The present watch combines several highly rare and unusual features: a splittable independent jumping centre seconds mechanism operated by only one button, a rare and unusual perpetual calendar mechanism mounted directly on the movement plate as opposed to the commonly found set up on a separate plate, minute repeating and the skeletonized double dial layout.
The single button activates the following functions of the centre seconds hands (both hands running position):
1st push: One hand stops
2nd push: Second hand stops
3rd push: First hand catches up and both hands move again
According to literature, the firm Louis Audemars manufactured only a small number of highly complicated double dial watches, the earliest known was exhibited at the 1862 London World Exhibition.
The present watch with its skeletonized sides allowing a detailed view on the movement and set-up of the various complications was most certainly also made to be exhibited at an international fair. Another evidence would be the French import mark used until 1893 stamped on its case, a necessity if the watch was to be presented at one of the Paris exhibitions in 1878 or 1889.
The celebrated watch manufacture was founded in 1811 by Louis-Benjamin Audemars (1782-1833) and his sons in Le Brassus, Switzerland. Louis-Benjamin was one of Switzerland's most eminent watchmakers, a creative genius, perfectionist and immensely hard worker. Following his apprenticeship with Philippe Samuel Meylan he worked for about two years as a "master pupil" for Breguet before establishing his own company. After Louis-Benjamin's death in 1833 his sons continued the business until 1885 when the firm was liquidated.
The manufacture made high quality pocket watches and invented various systems, notably a crown winding and hand setting mechanism in 1838; between 1838 and 1845, around 41 movements fitted with this invention were delivered to Patek in Geneva. Some of Louis Audemars' watches are among the most complicated timepieces ever made and were awarded with the highest distinctions at several 19th Century World Exhibitions.
During the 74 years of existence, the manufacture produced only some 9,000 watches corresponding to an average of 120 watches a year.
Count Viktor Aegidius Christian Gustav Maximilan von Wimpffen
Member of a distinguished Austrian aristocratic family, owners of Kainberg castle in Styria, he was born in Hietzing (Vienna) on 24 July 1834 and died on 22 May 1897 in Battaglia, Italy. He was Lord of Raitenau and Eichberg, the owner of estate and sanitarium Battaglia, honorable citizen of Triest, Aguilea and Grado in the Austrian littoral state Battaglia.
Count von Wimpffen was a commander in the K u. K (kaiserlich und königlich or imperial and royal) Marine Forces, travelling extensively to South America and Africa. After leaving the military he was active in the Red Cross until 1876 when he was appointed general inspector of the Austrian state postal and telegraph services by the Ministry of Trade. Given the present watch's unusual splittable independent jumping centre seconds mechanism, one may well assume that this piece was made according to Count von Wimpffen's personal specification and needs, when exercising his duties in relation to his position as general inspector of the Austrian state postal and telegraphic department.
It is thought that he received the present watch from his wife, Anastasia Freiin von Sina zu Hodos und Kizdia, member of one of Austria’s wealthiest banking families. Their son, Siegfried von Wimpffen, initiated the driver's license in Austria when applying for an authorization for the use of a steam-driven automobile in 1892.
The present black and white picture was taken by V. Angerer, Vienna in the 1860s and shows the young Count von Wimpffen in navy uniform.