Christie’s auctions: Breguet enriches its historical collection

On Monday, November 10th, 2014, at Christie’s auction in Geneva, Marc A. Hayek, President and CEO of Breguet, acquired two historic gold pocket watches, including a rare quarter repeating watch equipped with the first free escapement with natural lift ever made by Breguet (N° 1135). Among the significant selection of watches for auction, Breguet N° 1576 and N° 1135 sold for the total price of 519'000 Swiss francs.

Dated 1805, the first acquisition is a medium-sized souscription watch bearing the number 1576. It was sold on September 8th, 1809 to Mr. Moreau, Breguet’s agent in St. Petersburg. Indicating the hours and minutes using a single hand, it is distinguished by its simple and elegant design. The rarity of the piece is furthermore enhanced by the presence of a gold cuvette, a feature hardly found in this type of watch.

In 1794, during the French Revolution, Abraham-Louis Breguet launched a new model of timepieces equipped with a special movement of great simplicity. It was marketed on a subscription basis, with a down-payment of a quarter of the price with each order and the balance due upon delivery. Reliable and affordable, the subscription watch enjoyed great success and attracted many new clients. Some 700 examples were made, with either gold or silver cases.

The second masterpiece signed Breguet is the watch No. 1135. This timepiece is an important discovery both from a technical and historical provenance. According to the archives, its manufacture took nearly four years. The most noteworthy and interesting aspect is its «échappement naturel », the first example ever made of Breguet’s form of free escapement. Like the detent escapement, it did not require oil on the impulse surfaces and was Breguet’s ultimate solution to the problem of a free escapement with natural lift. The House produced only thirty watches and clocks incorporating this system. Its production was quickly abandoned due to the costly development work and difficulty of its production. Making this invention was not within reach of all watchmakers, and only the finest proved capable of producing one. Sold in 1806 to Pedro Alcantara de Toledo y Salm Salm (1768-1841), Duke of Infantado, the watch No. 1135 went for the price of 500,000 Swiss francs.

Having both made a mark in Breguet’s history, these treasures return to their home. The Breguet N° 1576 and N° 1135 complete an already expansive collection of antique pieces that enthrall visitors of the three Breguet museums.

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