating pull-twist push-piece in the pendant, dial signed Breguet et Fils, the reverse punched B 217 T for Tavernier, dial plate edge signed Breguet No. 217, case No. B 217.
    55 mm. diam.


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    With Desoutter box numbered 217 containing a spare crystal, photocopy of Breguet Certificate No. 2385 dated 10 March 1896, photocopies of the 1965 catalogue entry and Daily Telegraph article.

    According to the Archives of Montres Breguet, watch No. 217, a “montre perpétuelle à répétition à quantième de mois et dates et équation, échappement libre à ancre” was first sold during Germinal An 8 to Général Moreau for 3,600 Francs; taken back and refurbished with the latest style of case and dial; resold on 31st December 1817 to Mr. Havas for 4,800 Francs.

    "This watch represents Breguet’s highest level of workmanship with considerable complications” – Cecil Clutton and George Daniels

    Regarded as one of Breguet’s masterpieces and in superbly well preserved and original condition, the reappearance of this exceptional "perpétuelle" watch after decades in an important private European collection provides collectors and devotees of Breguet watches with the increasingly rare opportunity to obtain one of the most complicated and desirable watches ever made by the famed house, furthermore with impeccable provenance. In addition to being from the self-winding perpetuelle series, a great rarity in itself, Breguet No. 217 has the extra complications of both day and month calendar, power-reserve and most unusually and importantly an equation of time indication. Within Breguet’s total production between 1790 and 1830, only fifteen watches with equation of time were made. Of these fifteen, only two are known to have been from the perpetuélle series, the present watch No. 217 and the legendary ultra-complicated watch No. 160 known as the “Marie Antoinette”, now in the collection of the L. A. Mayer Museum in Jerusalem.

    Since it was first sold in 1800 to the distinguished French Général Jean Victor Marie Moreau, watch No. 217 has, unsurprisingly, had some very illustrious owners, not least its second owner Charles-Louis Havas. Before the watch’s resale to Havas at the end of December 1817, Breguet, as was his recognized custom particularly with the perpetuélle watches, bought it back, presumably from the family of Général Moreau after his death in 1813. Breguet then made some aesthetic improvements to it in the form of a new case and stunning new guilloché silver dial by Tavernier in the very latest style. This replaced the original white enamel dial which by 1817 would have been regarded as very old-fashioned. Breguet’s repurchasing, updating and resale of his watches made great business sense as he could often resell the same watch again after updating for a much higher price. The perpetuélles in particular were very expensive, selling for upwards of 3,000 Francs, and Breguet was always keen to buy them back, bring them up to date and resell them.

    When Breguet watch No. 217 was sold at Sotheby’s in London in July 1965 it was held in such high regard that it was described in the catalogue as “probably the finest Breguet watch to be offered for sale since well before the war”. It sold to the famous Portuguese collector and art connoisseur Antonio Medeiros e Almeida for the then enormous sum of £8500. This event was sensational enough for the Daily Telegraph in London to report the story the next day under the heading “£8500 PAID FOR BREGUET LEVER WATCH” – “A Breguet self-winding lever watch was sold yesterday at Sotheby’s for £8500. It went to Mr. A. M. Almeida, a private buyer from Lisbon.

    Breguet’s Perpetuelle Watches
    In the words of the inimitable George Daniels “Breguet’s early work on the self-winding watch or “perpetuelle” as he called it, laid the foundations of his future success”.

    It was a sure sign of great things to come and very typical of Breguet’s commercial instinct that at the very beginning of his career he seized upon the idea that a successfully working self-winding watch could bring him fame and fortune. In his treatise on horology he writes that he made in 1780 a ‘perpetuelle’ watch for the Duc d’Orléans. Indeed, he claims that by 1780 both the Duc d’Orleans and Marie Antoinette were already in possession of his perpetuelle watches. Breguet did not invent the self-winding watch himself but perfected it – something which no other watchmaker had achieved. He succeeded in this by paying particular attention to the action of the heavy platinum weight so that it responded to even the slightest movement of the watch. The platinum weight winds two mainspring barrels simultaneously, fully wound this provides about 60 hours of running time which is indicated on the left-hand sector of the present watch. The weight can be locked stationary if required so as to prevent any possible damage during vigorous activity for instance when riding a horse. Breguet brilliantly conceived the two barrel system with a ratio so that only four turns of the barrels gives sixty turns of the centre wheel - providing not only long duration but a more uniform performance. The two-barrel system also increased consistency of power and reduced friction.

