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Breguet acquires antique pieces and documents for its museum

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The Breguet Museum acquired two antique watches and some letters of great historical value at three auctions held in November and December in Geneva and Paris.

One of these objects is the exceptional Breguet N° 3104, a testament to the genius of Abraham-Louis Breguet, the watchmaker who revolutionised the design of timepieces and also invented the gong-spring for repeater watches in 1783.

This 62.5 mm wide pocket watch was bought for the amount of Swiss Francs 195,750 at the Antiquorum auction held in Geneva on November 8. Initially sold in 1818 to His Royal Highness the Infante Francisco de Paula of Spain, Count of Moratalla, this piece is one of the rare and highly prestigious minute repeaters made by Abraham-Louis Breguet, whose chiming watches generally sounded the quarter or half-quarter hours.

Besides the minute repeater function, the watch features a jumping hours hand.

The guilloché silver dial has a distinctive two-part composition, with the small seconds ring at 8 o’clock integrated into the dial and fixed with two tiny blued-steel screws. The hour circle is surrounded by unusual markers indicating the fractions of 10 minutes.

Adorned with the Breguet secret signature on both sides of the number 12, the dial is enhanced by ‘open-tipped’ hands in blued steel, commonly known as Breguet hands, invented by the watchmaker in the same year that he introduced the gong-spring.

The 18 carat yellow gold case houses a 22’’ calibre with visible inverted cylinder escapement. The repeater spring operates on two gongs struck by two hammers activated by a piston situated in the pendant of the watch.

The Bourbon family of Spain were among the clients of the House of Breguet from the earliest years of the 19th century. King Ferdinand VII and his brother the Infante Francisco de Paula - a direct ancestor of the current King of Spain - owned some prestigious Breguet pieces. Other members of the family purchased Breguet watches and clocks during their period of exile in France between 1808 and 1814.

The second piece acquired by Breguet was auctioned by French auctioneer Fraysse on November 18 and paid Euro 35,000.

A fine tact 44 mm pocket watch with a regulating dial, the Breguet N° 4720, was sold to Casimir Périer in 1841. This timepiece is adorned with a yellow gold, hand-guilloché hunter case, along with a double chain and key. Its satin-brushed silver dial features two counters – for the hours and 30 seconds – as well as a central minute hand. The watch is adjusted around the edge of the 30-second counter. The external hand, characteristic of tact watches, here takes on a serpentine form.

First marketed in 1799, tact watches were invented by Breguet to enable the time to be read by touch. An arrow on the outside of the case reproduces the position of the hours hand, while twelve protruding studs around the case represent the hour markers. Sometimes referred to as 'watches for the blind', tact watches allow the wearer to tell the time by touch alone. The traditional dial also enables the time to be read in a more conventional manner.

The third Breguet acquisition is a collection of ten historic letters regarding the House’s business in Russia from 1808 to 1810. Not only an extraordinary talented  watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet was also an excellent entrepreneur, who very quickly developed a large-scale commercial network for his timepieces.

From his very beginnings in business, he cultivated a long and fruitful relationship with the Russian Empire as part of his export policy. While he was already introduced in Russia before 1790, it was from 1801 onwards that his first major sales were concluded.

In 1808, following the very positive reactions he received from his Russian clients, Breguet decided to open a branch managed by Lazare Moreau, a man salaried by and working exclusively for the House.

The letters that will now enrich the collection of the Breguet Museum were sent to Moreau by Breguet senior and junior. Brought to auction by Moreau’s descendants through the Aguttes auction house, they provide fascinating insights into the business activities of Breguet during its founder’s lifetime.

The invaluable collection of timepieces and documents related to the history of the House of Breguet, founded in 1775. is displayed in the three Breguet Museums in Paris, Zurich and Shanghai.

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