Breguet & Fils, Paris, No. 2667 "Montre plate à deux mouvements, sur le principe des chronomètres". An extremely rare and exceptionally fine and elegant 18K gold precision watch with two movements
Signed Breguet et Fils, No. 2667, sold in August 1814 to Mr Garcias of London for the sum of 5,000 francs
26'''gilded brass movement with two complete mechanisms contained within the area of a single plate, both with going barrels, fully jewelled, straight line calibrated lever escapements with divided lift and straight pallets, banking against the escape wheels arbour, draw, bimetallic steel/platinum compensation balances, gold and platinum screws, with pare-chute suspension on both pivots, blued steel Breguet free-sprung balance springs, glazed cuvette, engine-turned silver dial, two small subsidiary dials for the mean time, to the left subsidiary dial with Arabic suspended numerals, outer minute track and yellow gold Breguet hands, with inside at noon a subsidiary dial for the seconds, with yellow gold equilibrated hand, symmetrically to the right another subsidiary dial with radial Roman numerals, outer minute track and blued steel Breguet hands, with equilibrated central second blued steel hand, the circular four body "forme quatre baguettes" case, chiselled band; ball-shaped pendant and round bow, signed on the dial and numbered 2667 on the case, case no. 1887 by Jean-Louis Joly
63.7 mm. diam.
Rediscover the real quintessence of the Art of Breguet
How many superlatives can be found these days in auction catalogues, describing lots that have nothing out of the ordinary except what the auctioneer or the specialist who prepared the information finds in them in order to sell them better!
Under the pen of a true expert, superlatives should only be used for the truly exceptional. This is the case today with two masterpieces from the workshops of Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), "Watchmaker of the Kings, King of Watchmakers" - lost masterpieces rediscovered in the collections of a European noble family.
The first of these exceptional pieces is a large "Montre à deux mouvements" or "watch with two movements", (no. 2667), sold in August 1814 to a certain Garcias in London for the sum of 5'000 francs. This is the very first experimental watch manufactured by Breguet with two complete movements (barrels, gear trains, escapements and balances) with the aim of obtaining the ultimate rating for his timepieces by means of the physical phenomenon of resonance. The watch was returned to Paris at an unknown date by a certain Gabriel and sold on 30 April 1856 to Eugène Emmanuel de Savoie-Villafranca-Soissons (1816-1888), Prince of Carignan, Count of Villafranca, for the sum of 4'500 francs. Two other similar watches were created by the master watchmaker: the second (no. 2788), sold on 2 October 1818 to George IV (1762-1830), King of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover (1820-1830), then Regent, for the amount of 7'200 francs; the third (no. 2794), sold on 3 September 1821, to Louis XVIII (1755-1824), King of France (1814-1824), for the sum of 7'000 francs. The latter was returned to Breguet on 4 September 1866 by Mr Caen, for the sum of 2'700 francs. These two watches are today in the collections of the L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art (The Sir David Salomons Collection) in Jerusalem (watch no. 2788 is described and illustrated in The Art of Time - The Sir David Salomons Collection of Watches and Clocks, L.A. Mayer Museum of Islamic Art, pp. 40 & 41).
The second exceptional piece is a large "Montre à répétition à demi-quarts, à équation" or "half-quarter repeating watch with equation of time" (no. 4111), sold on 10 January 1827 to Peyronnet for the sum of 7'500 francs; returned and sold again on 3 November 1834 to Count Charles de l'Espine for the sum of 8'000 francs. Among the fifteen watches with equation of time (indicating the difference between the mean time and the real or solar time) manufactured by Breguet and his son Antoine-Louis Breguet (1776-1858) between 1790 and 1830, several featured a sectorial indication, others a "indication marchante" or running indication, while the present example is part of five watches with two independent dials offering a much easier reading of the mean time and the real (or solar) time. Of these five pieces, only two are equipped with a repeating mechanism (upon demand) for the hours and the half-quarters. Thus, these two pieces are the most complicated of this type; the other (no. 4112), was sold on 1 June 1829 to Mr Goding for the sum of 8'128 francs (£320). Charles de l'Espine is not unknown in the house of Breguet, it was him who bought on 30 December 1830 Breguet's first keyless winding watch (an accomplishment of Antoine-Louis Breguet; no. 4952) for the sum of 5'800 francs. This is one of the precursors of the winding and setting time mechanism via the pendant, as we use it today. Watch no. 4112 is today in the collections of the L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art (The Sir David Salomons Collection) in Jerusalem (see The Art of Time - The Sir David Salomons Collection of Watches and Clocks, L.A. Mayer Museum of Islamic Art, pp. 42 & 43).