    Amongst Breguet’s other technical triumphs is one which played a vital role in the success of the perpetuelles - the use of the lever escapement. Even by 1786 the lever escapement was not widely known and then only in London where just a handful of examples had been made by John Leroux and Josiah Emery. This is particularly interesting because by 1787 Breguet had entered the first 31 watches in the registers and all but one had been fitted with a jeweled lever escapement. Therefore as with the self-winding “perpetuelle” mechanism, Breguet had not actually invented the lever escapement but, presumably on a visit to London, had immediately recognized its potential and produced his own version superior in every detail to the English escapements. The essential feature of the escapement is that, except during impulse, the balance oscillates quite freely. This made for vastly superior timekeeping particularly when used in combination with the compensation balance and helical steel spring with terminal curves. The movements of the perpetuelles were deliberately fixed into cases that could not be opened by the casual observer, this was to exclude dust and inquisitive fingers, Breguet declaring that cased in this way they would run for eight years without attention.

    Equation of Time
    With an equation mechanism an indication of the date is always required because the equation varies continuously throughout the year. In the present watch the months are shown on the subsidiary dial concentric to the seconds and the date in an aperture in the dial.

    The equation of time in astronomy is the quantity that needs to be added or subtracted to switch from real time given by the sun, to the mean time; our time, which arbitrarily divided a day in 24 hours. The equation of time varies from one day to another, its value swings between around -16 to +16 seconds per day. By cumulating these differences, we obtain a variation between the real noon and the mean noon of more or less 15 minutes. The most important differences are, function of the years, toward February 12 (+14 minutes and 59 seconds) and November 3 (-16 minutes and 15 seconds). The difference is zero toward April 15, June 15, September 1 and December 24. It should be known that today, due to the summer time and the winter time, we live with a difference of two or three hours relative to the sun; our daily noon corresponding to the solar noon of Central Europe.

    The equation of time also gives information about the equinoxes of spring (21 - 22 March) and autumn (22 - 23 September), as well as the solstices of summer (toward 21 June 21) and winter (toward 21 December). The equinox is the moment when the sun is on the plane of the equator, thus leading to days equal to nights. The solstice is the moment when the sun is in the farthest position from the equator, resulting in the longest day and the longest night. These dates determine the seasons of the year.

    The equation indications used by Breguet are fully explained and illustrated by George Daniels in his The Art of Breguet (1975), pp. 347-350, ill. 422, 423a-c.

    Literature
    Xavier Baron, Le Monde en Direct – De Charles-Louis Havas à l’AFP, deux siècles d’histoire, Editions la Découverte, Paris, 2014
    Pierre Frédérix, Un siècle de chasse aux nouvelles: de l'Agence d'information Havas à l'AFP (1835-1957), Flammarion,? 1954
    Antoine Lefébure, Havas : les arcanes du pouvoir, Bernard Grasset,? 1992
    Michael Palmer, Des petits journaux aux grandes agences. Naissance du journalisme moderne, Aubier Montaigne,? 1983
    Armand Mattelart, L'invention de la communication, Editions la Découverte, Paris, 1997
    Mark Tungate, Adland: A Global History of Advertising, Kogan Page, 2007 (Chapter “Havas: Child of the Information Age”)
    K. M. Shrivastava, News Agencies from Pigeon to Internet, New Dawn Press, Inc., 2007

    Special Notice

    On lots marked with an + in the catalogue, VAT will be charged at 8% on both the premium as well as the hammer price.


    Provenance

    Général Jean Victor Marie Moreau (1763 – 1813) purchased in 1800.
    Charles-Louis Havas (1783 – 1858) purchased in 1817.
    With the English retailer Desoutter, 4, Hanover Street, London by 1896.
    Sotheby’s, London, Fine Works of Art by Carl Faberé, Watches by Breguet and Objects of Vertu, 8th July, 1963, lot 29, sold to Antonio Medeiros e Almeida for 8500 pounds.
    Important Private European collection.

    Jean Victor Marie Moreau (14 February 1763 – 2 September 1813)
    Moreau was a French general and sincere republican who helped Napoleon Bonaparte come to power. Eventually he became a rival to Napoleon and for this was exiled to the United States of America where he arrived in 1805.

