Breguet No. 5015 "Très petite motre simple sur les principes des chronomètres, petit bouton moleté servant à remonter la montre et à mettres les aiguilles à l'heure". An extremely rare, early and important 18K gold openface lever watch with keyless winding and hand setting, date, original certificate and red Morocco fitted box no. 5015
Masterpieces from the workshop of Abraham-Louis Breguet The following eight lots, 232 to 239, all cherished trophies having reamined for many years in the same important private collections, are now representing the exceedingly rare opportunity to acquire a horological masterpiece made by the celebrated master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, "Watchmaker of the Kings, King of Watchmakers", and his descendants Antoine-Louis and Louis-Clément. Witnesses of often tumultuous historical and political times, the technical, innovative and decorative characteristics of the eight watches offered here for sale pay tribute to Breguet's genius in all areas of finest watchmaking. Particularly noteworthy amongst these exceptional pieces is watch no. 1135, "Petite montre à répéptition à quarts, echappement libre à levées naturelles", the quarter repeating watch with natural lift escapement sold to the Duke of Infandato on 13 January 1806 for the sum of 4,200 Francs. This is the very first watch manufactured by Breguet with his form of free escapement, the echappement naturel, a revolutionary devise developed to achieve very high precision rates without requiring lubrication. One of the rarest escapements ever made it is particularly fascinating for the aficionado of finest horology. Ordered by the Duke of Infantado by letter in March 1802, its construction took nearly four years and involved extremely costly development work. The watch was returned to Paris in December 1837 by a certain Madame de Montenoir of Rue de Richelieu, Paris, who brought it back to Breguet for cleaning and repairing. It then vanished for over a century, until 1944, when a letter in its regard was received by Lord Harris who must have had it in his collection in the 1950s. When and how he parted with it is not known but the last public appearance of Breguet's "échappement naturel no. 1135" was on 4 February 1983 when it was acquired at public auction by the present owner. The second watch is one of the very few examples of one of Breguet's "Royal watches" to appear in public. Sold to HM King George IV of Great Britain in 1825, this "montre simple plate à deux cadrans excentriques d'heures et minutes" stands out by its particularly elegant yet practical design and size and must have been one of the King's favorite timepieces for use during official and informal occasions. Besides these two masterpieces of Breguet, one should note watch no. 5015, one of the earliest watches ever made with keyless winding and hour setting furthermore fitted with a very early date change system. Sold in 1833 to the Duke of Abercorn, it has remained in the family ever since and is now consigned by one of his descendants. Watch no. 1584 is one of Breguet's "Souscripton" watches, unusual in the silver and pink gold case. No. 3065, a fine and rare gold and enamelled quarter repeating cabriolet watch made for the Ottoman market, no. 5021, with the same characteristics as the latter but made by Leroy, Breguet's pupil and representative in Constantinople, no. 124, a very small repeating watch, no. 2046, an unusual half-quarter repeating duplex watch, and no. 890, a quarter repeating duplex watch, all from the same private collector, round out the selection. The chances of possessing a horological treasure are becoming increasingly scarce - the watches offered here for sale must be considered one of these exceedingly rare opportunities not to be missed by the connoisseur of such masterpieces. 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. Antoine-Louis Breguet (1776-1858) Upon Abraham-Louis' death in 1823, his only son and natural successor Antoine-Louis took over the reins of the firm. Trained with his father in Paris, John Arnold in London and with several Swiss watchmakers in the Le Locle region, he had been involved since around 1790 in the running of the house and in all innovations produced by it. Known and respected by the clientele, his only wish was to continue his father's work. During his period at the helm of the house, production of marine watches and creation of complicated timepieces was increased. Worthy successor to his father, he constantly pushed back the limits of the possible and gave free reins to his highly developed artistic sense, some of his pieces surpassing in elegance and finesse everything produced by the firm so far. Breaking with some of the houses' traditions, Antoine-Louis designed off-centre dials which were breath-taking in their audacity. At the 1827 national exhibition he was awarded gold medals for his marine chronometers and his watches with complications. A highly talented watchmaker, Antoine-Louis' interpersonal and business skills were however far from those of his father. Faced with the commercial decline, he transferred the business to his son Louis-Clément and "Breguet, Neveu et Compagnie" was set up on 20 May 1833. Louis François Clément Breguet (1804-1883) Like his father and grandfather, Louis-Clément was a trained watchmaker but also a physicist and prolific inventor. He had taken over the reins of the firm from his father in 1833, steering the renamed Breguet, Neveu et Compagnie into a new direction. Between 1835 and 1840, while still maintaining a traditional workshop for the manufacture of one-off pieces "à l'ancienne", in the old style, he standardized the majority of the firms production, then making 350 watches per year, and diversified into scientific instruments, electrical devices, recording instruments, an electric thermometer, telegraph instruments and electrically synchronized clocks. With Alphonse Foy, in 1842, he developed an electrical needle telegraph to replace the optical telegraph system then in use. Louis-Clément also manufactured the rotating mirror Fizeau-Foucault apparatus, used by Léon Foucault and Hippolyte Fizeau to measure the speed of light (1850). In 1856 he designed a public network of synchronized electric clocks for the center of Lyon. In 1866 he patented an electric clock controlled by a 100 Hz tuning fork. In terms of honors, in 1843 he was appointed to the Bureau of Longitudes. In 1845 Breguet was awarded the Legion d'Honneur. He was made a member of the French Academy of Sciences in 1874 and was elevated to Officer of the Legion d'Honneur in 1877. He is one of the 72 French scientists whose names are written around the base of the Eiffel Tower. Breguet was married and had one son Antoine (1851-1882) who also joined the family electrical business. Father and son met Alexander Graham Bell and obtained a license to manufacture Bell telephones for the French market. Antoine's son was Louis Charles Breguet, aviation pioneer and aircraft manufacturer. In 1870, both Louis-Clément and his son Antoine had lost interest in traditional watchmaking. The branch was separated from the rest of the firm and handed over to Edward Brown who had been working at Breguet since 1845. Breguet then focused entirely on the telegraph and the nascent field of telecommunications. He collaborated in the development of an induction coil, later improved by Heinrich Ruhmkorff. He died in 1883, a little over a year after the sudden death of his son Antoine. THE PROPERTY OF A NOBLEMAN, A DESCENDANT OF THE ORIGINAL OWNER
Breguet No. 5015 "Très petite motre simple sur les principes des chronomètres, petit bouton moleté servant à remonter la montre et à mettres les aiguilles à l'heure". An extremely rare, early and important 18K gold openface lever watch with keyless winding and hand setting, date, original certificate and red Morocco fitted box no. 5015


