Breguet celebrates the bicentennial of the first wristwatch
Breguet celebrates the bicentennial of the first wristwatch
Breguet celebrates the bicentennial of the first wristwatch for Queen of Naples
International event in the Gulf of Naples
La Cote des Montres - November 16th, 2012
200 years ago, Abraham-Louis Breguet designed the first wristwatch, for a Queen (Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples). In order to pay tribute to this historical piece and its brilliant creator, Breguet flies off to Naples, to where it all began …
Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples and daughter in 1807. The painting is by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun
A special program for a unique anniversary
On October 5 and 6, 2012, Breguet will take over the Gulf of Naples to celebrate the bicentennial of the first wristwatch, as well as the 10th anniversary of its “Reine de Naples” ladies collection. Breguet has invited its guests from around the world to take a leap backwards in time and begin by exploring the Reggia Di Capodimonte, originally built for Charles de Bourbon in 1738. In 1808, this palace became home to Caroline Murat, who occupied the throne of Naples until 1815. Today a national museum, the Reggia Di Capodimonte still houses some apartments from the time of Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples. And it is inside this very Capodimonte museum, in the apartments’ ballroom, reputed for its sumptuous decorations, that Breguet will invite its guests to lunch. The festivities will continue on the Isle of Capri where a VIP gala will crown this unique commemorative event.
At the same time, Breguet will offer its guests a glimpse of the world of the first wristwatch, by setting up its travelling “Reine de Naples” exhibition on the heights of Capri. First shown in January 2012 at the Cité du Temps in Geneva, then presented in a succession of the largest cities in Asia, the United States and Europe, this exhibition looks back over the history and the mysteries of the first wristwatch. Part of the finest pieces of the contemporary “Reine de Naples” collection will be on show, brilliantly illustrating the ingenuity and elegance of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s timepieces.
Breguet, ever proud to spotlight some of the more meticulous stages in the creation of a watch, will also present an exclusive representative selection of the artistic crafts that comprise its ancestral know-how. Breguet will feature decorative techniques including bevelling, engraving, engine-turning and the art of the cameo.
World preview of exclusive pieces
An international event on this scale cannot be imagined without some exceptional exhibits. Accordingly Mr. Marc A. Hayek, President & CEO of Montres Breguet, will be unveiling a world preview of a new “Reine de Naples” special anniversary model, as well as a complete jewellery set, designed exclusively for this double jubilee. Both pay tribute to the 200th anniversary of the delivery of the first wristwatch and the 10th anniversary of the “Reine de Naples” collection.
The “Reine de Naples” anniversary special is the latest in the line of Breguet’s Grandes Complications. This striking mechanism marks the top of every hour with two chimes repeated thrice. It offers a discreet reminder of the passing of time. A pushpiece at 2 o’clock disables the function. Along with the usual technical imperatives involved in designing an oval movement, this unique timepiece incorporates the results of fundamental research by Breguet into the acoustics of chiming and repeating watches.
The geometry of the bridges, the oscillating weight and the decoration, displayed through the sapphire crystal back of the watch, form the image of a garden pavilion in the Mediterranean style, identical to the stately residences of Caroline Murat. To do justice to the lavish setting in which the piece is unveiled, the bezel and the snap of the “Reine de Naples” anniversary special are set with 28 brilliant cut diamonds and 27 blue sapphires. The striking hammers appear above the dial at 11 and 1 o’clock, while between them the diamond heart of a rose engraved in gold indicates the engagement of the hour striker. The silvered gold dial and its flange are paved with 233 brilliant cut diamonds and 303 blue sapphires with different nuances, offering a subtle colour gradation. A crown placed at 4 o’clock and set with a briolette-cut diamond adds a sublime final touch to this exclusive anniversary watch, mounted on an alligator strap with a folding clasp set with 26 diamonds.
Breguet Reine de Naples
Ref. 8973BB/6S/8H4 SD0D
Case: “ovoid” shape, in 18-carat white gold with a finely fluted caseband. Bezel and snap clasp set with 28 brilliant-cut diamonds, approx. 0.89 ct and 27 brilliant-cut blue sapphires, approx. 2.77 ct. Crown set with a briolette-cut diamond, approx. 0.27 ct. Chime pushpiece at 2 o’clock. Hand-engraved back with sapphire crystal glass. Dimensions 38.45 mm x 30.40 mm. Water-resistant to 3 bar (30 m).
Dial in silvered gold paved with 156 brilliant-cut diamonds, approx. 0.42 ct and 303 brilliant-cut blue sapphires, approx. 0.84 ct. individually numbered and signed Breguet. Dial flange paved with 77 brilliant-cut diamonds, approx. 0.16 ct. Off-centre hour chapter at 6 o’clock. Open-tipped Breguet hands in blued steel. A diamond set in the heart of a rose engraved in gold indicates the engagement of the striker in an aperture at 12 o’clock. Apertures in the dial at 11 and 1 o’clock reveal the hammers of the chiming mechanism.