    It was the Battle of Tourcoing in 1794 that established Moreau's military fame, this led to his appointment as commander of the Army of the Rhine-and-Moselle in1795. He crossed the Rhine and advanced into Germany at the head of the army, the subsequent retreat of which became a model for such operations and at the same time greatly enhanced his own reputation, all the more because he brought back with him more than 5000 prisoners.

    Back in Paris, Moreau had become very disillusioned with the Directory government and was ready to give his assistance to Napoleon, upon his return from the French campaigns in Egypt and Syria, in the coup d’etat of 18 Brumaire. In fact Moreau led the force which confined two of the directors in the Luxembourg Palace. As a reward, Napoleon put him again in command of the Army of the Rhine with which he forced back the Austrians. Upon returning to Paris he married a friend of Joséphine de Beauharnais called Mlle Hullot, she became the dominant force in his life from then on. Madame Moreau was the ringleader of a group of influential people who had become irritated by the grandeur of Napoleon, this became known as the “Club Moreau” which encouraged the monarchist cause. Napoleon knew that Moreau would be no party to any plan to restore the monarchy but could not allow him to remain in a position of power. Other conspiritors were imprisoned but in a show of supposed leniency by the First Consul, Moreau’s sentence was one of banishment and in 1804 he embarked for America arriving in New York in August 1805. In 1812, President Madison offered him command of the U.S. troops which he was about to accept when he heard that the Grande Armée in Russia had been decimated. Instead he decided to return to Europe. On his return he again became involved with republican intriguers supporting the Prussians and Austrians in leading an army against Napoleon. Moreau, who wished to see Napoleon defeated and a republican government installed, gave advice to the Swedish and Russian leaders about how best to defeat France. However, he was mortally wounded while talking to the Tsar at the Battle of Dresden in 1813 and died six days later from his injuries. His wife received a pension from the Tsar and Moreau was postumously given the rank of Marshal of France by Louis XVIII.

    Charles Louis Havas (1783-1858)
    “The free communication of ideas and of opinions is one of the most precious rights of man. Any citizen may therefore speak, write and publish freely, except what is tantamount to the abuse of this liberty in the cases determined by Law”

    Adopted by the French National Assembly on 26 August 1789, particularly article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen had a significant impact on French press and consequently on the later life of Charles-Louis Havas: within 6 months after its approval nearly 1,500 newspapers had been published.

    Charles Louis Havas was born in Rouen, France, on 5 July 1783 into a wealthy Jewish family of Hungarian descent, his father trading in land and cotton futures during the French Revolution. Young Charles in return became a notable merchant, banker and publisher while learning a number of languages, a very useful tool for his future business.

    In August 1832 he opened his own office in Paris, supplying news about France to foreign customers and translating articles from foreign papers and selling the translations to bankers, businessmen and politicians.

    He soon noticed the difficulties of employing a large team of reporters, impossible for the around 600 smaller newspapers and periodicals in France at the time, all hungry for the kind of information he could provide. In 1835 he restructured his operation and launched the world’s first news agency which he called Agence Havas, “the first information bureau for the press”. Located at rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the agency’s news dispatches comprised a wide range of bulletins for politicians, bankers and industrialists titled “Vite et Bien”, fast and good. To fullfil this promise Havas employed every form of information technology available at the time, including hundreds of carrier pigeons delivering daily information on London stock exchange prices and news on war and various conflicts. He was the first to use Samuel Morse’s invention, installing electromagnetic telegraph machines as of 1845, revolutionizing the distribution of news.

    With the growth of the agency, now with correspondents reporting from Crimea, Italy, Mexico and the United States, expenses grew. To cover cost, the pioneering Charles-Louis Havas was also an early adopter of advertising, creating an internal advertisement division in 1852, .

    His concept of an agency distributing news to the media was quickly adopted in other countries, notably by his most prominent employees or rather protégés, Paul Julius Reuter and Bernhard Wolff. The experience in the field gained while being trained and working with Havas allowed them to found their own news agencies: Reuters in the United Kingdom and Wolff in Germany, third largest news agency of the time and forerunner of Deutsche Presse Agentur.

    The 1859 agreement between the three major agencies - Reuter, based in London, Wolff in Berlin, and Havas – divides the world between them for the collection and dissemination of information.

