Marie-an­toinette Grande Com­pli­ca­tion Pocket Watch No 1160 (2008)

Adore Gems & Timepieces - - FEATURE -

Re­pro­duc­tion of the most com­pli­cated time­piece of the 19th cen­tury

Price: Not for sale but es­ti­mated at more than US$10 mil­lion

Roy­alty — among them the Em­presses Joséphine and Marie-Louise and the Queen of France, Marie-An­toinette — was es­sen­tial to Abra­ham-louis Breguet’s suc­cess. Se­duced by his watches’ func­tional sim­plic­ity and ir­re­proach­able tech­nique, it was thanks to one of these il­lus­tri­ous clients that the brand would de­rive its le­gend. In 1783, Marie-an­toinette re­quested a very spe­cial skele­tonised pocket watch by Breguet that had to be a paragon of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and aes­thet­ics. Breguet had carte blanche: No lim­its of time or price were fixed; gold had to re­place all other met­als; and all the in­no­va­tions and com­pli­ca­tions known at the time had to be in­cor­po­rated, in­clud­ing a clock, jump­ing hours, per­pet­ual cal­en­dar, re­peater, ther­mome­ter, chrono­graph and power re­serve. Watch No 160, or the “Marie-an­toinette”, as it came to be known, set the bench­mark of Breguet’s ca­reer. Un­for­tu­nately, nei­ther the queen nor the watch­maker lived to see it: The pocket watch was only fin­ished in 1827, four years af­ter his death and some 34 years af­ter her ex­e­cu­tion. The pocket watch was last owned by Sir David Salomons, who be­queathed it to the LA Mayer Mu­seum for Is­lamic Art upon his death. In 1983, the pocket watch, along with the en­tire Salomons col­lec­tion, dis­ap­peared in a heist. As a trib­ute to its founder, Breguet de­cided to bring this le­gendary time­piece back to life and had the man­u­fac­ture’s work­shops pro­duce an ex­act replica us­ing 18th-cen­tury ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques. With only a few rare pho­tos and archival doc­u­ments to guide them, the watch­mak­ers spent three and a half years com­plet­ing the ti­tanic task, which was un­veiled at Baselworld 2008. The one-of-a-kind watch No 1160 fea­tures a self-wind­ing per­pétuel move­ment with 823 parts and is faith­ful to the orig­i­nal down to the small­est de­tails, such as the pol­ished blued steel screws and flaw­less hand-fin­ish­ing. It was also pre­sented in a box made from over 3,500 pieces of wood from the royal oak in the Château de Ver­sailles. As fate would have it, in 2007, when the new Marie-an­toinette would soon see the light of day, the orig­i­nal sud­denly reap­peared in Tel Aviv, 24 years af­ter the theft and 224 years af­ter the ini­tial or­der.

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