Breguet No. 5015 "Très petite motre simple sur les principes des chronomètres, petit bouton moleté servant à remonter la montre et à mettres les aiguilles à l'heure". An extremely rare, early and important 18K gold openface lever watch with keyless winding and hand setting, date, original certificate and red Morocco fitted box no. 5015
Signed Breguet, No. 5015, case nos. 5015 B and 724, sold on 3 July 1833 to the Marquis d'Abercorn for the sum of 3,870 francs
Cal. 15 1/3''' gilded brass jewelled lever movement, index regulator, bimetallic compensation balance with two wedge-shaped weights, white matte silver dial, eccentric hour dial with Roman numerals, gold Breguet hands, small date dial above 12 o'clock with Arabic numerals, blued steel hand, small engine-turned slim case, engine-turned snap on back, movement advance/retard slide and date corrector button in the band, movement wound and hands set through the button in the olive-shaped pendant, case nos. 5015 B and 724 by Louis Joly, dial signed and numbered
34 mm. diam.
James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn, KG, PC (21 January 1811 - 31 October 1885) styled Viscount Hamilton from 1814 to 1818 and the Marquess of Abercorn from 1818 to 1868, was a British Conservative politician and statesman who twice served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the British monarch's official representative and head of the Irish executive.

Abercorn was the son of James Hamilton, Viscount Hamilton, who died when his son was only three. His mother was Harriet Douglas, second daughter of the Hon. John Douglas. Abercorn married Lady Louisa, second daughter of John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford, in 1832. They had fourteen children, thirteen of whom survived infancy.