    Charles-Louis Havas passed away on 21 May 1858, leaving behind two of the most used inventions of all times: advertisement and communication.

    In 1879 the Havas family sold its interests and Agence Havas became a publicly limited company, today Havas, one of the world's largest global communications groups. On 25 November 1940 the News section of Havas is nationalised and becomes a government agency. Two laws establish the separation between the Advertising branch – which retains the name Havas - and the News branch – which becomes state property named Office Français d'Information (OFI), French Information Office. On 20 August 1944, a group of journalists seized the offices of the OFI and issued the first news dispatch from the liberated city under the name of Agence France-Presse. Today Agence France-Presse (AFP),headquartered in Paris, is the world’s third largest international news agency (after Associated Press and Reuters).


    Pre-Lot Text

    Masterpieces from the workshops of Abraham-Louis Breguet
    The following ten lots, 123 to 132, are superb and wide ranging examples made by the workshops of Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) and his successors, widely acknowledged for having set the standard by which all fine watchmaking has been judged ever since.

    This group of exceptional timepieces, all coming from important private European collections, present collectors with the increasingly rare opportunity to obtain a masterwork of a true genius.

    Lot 123 is amongst the rarest and most complicated Breguet watches ever made. Indeed, after the legendary “Marie Antoinette”, it is the only Breguet perpétuelle featuring an equation of time function. Another of the fascinating and rare perpétuelle watches, lot 125, was owned by Gabriel-Julien Ouvrard, the great financier of the Napoleonic era. One of Breguet’s own inventions, the “à tact” watch, is represented by a superb and impressive example, lot 124, an epitome of understated beauty for which his work is renowned. A very rare grande sonnerie clockwatch, lot 126, and the repeating watch once owned by the English second husband of the notorious Russian Princess Bagration, lot 128, capture at once the rich history and technical mastery of Breguet.

    For the wristwatch collector, there are three exceptional pieces: lot 130, a very rare triple calendar chronograph, was sold in 1972 to the famous French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo or his father Paul. Lot 131 is another stunning triple calendar watch with pink gilt dial, sold in 1952, model of which only a handful of examples are known. To complete the trio is the wonderfully elegant yellow and white gold classic, lot 132, sold in 1965. This watch brings this selection full-circle, a distillation of the company’s heritage in the 20th century.

    We are indebted to Mr. Emmanuel Breguet for his valuable assistance in researching these exceptional timepieces.

    Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823)
    Breguet was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, but it was in Paris that he spent most of his productive life. No aspect of watchmaking escaped his study, and his inventions were as fundamental to horology as they were varied. His career started with a series of breakthroughs: the development of the successful self-winding perpétuelle watches, the introduction of the gongs for repeating watches and the first shock-protection for balance pivots.

    Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie-Antoinette, were early enthusiasts of Breguet's watchmaking. Each watch from his workshops demonstrated the latest horological improvements in an original movement, mostly fitted with lever or ruby-cylinder escapements that he perfected. Breguet took refuge in Switzerland from the perils of the French Revolution. He returned to Paris overflowing with the ideas that produced the Breguet balance-spring, his first carriage clock (sold to Bonaparte), the "sympathique" clock and its dependent watch, the tact watch, and finally the tourbillon, patented in 1801.

    Breguet became the indispensable watchmaker to the scientific, military, financial and diplomatic elites of the age. His timepieces ruled the courts of Europe. For his most celebrated clients, Breguet designed exceptional timepieces. For Caroline Murat, queen of Naples, he conceived in 1810 the world's very first wristwatch. Honours saluted his enormous contribution to horology. Appointed to the Board of Longitude and as chronometer-maker to the navy, he entered the Academy of Sciences and received the Legion of Honour from the hands of Louis XVIII.

    When he died in 1823, all mourned the architect of the greatest revolution in the science and art of time-keeping.

    Lots 123 to 128
    Property from an Important Private European Collection

    "Only two perpetuelles are known with equation of time, No. 217 and No. 160, the legendary Marie Antoinette”


    Literature

    Illustrated and described in The Art of Breguet, George Daniels, 1975, p. 166, pl. 120a-c.
    Illustrated in A. L. Breguet, Watchmaker of Kings, Professor Thomas Engel, 1994, p. 104-105.
    Illustrated and described in Watches, Cecil Clutton and George Daniels, Viking Press, 1965, fig. 352-4.