According to the Archives of Montres Breguet, the present watch, a small "souscription à brilliants à tact" with blue enamelled engine-turned case, eccentric silvered dial, pendant and à tact pointer set with rose-cut diamonds, was sold on Germinal an 8 (March-April 1800) to Monsieur Bastreche for the amount of 3,000 Francs.
It was taken back from the latter, engraved number 1414bis and entrusted to M. Castaneda, Breguet's agent for Spain, in 1804 for the amount of 1,440 Francs.
The fitted box accompanying this watch is not by Breguet. It can be dated from the second half of the 19th century, apparently custom-made for it, an applied gilt crown and the initial "R" to the cover.
Sold in 1800 for the impressive amount of 3,000 Francs, the present "montre à tact" is one of the earliest examples of this rare and elegant model, certainly destined for a member of a French noble house.
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 tell the time in polite society without taking the watch out of your pocket and possibly offending your host or hostess. It is also referred to as the watch for the blind as the exposed pointer and markers on the band allow the wearer to determine the time by touch.
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, first introduced in 1799, were quite costly, priced between 1,000 and 2,000 francs. Breguet sold the first to Madame Bettancourt, the wife of his most trusted friend. Those fitted with a jewelled case would cost as much as 5,000 francs.
For an illustration and description of a comparable montre à tact, no. 852, see The Art of Breguet' by George Daniels, p.182.