In 1844, Lord Abercorn was made a Knight of the Garter at the relatively young age of 33, becoming that same year Lord Lieutenant of Donegal. Two years later he was appointed a Privy Counsellor and Groom of the Stole to Prince Albert, and remained a prominent figure in the royal court for the next two decades. In 1860, The Times noted that Hamilton was one of only three to hold peerages in all three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1866, he was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, and two years later was created Marquess of Hamilton (in the Peerage of the United Kingdom) and Duke of Abercorn (in the Peerage of Ireland), resigning shortly after Gladstone won the 1868 general election. In 1874, he was chosen Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, a post he held until his death. Abercorn was Envoy-Extraordinary for the investiture of King Umberto I of Italy with the Order of the Garter on 2 March 1878. He was elected Chancellor of the University of Ireland in 1881, and died four years later at his home of Baronscourt, County Tyrone.

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Lot Essay

With Breguet original Notice No. 1376 dated London, 19 June 1833 and signed Breguet, Neveux & Cie., original fitted red Morocco presentation box No. 5015. According to the Archives of Montres Breguet, the watch was sold on 3 July 1833 to the Marquis d'Abercorn for the sum of 3,870 francs

The Notice describes the watch as a very small "montre simple", without repeating, on the principles of chronometers, with all functions on the outside of the case, engine-turned gold case, white matte silver dial, date indication, olive-shaped pendant with small button through which the movement is wound and the hands are set, advance/retard functions in the band of the watch, small pin in the band, not far from the pendant, for date setting, lever movement set with rubies, elastic double suspension on the regulator pivot.

Sold on 3 July 1833 to the Duke of Abercorn, the present watch is one of the very first watches ever made by any watchmaker featuring a keyless stem winding and hour setting system and furthermore the additional feature of the date indication set by depressing a small corrector push button in the band, both rarities by themselves.

For centuries, watch movements were wound and the hands were set by means of a key, prone to create nuisance not only in case of loss of the latter but also, more importantly, because of damages to the movement caused by the infiltration of dust, dirt or humidity through the winding hole. Surprisingly it was not until the late 18th/early 19th century that serious efforts were made to resolve this problem, the result still today one of the most used features in horology: the stem winding and hour setting via the crown.

Although generally attributed to the French watchmaker Jean Adrien Philippe whose celebrated "mechanism for setting and winding watches by the pendant, applicable to all types of watches" was patented in 1845, it is barely known that already in 1830, Abraham Louis son Antoine-Louis Breguet marketed watches fitted with a combined winding and hand-setting system. His invention, the ancestor of all modern winding mechanisms, consisted of a knurled winding button to be turned from left to right until a stop was reached. The first watch incorporating this revolutionary system was sold on 30 December 1830 to Comte Charles de l'Espine, the accompanying certificate stating: "To rewind the watch, which may be done either while it is still in its case or after it has been removed from it, it is sufficient to turn the winding crown situated in the pendant from right to left between thumb and forefinger, continuing until resistance is felt". Regrettably, Antoine-Louis omitted to patent his revolutionary invention, another milestone in the history of watchmaking and another highlight in the house's extensive credentials.

The present "montre simple" is one of the very few surviving examples of this category of Breguet's production, made in much smaller numbers than the other types, especially the much more popular repeating watches which could be used in the dark. Its lever movement, made "sur les principles des chronomètres" (on the principles of chronometers), is the highest standard of Breguet's "simple" watches, watches without noteworthy complications. Such movements were fully jewelled, with lever escapements and compensation balances, often featuring phases of the moon, seconds hands or dial regulators.

The highest grade examples of the "montre simple" with lever escapement would cost an average of 2,000 Francs - emphasizing the importance of the present watch, sold for 3,780 Francs. This impressive amount reflects not only the superior quality of its movement but most importantly its keyless winding and hour setting system as well as the date corrector: by depressing the small button in the band near the pendant, the date hand jumps by half a day steps - as opposed to the at the time much more common system of adjusting the date by pushing the date hand with a wooden pin to the correct position.

The appearance of a watch presenting historically important technical features, having reamined in the same noble family since its purchase in 1833 and still retaining the original Notice and box is one of scarce highlights in today's collector's market.

Covering three Breguet generations, starting with the founder Abraham-Louis and his contribution to the development of the keyless winding and hour setting mechanism, his son Antoine-Louis who perfected and commercialized it and lastly the latter's son Louis-Clément who sold it only 6 weeks after the foundation of his firm, watch no. 5015 is an important witness of the work and legacy of the house of Breguet.

For a similar watch, no. 5076 sold in 1836, today in the collections of The State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, see Breguet in the Hermitage, The State Museum St. Petersburg, 2004, p. 107, pl. 98.

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