Vi­sion­ary Move­ments

BREGUET CEL­E­BRATES ITS CON­TRI­BU­TION TO THE AM­BI­TIOUS RESTORA­TION OF A DEC­O­RA­TIVE-ARTS SEC­TION OF THE LOU­VRE, WRITES Joyce Kam

Hong Kong Tatler - - Watches -

The gilded wood­work, in­tri­cate stone mar­quetry, ro­coco ta­pes­tries and chinoiserie fur­ni­ture at the Lou­vre’s dec­o­ra­tive arts ex­hi­bi­tion present a com­pelling visual def­i­ni­tion of the word op­u­lence. Re­opened after a decade of re­fur­bish­ment, the gal­leries res­ur­rect the art of liv­ing in 18th-cen­tury France, al­low­ing a glimpse of royal life.

Wardrobes made of in­laid brass and tor­toise­shell by master craftsman An­dréCharles Boulle re­flect the tran­si­tion from the baroque to the ré­gence style dur­ing the late years of Sun King Louis XIV; pink porce­lain pieces with Asian mo­tifs are em­blem­atic of the ro­coco style dur­ing Louis XV; and Gre­coRo­man fig­ures sur­rounded by lau­rel leaves on Louis XVI table­ware mark the resur­gence of clas­si­cism.

The new ex­hi­bi­tion was met with great en­thu­si­asm on its open­ing night in June. “I’m touched to see the project sup­ported by my late fa­ther has fi­nally come to fruition,” says Nayla Hayek. Her fa­ther, Ni­co­las, co-founded the Swatch Group, which ac­quired Swiss watch brand Breguet in 1999.

Since 2005, Breguet has been a ma­jor pa­tron of restora­tions at Petit Tri­anon—a small château on the grounds of the Palace of Ver­sailles—and the Lou­vre’s depart­ment of dec­o­ra­tive arts, whose common de­nom­i­na­tor is none other than Marie An­toinette, Queen of France dur­ing the reign of Louis XVI.

The story of Abra­ham-louis Breguet’s in­volve­ment with Marie An­toinette be­gan in 1783. The young Paris-based Swiss

watch­maker was given carte blanche to de­velop a watch fit for the stylish queen. The in­struc­tions were brief: to use gold when­ever pos­si­ble and in­clude all known horo­log­i­cal com­pli­ca­tions.

Forty-four years later, the Breguet No. 160 grand com­pli­ca­tion was born—33 years after Marie An­toinette lost her head to the guil­lo­tine and four years after Abra­hamLouis’ death. The 63mm-wide pocket watch was com­pleted by Abra­ham-louis’ son, An­toine-louis. A bona fide horo­log­i­cal ge­nius, Abra­ham-louis went on to in­vent a se­ries of new tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing the gong spring for re­peater watches; the first trav­el­ling clock, sold to Napoleon Bon­a­parte; and the tour­bil­lon, for which he ob­tained a patent in 1801. But his great­est legacy is still con­sid­ered to be the No. 160 grand com­pli­ca­tion, also known as the Marie An­toinette. “That was the most in­tri­cate watch ever built, and would re­main so for nearly a cen­tury,” says Em­manuel Breguet, di­rec­tor of Breguet France and head of the Swatch Group’s her­itage depart­ment.

Ten years ago, a bolt of light­ning re­united the two names once more. In 2004, Ni­co­las Hayek de­cided to make a replica of the No. 160 grand com­pli­ca­tion, as the real one was stolen from the LA Mayer Mu­seum for Is­lamic Art in Jerusalem in 1983.

Mean­while, an oak tree that had been hit by light­ning had to be cut down at Petit Tri­anon. The wood was then gifted to Hayek to be fash­ioned into a case for the replica watch. As a to­ken of grat­i­tude, Breguet signed on to be a ma­jor pa­tron to the restora­tion projects.

Hayek be­lieved that pre­serv­ing the am­bi­ence of the liv­ing space of the fi­nal queen of France car­ried great sig­nif­i­cance. The fur­ni­ture and works of art com­mis­sioned by Marie An­toinette demon­strate her flair for new, un­con­ven­tional ob­jects. Per­haps that was also the rea­son be­hind her life­long ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Breguet time­pieces.

GOLDEN TRI­AN­GLE

THE LOU­VRE PYRA­MID STANDS PROUDLY IN THE NAPOLEON COURT­YARD

OP­U­LENT ABODE FROM TOP: THE SPLEN­DOUR OF THE GIL­BERT AND ROSE- MARIE CHAGOURY ROOM; ( FROM LEFT) RODOLPHE SCHULTHESS, EM­MANUEL BREGUET AND MARTIN GANZ OF BREGUET

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