Breguet’s history is entwined with royalty. After all, the French Crown was the first and possibly most fervent supporter of the House, back in the late 1700. The present piece shows how, two centuries later, monarchs still fall under the spell of this legendary brand.
This wristwatch was in fact delivered on December 23, 1985 to one of the most prominent middle-eastern rulers of the past century: His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco. The importance of such an illustrious original owner is matched by the aesthetic and technical traits of the piece, obviously a special on-request commission.
At first glance, the watch would appear to be a triple calendar timepiece with the simple upgrade of calendar discs in Arabic. That would be a wrong assumption, as the calendar is not a normal Gregorian calendar, but rather the Hijri Islamic calendar, used to determine Islamic holy days and periods (such as Ramadan which is, in fact, one of the 12 Hijri months). This system is based on lunar months, consequently each month can be 29 or 30 days long: there are no 31 days long months, thus requiring a custom modification of the calendar gears.
The dial is finished in pure Breguet tradition: it is a silvered solid gold plate completely engine-turned, save for the satin-finished hour chapter ring and the equally finished two “cartouches” with the Breguet and Chaumet signatures. The different engine-turning used for the borders of the hour ring betrays a momentous attention to details, such as one would expect to find on a royal timepiece. Chaumet at the time was the owner of Breguet, and that’s the reason for its signature’s presence on the dial. It is interesting to note how the two brands are presented side by side, on an equal level of importance. Aesthetically, this configuration is extremely pleasing: coincidentally the two signatures are approximately the same length, thus fitting into two equally sized cartouches which add balance to the piece. In fact, the search for balance extends beyond this detail: the entire watch is absolutely symmetrical in relation to its vertical axis with some design choices – such as the three vertically aligned calendar windows, the specular signatures and the way the bracelet is attached to the case – heavily underlining this aesthetic feature.
The case shape is that of an octagon with rounded corners, with a generous but very elegant diameter of 36 mm. It is perfectly preserved, unpolished, and betrays stylistic traits typical of the eighties, such as the ribbed band and the stepped bezel. The case back bears the Breguet signature and five immaculate hallmarks: two Swiss gold marks, two French import marks (the owl, with the number 75 indicating the mark was executed in Paris) and a “JC” hallmark with a star and a crescent, which is the hallmark of Joseph Chaumet: as it turns out, the case as well is double signed. The no-compromise approach used for this timepiece is even more apparent after an examination of the inside of the back, which holds the maker mark. The JHP stamp indicates that the author of this masterpiece is casemaker extraordinaire Jean-Pierre Hagmann, a true legend of the field, active during the second half of the past century and the early 2000s for brands such as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.
Such a search for “best-in-class” extends to the bracelet as well. A simple glance at the exquisite woven texture is more than enough to suspect another great name is behind it, and indeed the clasp bears the hallmark of Jean-Pierre Ecoffey, the most prominent bracelet maker active at the time. However, the bracelet holds one more surprise: it is stamped "Audemars Piguet". Following our researches also with the archives of Breguet there are no reasons to believe that the bracelet is not original to the watch. It can be assumed that it was selected by the Chaumet brothers, owners of Breguet, retailers of Audemars Piguet and suppliers of King of Morocco at the time, as the perfect choice for this exquisite timepiece.
This decision raises the number of iconic names featured on this timepiece to five: Breguet, Chaumet, Audemars Piguet, Hagmann and Ecoffey, which is in itself an extraordinary occurrence. Combined with the royal provenance, on-demand technical characteristics of the piece, full confirmation of its provenance and configuration from the Breguet Archives, freshness to the market and extraordinary condition, it is safe to say that the present watch is one of the few true lost horological treasures from the late 20th century, and a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for the collector of extraordinary timepieces.
KING HASSAN II
Prince Moulay Hassan was born on July 9, 1929 and received his education at the Rabat Imperial College and later at the University of Bordeaux. When the French authorities exiled the royal family for 2 years in 1953-55, he acted as political advisor for his father. Recognizing his political gifts, the king wanted him at his side when negotiating Morocco’s independence in 1956, and later that year made him Chief of Staff of the Royal Armed Forces. Prince Hassan was proclaimed Crown Prince in 1957, and King at his father’s death in 1961. King Hassan II was an ally of the West during the years of the cold war, acting especially as an informal political channel between the Arab world and Israel, thanks to the large Moroccan-Jewish community in Israel. Economically, he opted for a free market, shaping the national economy around agriculture, tourism and phosphates mining. While the early years of his reign were marked by a somewhat conservative rule, by the 1990s the approach was much more modern, to the point of setting up a Royal Council for Human Rights.
King Hassam II died of natural causes on July 23, 1999 and was buried in the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat. The largest mosque in Morocco, featuring the highest minaret in the world, is dedicated to him.