According to the Archives of Montres Breguet, this watch, No. 2926, “montre répétition perpétuelle en or” was sold on 27 November 1816 to Ouvrard for 4500 Francs.
Consigned by an important private collector, this lot is sold with a custom-made additional glazed back commissioned in order to admire the function and beauty of the perpetuelle mechanism.
The present "perpétuelle" is an excellent example of one of Breguet's signature pieces - the self-winding or automatic watch. Research in the Breguet archives shows that in 1801, Ouvrard had purchased a gold repeating watch from Breguet (No. 680/3048) which was bought back, updated and resold to the Comte Apranin in 1818. It is quite possible that Ouvrard part-exchanged his earlier purchase No. 680 in part-payment for the present perpétuelle watch which at 4,500 Francs was, like all perpétuelles, extremely expensive.
Breguet and the new élite
Breguet had become aware since his return to Paris from Switzerland after the French revolution that a new social élite were emerging – the bankers. Prominent financiers from the Paris and foreign money markets would become some of his most important clients. The names of almost all the great banking scions feature in Breguet’s archives: Hottinguer, Rougemont, Mallet, Delessert, Récamier, Hope, Labouchère and many others. Between 1798 and 1809 Breguet sold around sixty pieces to the banking fraternity. In 1809 however, the spending came to an abrupt end because of the intensifying Napoleonic wars and the associated economic repercussions. In fact between 1810 and 1815 Breguet sold only three pieces to bankers. After the fall of Napoleon in 1815 they returned in force to buy from him and were joined by their English counterparts who were now free to buy in Paris themselves.
Gabriel-Julien Ouvrard (1770-1846)
One of the most famous French financiers of the Napoleonic period, Ouvrard played a large role in the economic recovery of France after the fall of the Empire. He was one of the founders of the Compagnie des Négociants Réunis along with the banker Médard Desprez (1764–1842), Regent of the Bank of France.
In 1805 the Bank of France faced collapse, this potential disaster was averted on 27 January 1806, when Ouvrard agreed to guarantee loans against the gold from the Spanish South America colonies. Believing that only peace could bring maritime economic growth, he tried to negotiate a secret peace with England with the support of Louis Bonaparte and Joseph Fouché, an act rewarded with three years in prison. At the beginning of the Restoration in June 1815, Ouvrard acquired the pavilion of Jonchère located at Bougival, known later as "Château de la Jonchère". In 1816, the year he bought the present perpetuelle watch, he acquired the Château de la Chaussée. In 1816, crops collapsed and the country faced ruin. The Duc de Richelieu, Prime Minister of Louis XVIII, on the advice of Ouvrard, created a 100 million pension that filled the coffers of the state. Payments were made and the threat that hung over France was lifted. Proof of the prestige which Ouvrard enjoyed at the time can be seen from the fact that both Louis XVIII and the man who would later become Charles X attended the wedding of his daughter to General de Rochechouart on 5 January 1822. The following year, after a disastrous investment placed him in bankruptcy, Ouvrard lost his entire fortune, even being imprisoned at the Conciergerie for corruption. He was exonerated but never recovered his fortune.
He died in London in 1846 being survived by Dr. Cabarrus, his illegitimate son by Madame Tallien, and his legitimate son, Julien Ouvrard.