Post Lot Text
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
On November 10th, 1801, horological legend Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823) received a patent for his ingenious tourbillon invention. Breguet designed the tourbillon (or whirlwind) to compensate for fluctuations and errors in time measurement caused by the position a watch is placed in. For example, watches with traditional movements may keep excellent time when resting on a desk horizontally, but when that same watch is placed vertically in a pocket, gravity affects the frequency or rate of the escapement) and thus its accuracy. Breguet's invention compensated for these gravitational effects by placing the escapement in a revolving carriage. As the tourbillon carriage revolves (usually one entire revolution per minute), its position constantly changes and consequently the fluctuations in rate caused by gravity are averaged out. Once a tourbillon watch is properly adjusted, the effects of gravity are essentially nullified, regardless of how it is positioned.
Precision timekeeping has always been vital to the scientific community, and in 1873, the first annual chronometer competition was held at the Geneva Astronomical Observatory. Rigorous quantitative internationally recognized testing standards were established. The testing, which initially lasted for 40 days, consisted of placing the watches in various positions and temperature conditions. The prestigious watchmakers Patek Philippe were awarded First Prize in the competition as early as 1884.
The present lot, an 18K gold openface keyless lever watch with tourbillon produced by Patek Philippe in 1931, was awarded First Prize in its category with 787.7 points at the 1932 Geneva Astronomical Observatory competition after 44 days of testing. Hector Golay produced the tourbillon carriage, and Francois Madoux regulated the watch for the competition. The watch has been with the same family for generations.
Although two centuries have passed since its invention, the tourbillon is still relevant to the contemporary watch industry. Today, history's most famous manufacturers, including Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Breguet and Vacheron & Constantin, as well as contemporary firms like Gerald Genta, Daniel Roth and Franck Muller, all produce a limited number of tourbillon watches each year.