Movement: self-winding mechanical, hand-engraved and individually numbered and signed Breguet. Cal. 78SO. 13¼ x 9¾ lignes. 60 jewels. Power reserve 70 hours without chimes or approx. 50 hours with the chimes engaged. Hand-engraved oscillating weight in 18 carat gold. Straight-line inverted lever escapement in silicon. Breguet balance wheel with regulating screws. Flat balance spring in silicon. Frequency: 3Hz. Adjusted in 5 positions. Strap in alligator with folding clasp set with 26 diamonds, approx. 0.1285 ct.
The Reine de Naples Jewellery Set is composed of a ring, a pair of earrings, a necklace and a tiara. Each of these jewels is in 950 platinum, the noblest and most resistant material found in jewellery today. The central motif of the jewels in the “Reine de Naples” jewellery set is an oval-cut blue sapphire. It is surrounded by two ovoid rings paved with baguette-cut diamonds in an elegant and refined echo of the case of the first wristwatch, which had an oblong shape.
Breguet Fine Jewellery – Reine de Naples Jewellery Set
“Reine de Naples” Collection
An ode to femininity
The “Reine de Naples” anniversary special watch and the “Reine de Naples” jewellery set join the collection of that name, which today celebrates its tenth anniversary. Launched in 2002, this exclusively feminine collection is a tribute to the first wristwatch, ordered by Caroline Murat from Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1810 and delivered in 1812.
In creating its “Reine de Naples” collection, Breguet drew from historical descriptions of the original piece, known by the production number 2639. Abraham-Louis Breguet’s archives in the Breguet Museum in Place Vendôme in Paris enabled the Maison to reinterpret the aesthetic codes of the first wristwatch. True to its style, the creations of the “Reine de Naples” collection are oval in shape and have an off-centred dial at 6 o’clock. Certain models come with a plaited strap or a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, in reference to the aesthetic of watch N° 2639, whose strap was of hair entwined with gold thread and which displayed a thermometer outside the hour chapter.
Specifically created for ladies, the collection “Reine de Naples” is a perfect marriage of refinement and mechanical complications, such as the moon phase and hour chimes.
And Breguet completes the first wristwatch for a Queen
In 1810, Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples and sister of Napoleon 1st, ordered a totally innovative piece from Abraham-Louis Breguet, since it was the first wristwatch in the history of watchmaking. Made in the workshops of the man known as “the greatest watchmaker of all time”, the Queen of Naples’s order has an unusual history, recorded in Breguet’s old registers.
On 8th June 1810, the Queen of Naples commissioned Breguet to make two unusual watches: a grand complication carriage watch for 100 louis, “plus a watch for a bracelet with minute repeater for which we quoted her the price of 5000 francs”. The Queen of Naples’ order, which became Breguet watch N° 2639, had the unprecedented appellation “repeater in oblong form for bracelet”. It possessed a lever escapement called “free escapement” and a thermometer. Making it required 34 different operations involving 17 persons. In early December 1811, the watch seemed ready and was billed at 4800 francs. However, the system of the minutes had to be changed and the guilloché-worked dial replaced – presumably at the queen’s request – with a dial in guilloché-worked silver with Arabic numerals. The piece was finally completed on 21st December 1812.
8th March 1849, Countess Rasponi brought her watch to be repaired. It was recorded as a “very thin repeater watch N° 2639, silver dial, Arabic numerals, with thermometer and fast-slow outside the dial, the said watch fitted into a bracelet of hair entwined with gold thread, at will, a simple gold key, another similarly gold-trimmed bracelet, in a red calfskin case”. Its owner was none other than Louise Murat, fourth and last child of Joachim and Caroline Murat, who married Count Giulio Rasponi in 1825.
On 27th March 1849, the watch was returned to its owner. The repair, costing 80 francs, was described in these terms: “We have re-polished the pivots, reset the thermometer, restored the repeater to working order, restored the dial, inspected and cleaned every part of the watch and regulated it”.
In August 1855, Countess Rasponi brought her watch to Breguet to get new keys: one male key for winding, and one female key for setting the time. This mention, which indicates in addition that the watch has a case in guilloché-worked gold and a “large ring of cracked gold”, is the last trace that Breguet has of watch N° 2639.
Today the watch is untraceable, and unknown to collectors and specialists. No sketch of the watch has been found in the archives. Nevertheless, we know that Abraham-Louis Breguet made the world’s first known wristwatch for the Queen of Naples. A piece with unique architecture and extreme refinement since it was a repeating watch with complications, oval, exceptionally fine, and worn with a wristlet of hair entwined with gold thread.