Besides these two masterpieces of Breguet one also discovers, from the same source, a minute repeating watch (no. 2903) with independent jumping seconds, one of the ancestors of the chronograph. This exceptional piece was sold on 13 February 1817 to Charles François Armand de Maillé de La Tour-Landry (1770-1837), 2nd Duke de Maillé (1791-1837), for the sum of 3'600 francs. He was the father of Claire Clémence Henriette Claudine de Maillé de La Tour-Landry (1796-1861), Duchesse de Castries, one of the most famous mistresses of Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), the celebrated French writer.
Chances to own such horological treasures are becoming more and more scarce. During the twentieth century there were only few opportunities to find timepieces by Breguet of such quality. We have to go back in time to the sale of the collections of the Reverend William Bentinck Lethem Hawkins (London, 1895), then the sale of the collections of King Farouk of Egypt (Cairo, 1953), before getting to the thematic auction The Art of Breguet (Geneva, 1991), followed by The Time Museum of Rockford, Illinois (New York, 1999, 2001 and 2004) and finally The Esmond Bradley Martin's Collection (New York, 2002).
To say it with the words of Dr. Eugen Gschwind (1921-1991) of Basel "One must know how to purchase exceptional objects today, at tomorrow's prices" ... the quintessence is to define what is truly exceptional! He, having never claimed to be an expert but just a well-informed amateur, had the flair of a great connoisseur for what was the truly exceptional.
Other pieces signed by Breguet, Louis Moinet (1768-1853), Mugnier Le Jeune, Louis Berthoud (1754-1813) or the Frères Berthoud, sons of the latter, complete this collection, hitherto unknown to the art market.
We thank Arnaud Tellier, from Tellier Fine Arts, former Director and Curator of the Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva, for his valuable participation in the researches and cataloguing of the watches of this collection.
Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823)
A.-L. Breguet is widely acknowledged for having set the standard by which all fine watchmaking has been judged ever since.
He 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 excesses 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.
With Breguet Certificate no. 4369 dated 23 March 2012.
Sold in August 1814 to Mr Garcias of London for the amount of 5,000 francs; taken back from him via Gabriel; resold on 30 April 1856 to Eugène Emmanuel de Savoie-Villafranca-Soissons (1816-1888), Prince of Carignan, Count of Villafranca, for the amount of 4'500 francs.
The movements were especially built to obtain direct centre-seconds devices, one in the centre, the other at noon of the left subsidiary dial. This watch was devised by Breguet to demonstrate his theory that two oscillating bodies in proximity will influence each other. The barrels, trains and escapements are duplicated. The balances are close to each other. On the two other watches made by him (no. 2788 and no. 2794) the distance between the balances can be varied in order to study the effects of air disturbances caused by their variations. Breguet found that the effects of air disturbance were minimal and this was confirmed when both balances were encircled with a thin steel guard to minimise these effects. His experiments led him to conclude that the whole of the matter composing the watch plate was set in continuous microscopic motion by the vibration of the balances and that any errors in one half of the watch would be favourably influenced by the other half. The system was undoubtedly successful in eliminating obscure small errors and Breguet noted that one of the watches had been in the hands of independent testers for three months without the seconds hands deviating by the smallest fraction of a second.
Breguet's resonance watches
Around 1810, Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) made for Louis XVIII (1755-1824), King of France (1814-1824), a resonance regulator, presently displayed at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (National Conservatory for Arts and Crafts) in Paris. He also manufactured a second one for George IV (1762-1830), King of Great-Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover (1820-1830), now in London's Buckingham Palace. For these two personalities he also made pocketwatches applying the same principle, following the example set by his first resonance watch in 1814 (the watch offered for sale in this auction).
List of Breguet's watches with two movements:
No. 2667 "Montre à deux mouvements, 26'''"; case no. 1887, in gold, by Joly
Sold in August 1814 to Mr Garcias of London for the amount of 5 000 francs.
Taken back from him via Gabriel.
Resold on 30 April 1856 to Eugène Emmanuel de Savoie-Villafranca-Soissons (1816-1888), Prince of Carignan, Count of Villafranca, for the amount of 4 500 francs.
The present watch.
