With Breguet Certificates dated 3 March 1966 and 6 June 2002, later Breguet - Chaumet green leather presentation box and a gold ratchet key.
Consigned by an important private collector and preserved in excellent overall condition, the present "perpétuelle" is an outstanding example of one of Breguet's signature pieces - the self-winding or automatic watch.
Perpétuelle as Breguet called his watches with automatic or self-winding movements were amongst the most important developments in his career, bringing him considerable fame at the court of Versailles and throughout Europe from 1780 onwards. Of outstanding technical and aesthetical appeal, the "perpétuelle", watch of kings par excellence, is still today one of the strongest symbols for Breguet's unparalleled creative genius.
The first self-winding watches were made by the celebrated watchmaker Abraham Louis Perrelet of Le Locle in Switzerland around 1770. Perrelet, one of Breguet's early instructors, came up with the idea of maintaining a watch wound by using the energy generated by the movements of the person carrying it. Timekeepers equipped with such a system were called perpetual or pedometer winding watches. An oscillating weight, or rotor, was connected to the winding system and functioning like a pendulum, its movements using the gear trains wound the barrel spring. These early examples however did not have much success to the inadequacy of the winding system.
In contrast, Breguet's revolutionary design of a platinum weight maintained in an unstable equilibrium by a return spring which oscillated at the least movement was so effective that a watch only had to be worn for a few minutes to ensure that it would run for several hours. His "perpétuelles" incorporated a number of other inventions, very advanced for the time, such as the use of twin barrels, resulting in the usage of more powerful mainsprings. The thus increased power reserve of 60 hours allowed the watches to be used even by people with little physical activity as they would keep on running for over two days even without being moved.
Breguet's "perpétuelles" were constructed on the principals of the garde-temps with jewels to the main pivots, detached lever escapements, the balances with temperature compensation and pare-chute or shock protection on both pivots. Furthermore, they were fitted with a quarter, or even minute repeating mechanism and power reserve or state of winding indicators, sometimes even with a moon phase dial or thermometer. Unknown in France at the period, these watches were considered as the supreme refinement, rendering Breguet one of the greatest horologist of all times and giving him access to the most eminent personalities of the period, including the Duke of Orleans to whom he sold his first "perpétuelle" in 1780.
From 1787 to 1823, Breguet ultimately made and sold some sixty "perpétuelles", including his perhaps most famous watch no. 160, better known as "the Marie-Antoinette". With a manufacture time of up to two years amongst the most complex timepieces to being produced, the prices for these watches would range between 3,000 and 4,000 Francs.