According to the Archives of Montres Breguet, the present watch No. 590/3054, “répétition sur les principes des chronomètres” was sold to Lord Howden on 16 October 1846 for the sum of 2,000 Francs. It was then resold to Comte d’Almeida on 6 April 1850 for the sum of 3,550 Francs (at that time with certitificate No. 1769).
In line with Breguet’s customary business practice the watch was updated during the period between being bought back and resale. The silver guilloché dial originally supplied in 1846 was changed for the present white enamel dial, new gold hands and a new gold cuvette were fitted.
The present watch was made during Breguet’s grandson Louis-Clément’s tenure of the company when it was again at the forefront of innovation and invention. It is of particularly high-grade and finish, a category of watches described in the archives as being “constructed on the principles of the time-keepers”, to distinguish their superior qualities such as precision balance, lever escapement and full jeweling. The method of winding the repeating train with the pull-twist-push piston was Abraham-Louis Breguet’s own invention and can be found either in the pendant or in the band as in the present watch. It was very expensive to make and its purpose was essentially to give the watch a neater appearance. The half-quarter repeater is a quarter repeating mechanism that strikes an extra blow on the gong if the minute hand is at or past the halfway point between the quarters. It gives the user better accuracy of up to seven and a half minutes either side of the last elapsed quarter hour.
A title in the Irish peerage from 1819 and from 1831 in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.
The buyer of the present watch was the second Baron Howden, Sir John Hobart Caradoc, the British general and diplomat who lived much of the time in Paris. Interestingly, Lord Howden was the second husband of the Russian Princess Catherine Bagration (1783-1857), another rich patron of Breguet in her own right. Princess Bagration was known for her beauty, love affairs and outrageous behaviour, she was the heiress of her uncle Grigory Potemkin’s fabulous jewellery collection including the famous “Potemkin diamond”. Fifteen years his senior, she married Baron Howden in Paris in 1830. On 26 October 1837, she purchased a carriage clock from Breguet, No. 4768, for the sum of 3,500 Francs. The Caradocs had no children and by 1849 the couple had a formal separation. Both baronies became extinct on his death in 1873.
We are indebted to Mr. Emmanuel Breguet for his valuable assistance in researching the present watch.