Eugène Emmanuel Joseph Marie Paul François Antoine de Savoie-Villafranca-Soissons (Paris, 14 April 1816 - Torino, 15 December 1888), Prince of Carignan, Count of Villafranca. He was named Chevalier de l'Annonciade in 1836 (certificate no. 443). He is buried in the Superga Basilique in Torino (second hall).
No. 2788 "Montre à deux mouvements, simple"; case no. 3309, in gold
Sold on 2 October 1818, to the Prince Regent, future George IV (1762-1830), King of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover (1820-1830), for the sum of 7'200 francs (certificate no. 2396).
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century Collection of Sir David Lionel Salomons, London (Inv. No. 11, certificate no. 2595)
Jerusalem, L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, The Sir David Salomons Collection (Inv. WA76-71).
No. 2794, "Simples à deux mouvements"; case no. 3424, in gold
Sold on 3 September 1821 to H.M. Louis XVIII (1755-1824), King of France (1814-1824), for the sum of 7000 francs.
Resold on 4 September 1866 to Mr Caen for the sum of 2'700 francs (certificate no. 1887).
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century Collection of Sir David Lionel Salomons, London (Inv. No. 10, certificate no. 2370)
Jerusalem, L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, The Sir David Salomons Collection (Inv. WA86-71).
The phenomena of resonance
All living bodies send vibrations to their environments. When another body picks up these vibrations, it absorbs the energy and begins vibrating at the same frequency. The first one is called the exciter, the second the resonator.
This physical phenomenon, called "resonance", is an integral part of our daily lives and yet we do not pay attention to it. For example, when we search for a station on our radio, it crackles as long as the chosen waves have not found the waves of the transmitter. Once they have met, and only then, they synchronize to be in resonance!
At the end of the sixteenth century, Galileo (Galileo Galilei; 1564-1642), Italian physicist and astronomer, discovered the laws of the pendulum motion and encouraged its usage in the measurement of time (law of the isochronous pendulum). According to tradition, he made this discovery at the age of nineteen by observing the swing of a chandelier in the cathedral of Pisa.
In 1656, Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), Dutch mathematician, physicist and astronomer, perfected the first clock with a pendulum, thus clearing the way to the birth of accuracy.
Soon watchmakers observed that the frequency of the pendulum often interferes with its environment and that it is not uncommon to see a clock stopping by itself when its pendulum starts to resonate with the weight suspended from its cord.
The understanding of the phenomenon of resonance grew in the eighteenth century. Scholars had the intuition that energy is dispersed, not lost; Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794), French chemist, stated that "Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed".
Resonance clocks and watches
If Huygens has foreseen and drafted it, it was Antide Janvier (1751-1835), French watchmaker and mechanic, who was the first to believe that one can change this disadvantage into an asset. He developed two complete watch movements with two precision escapements and mounted them one next to the other, ensuring that the two pendulums were suspended from the same frame. Just as he had imagined, each of the pendulums absorbed the energy released by the other and started beating together, thus entering into resonance.
Detained by this wave and protected from external vibrations, this principle greatly increased the accuracy of timekeeping. Toward 1780, Antide Janvier built two regulators fitted with two pendulums, one of which, wall-mounted, is preserved at the Paul Dupuy Museum in Toulouse, while the other one, a long case, is at Montres Journe S.A. in Geneva. A third regulator, desk top, built shortly after and finished in 1810, is on permanent exhibition in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Around 1810, Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), French watchmaker originating from Neuchâtel, Switzerland, built a resonance clock for Louis XVIII (1755-1824), King of France (1814-1824), presently displayed at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) in Paris and a second one for George IV (1762-1830), King of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover (1820-1830), preserved at the Buckingham Palace in London. For these two Royal personalities he also created pocketwatches based on the same principle, following the example of his first resonance watch created in 1814. The first two are in the L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art (The Sir David Salomons Collection) in Jerusalem, while the third - and oldest of the three watches - is the present watch offered for sale in this auction.
During the 1930s, in the horological school of the Vallée de Joux, 10 chronometers of different sizes fitted with double regulators were made. The most prestigious example features a differential driving the flying tourbillon cage, containing two balances. Some of these chronometers are today in the collections of the Espace horloger de la Vallée de Joux, the Musée International de l'Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds and in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
In what concerns its application to the field of horology, this physical phenomenon was not studied anymore until the recent work of François-Paul Journe (born in 1957), French watchmaker living in Geneva. He uses its advantages in the wristwatch, whose adjustment is subject to numerous disruptions due to being carried on the wrist and the resulting movements.