Accompanied by a photocopy of the Breguet Certificate no. 3283 dated 21 June 1971 confirming the sale of the present "Montre en médaillon à tact" with grey enamel case, hour markers and arrow with pearls and cylinder escapement to Monsieur le Duc de Bedford on 2 Floreal An II (21 April 1794) for the amount of 1,500 Francs. Furthermore delivered with a gold ratchet key and short length of chain and later Breguet red leather presentation box numbered 1099.
The "montre à tact" or "tactful watch" was invented by Abraham Louis Breguet in the late 1790s during an epoch when it was unseemly to read the time in public. The "à tact" system helped to tactfully tell the time in polite society without taking the watch out of your pocket.
It is also known as the "watch for the blind" as the exposed pointer and markers on the band allow the wearer to determine the time by touch.
The present watch, sold in 1794, is one of the earliest examples of a "montre à tact", which Breguet officially introduced in spring 1799 only. These watches were also called "médaillon à tact" and destined to be worn on a chain around the neck which explains the absence of a bow.
Breguet's à tact watches were fitted with a so-called variation of the "souscription" movement, classified as "petite" (small), "moyenne" (medium) and "grande" (large). It is thought that a total of around 915 of these movements were made, out of which about 35 "petites", such as the present watch, are known. These exclusive watches were quite costly, priced between 1,000 and 2,000 francs, those fitted with a jewelled case would cost as much as 5,000 francs.
Duke of Bedford
The present watch was sold to the Duke of Bedford, member of a longstanding English noble family, dating back to the 14th century. Based on the year of its sale, it belonged either to Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford (1765 - 1802) or his brother John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766 - 1839).
Faithful clients of Breguet, the name Duke of Bedford is mentioned on several occasions in Emmanuel Breguet's Breguet - Watchmakers since 1775, pp. 197, 201 and 291.
Pierre Benjamin Tavernier
The case of the present watch is stamped PBT for Pierre Benjamin Tavernier. The renowned case maker located in Paris supplied his exceptional cases to the most famous watchmakers of the time, notably Breguet, Lépine, Ferdinand Berthoud and others.