With Breguet Certificat No. 2580 dated 7 January 1920 and signed by Henry Brown, confirming the sale of watch no. 4420 with gold chain and gold key on 3 October 1825 to S.M. le Roi d'Angleterre for the amount of 2,900 Francs. Furthermore delivered with original fitted red Morocco presentation box No. 4420 stamped Deshoutter, 4, Hannover Street, London, Breguet's representative in London.
As the appellation rightfully implies, Breguet, king of watchmakers and watchmaker of kings, was the watchmaker of choice of the members of the most eminent noble families. Habitually carefully kept and cherished in the relevant collections from one generation to the other, the public appearance of a timepiece with noble provenance is an exceedingly rare event.
Consigned by an important private collector, distinguished by its impressive provenance and excellent original overall condition, the present "montre simple plate à deux cadrans excentriques d'heures et minutes", sold on 3 October 1825 to HM the King of England, represents one of these exceptionally scarce opportunities to acquire one of the Breguet's "Royal" watches.
Like his father King George III, George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and future King George IV, was an aficionado of fine watches and clocks and one of Abraham-Louis Breguet's earliest clients, admirers and most loyal customers. Remembered as "a man of exceptional taste and style", it comes to no surprise that he would chose the master watchmakers' extraordinary clocks and watches for his personal collection.
Amongst the most notable timepieces Breguet sold to him are the Constant Force Tourbillon Clock No. 1252 and the Sympathique Clock No. 666, together with Pocket Watch No. 721, featuring an extremely sophisticated synchronizing mechanism, purchased in 1814. The Prince Regent then bought a complicated musical chronometer with a clock work acting as a metronome, the Metronome Clock. Lastly, in 1825, George IV acquired a high-precision Double-Pendulum Resonance Clock No. 3671, reputed as the remarkable "watch with two movements". The latter three are still today highlights of the United Kingdom's Royal Collection.
Acquired by King George IV in 1825 and distinguished by its particularly elegant yet practical design and size, the present watch must have been one of his favorite timepieces for use during official and informal occasions. The sophisticated dial layout impresses by the harmonious display of the separated hour and minute indications, surmounted by the advance/retard function, allowing the easy regulation of the movement. Its finely engine-turned, slim case (also a rarity in the savonnette or hunter form used by Breguet in only about one in every twenty of his watches) was made in the workshops of the celebrated Pierre Benjamin Tavernier, the ruby cylinder movement is fitted with a "suspension élastique", Breguet's ingenious elastic balance suspension also known as pare-chute devised to protect the pivots from blows, ancestor of the shock-protection devices. The attached gold chain and gold male winding ratchet key (a winding key often used by Breguet, incorporating a slanted ratchet clutch to prevent winding except in one direction; if turned the wrong way it revolves harmlessly instead of straining the train and possibly damaging the movement) are most likely still the original accessories sold with the watch in 1825.
It is unknown when King George IV parted with his watch but it can safely be assumed that he presented it to a member of the Scottish noble family Douglas-Hamilton, most likely to his close acquaintance Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852), a Scottish politician, art collector and well-known dandy. According to entries in Breguet's books, watch no. 4420 was returned for a complete overhaul in 1850 by the Marquis de Douglas, furthermore mentioning "sold in 1825, never returned". In 1851, the crystal was replaced, also by order of the Marquis de Douglas. The watch was then returned to Breguet for a complete overhaul in 1860 by the Duc de Hamilton and for a servicing in 1863 by the Duchesse de Hamilton.
Alexander Douglas-Hamilton's son was William Alexander Archibald Hamilton, 11th Duke of Hamilton and 8th Duke of Brandon (1811-1863), husband of Princess Marie Amélie of Baden, daughter of the Grand Duke Charles of Baden and Stéphanie de Beauharnais, the adopted daughter of Napoleon I. Their daughter Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton was married to Albert I, Prince of Monaco, their only son Louis II, Prince of Monaco, grandfather of Rainier III.
After its servicing at Breguet in 1863, the tracks of watch no. 4420 vanish until around 1920-1921 when it reappears in the family of the celebrated inventor, scientist and watch collector Sir David Lionel Salomons (1851-1925). In his book "Breguet (1747-1823)", published for the prestigious exhibition "Centenaire de A.L. Breguet" held at the Musée Galliéra in Paris in 1923, watch no. 4420 is described on page 86, exhibit no. 101, as "belonging to Madame Bryce". It is furthermore listed on page 102 under "Watches not in the collection of the author" and prominently illustrated on page 291. The accompanying Breguet Certificat No. 2580 is dated Paris, 7 January 1920 and signed by Henry Brown, then the owner of the house of Breguet. It was possibly established on request of Mrs Edward Bryce upon acquisition of King George IV's watch.
Mrs Edward Bryce, née Vera Frances Salomons (1888-1969), was Sir David's third daughter. From his five children possibly the most similar to her father, she shared many of his interests - such as his passion for watches made by the celebrated Abrahm-Louis Breguet.