- AN IMPORTANT GOLD SPLIT SECONDS STOP WATCH TO M. FOURNIER
NO 3168 SOLD IN 1822
- diameter 58 mm
The present lot is one of four split-second stop watches made by Breguet. These watches illustrate Breguet’s experiments with different techniques to record elapsed time with chronographs. Each of these pieces is constructed in a purely brilliant way, and all four exhibit the same bridge structure and large size. The proportions and layout of the dial, the thin and simple engine turned case, and the genius lever and clutch system utilized in the complication of the present lot all demonstrate the simplicity and compilation of Breguet’s work.
"Watches of this type made by Breguet fall into three categories: inking chronographs, split-seconds stop watches, and pace-counting watches referred to as the compteur militaire.
Split seconds stop watches are much rarer than the chronographs…[They are] high-grade lever watches capable of maintaining a very close rate…the elapsed time is indicated by stopping one of the two seconds hands instead of marking the dial. The hands cannot be set to zero, and so the position of the two hands running as one must be noted before the timing starts."
George Daniels, The Art of Breguet, pp. 72-73
Daniels illustrates three other examples of the split-second stop watch, numbered 3167, 4000 and 4009 (illustrations 269a-b, 310a-b and 312a-b respectively). Three main variations are apparent when comparing them: the locking bolts, lever system and size for the chronograph, and balance lock feature. All of the examples feature locking slides for the chronograph. Both 3167 and 3168 (the present lot) have only one bolt underneath the one o’clock pusher, whereas the others have locking bolts under both pushers. The lock for the balance on the 3168 must be stopped via a slide on the inside under the cuvette, unlike the 4000 and 4009, which can be activated by a slide on the case band. A balance lock appears to not be implemented on 3167, whose movement also has a more rudimentary lever system than that of the other three. Almost everything else between the three watches is identical, save for the screw to the dial below the signature on the present lot.
Chronograph 3167 (illustrations 269a-b) bears the preceding number to the present lot. The lever/clutch system of 3167 differs in size, and thus the proportions of the entire movement are smaller. The layout of the start/stop levers above the gear train are angled slightly differently. Technology vastly advanced between the creation of these two watches, and it could be argued that 3167 was Breguet’s first attempt at such a mechanism, and Breguet 3168 (1822) is a transitional type of piece, possibly a stepping stone for the ultimate version in numbers 4000 (circa 1825) and 4009 (circa 1845).
The present lot sold in January, 1822, before Breguet’s death in September, 1823. Nos. 4000 and 4009 were finished after his death.
Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823) is credited with countless inventions in relation to horology, and is most certainly considered one of the most influential makers in the horological field. Breguet’s singular and immediately recognizable style continues to influence modern watchmakers in mechanical and aesthetic design.