This lot has been withdrawn
THE DUC DE PRASLIN NO. 20-148
A RARE AND FINE GOLD SELF-WINDING MINUTE REPEATING WATCH WITH DATE, DAY OF THE WEEK, UP-AND-DOWN INDICATION AND THERMOMETER
NO. 20-148 'MONTRE PERPÉTUELLE' SOLD TO LE DUC DE PRASLIN 20 DECEMBER 1791 FOR 4000 FRANCS
• Movement: Earnshaw-type spring detent escapement, Arnold-type compensation balance, spiral steel spring with regulator, two going barrels wound by a gold and platinum weight, repeating on two gongs, movement rim signed Breguet à Paris No. 148
• Dial: later silver engine-turned, satin finished chapter ring with Roman numerals, subsidiary dial for seconds with inner concentric day of the week, sectors for power reserve and thermometer, outer circle for the date of the month, gold hand and blued steel hands with jumping hour hand, signed Breguet
• Case: gold, engine-turned, piston pendant for the repeating, vacant rectangular cartouche, slide to left of pendant to lock pendant, case maker's mark AG beneath a star for Ami Gros, numbered 2044 and with rubbed control mark, French control marks to pendant
• Key: with a gold chain, ratchet key and setting tool
• Certificates: with a Breguet Certificate dated 8 June 1906 carrying the stamp of Desoutter and annotated by hand with David Salomons' collection number • further Breguet Certificate dated 20 August 2020
Vendu à Monsieur le Comte [Duc] de Praslin, Le 20 Décembre 1791, pour le prix de 4,000 Francs [from 2020 Breguet Certificate]
Christie, Manson & Woods, The Reverend Bentinck Hawkins Collection, 1895, lot 493
Sir Berkeley Sheffield Bt.
Louis Desoutter sold May 1920 to Sir David Salomons
The Sir David Salomons Collection, Cat. No. 6
Vera Bryce Salomons
L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute, Jerusalem inventory no. WA 104-71
Sir David Lionel Salomons, Breguet (1747 - 1823), 1921, p. 32, ill. p. 123
Sir David Salomons, Supplement to his monograph of Breguet, pp. 9, 21-22, cat no. 100
George Daniels, The Art of Breguet, 1975, p. 161, figs. 110a-c
George Daniels and Ohannes Markarian, Watches and Clocks in the Sir David Salomons Collection, 1980, p. 44, figs. 9, 9a, 9b
Musée Galliéra, Paris, Centenaire de A. L. Breguet, Exposition de son Oeuvre d'Horologerie, p. 29, cat. no. 142
L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute, Jerusalem
The emergence of the self-winding watch in the 1770s provided a perfect opportunity for Breguet to exploit a new horological discovery to promote and further his fledgling business. Breguet’s genius as a watchmaker and skill as a businessman meant that he quickly understood the potential of this new invention and seized the opportunity to develop his own version of the self-winding watch which he called the perpetuelle. Before 1787 there are no records of the watches made by Breguet, however, it is clear that perpetuelles were among the earliest watches made by Breguet. Breguet No. 2 10/82 is an especially early perpetuelle which is believed to have been owned by Marie Antoinette; its fractional number indicates a date of completion in October 1782. Breguet himself noted that the Duc D’Orléans was in possession of a perpetuelle in 1780, however, Daniels’ own research suggested that to be unlikely. The earliest example examined by Daniels for The Art of Breguet was no. 8 10/83 which is illustrated op. cit. p. 139, figs. 67a-c.
Early self-winding watches were criticised for their inability to stay efficiently wound in normal use and were often seen as requiring considerable and prolonged motion by the wearer in order to charge enough power to the watch’s mainspring. Breguet’s solution was in part achieved by incorporating two mainsprings, these were wound together by a heavy platinum weight pivoted at the edge of the movement. His banking springs, which were placed at each end of the pendulum-form weight’s arc of motion, had particularly flexible ends which helped to maximise the weight’s motion. George Daniels’ examination of Breguet’s perpetuelle system revealed that:
"about a mile of gentle walking will fully wind the watch and this is borne out in practice…The buffer springs…for the weight…have thin flexible ends to help the oscillations and with their aid a brisk walk of less than half a mile will also fully wind the mainsprings” George Daniels, The Art of Breguet, p. 344.
It was to the perpetuelles that Breguet first introduced his parachute shock protection device which placed the balance staff between two jewelled bearings which were set to the ends of fine springs. This system helped to prevent shock to the staff caused by the motion of the perpetuelle’s weight buffeting off its springs.
Of particular note on the present watch are the unusual combination of its features, including the chronometer escapement and dial displays. The original dial was enamel and was later replaced with the current silver engine-turned dial - such replacement was not uncommon when enamel dials had become cracked or damaged. As confirmed by the Breguet certificate, the dial's displays are identical to those calibrated to the original enamel dial. Another perpetuelle watch by Breguet (no. 3 4/86) with a similarly styled replacement dial is illustrated in The Art of Breguet, p. 141, figs. 72a-c. It was uncommon for Breguet to produce minute repeating watches, and when this complication exists, it is most often found in the perpetuelles. One of the great advantages of Breguet’s compact form of repeating work was that it allowed extra space beneath the dial to accommodate additional features such as, in this instance, the thermometer and calendar indications. For a watch already mounted with a perpetuelle weight to the back of the movement, initiatives to save space were of particular concern, for failure to do so would result in a disproportionately thick watch case.
“These watches, perhaps above all Breguet’s products, best represent the genius of his horological philosophy, technical skill and aesthetic interpretation of function.” George Daniels, The Art of Breguet, p.65.
Antoine César, le Duc de Praslin was born in Paris in 1756. A soldier and politician, he was second in command of the Queen’s regiment in 1779 and promoted to Field Marshal in 1791 - the same year that he purchased the present watch. During the reign of terror he was arrested together with his wife Charlotte de Thomond. Following the fall of Robespierre and thanks to an intervention by his children’s tutor, Joseph François Baudelaire (the father of the French poet Charles Baudelaire), the pair were released in July 1794. Under Napoleon, César became part of the Senate and was appointed a member of the Légion d’Honneur, later becoming Commander of the same order in 1804. César died in 1808.
The present watch was not the only work by Breguet that César purchased, indeed, the Duc de Praslin also owned what is generally considered the second most complex watch created by Breguet, no. 92. Breguet no. 92 is a double dialled watch with lever escapement, independent centre seconds, minute repetition, perpetual calendar (comprising month subsidiary and separate retrograde sectors for date and day of the week), equation of time, thermometer, up-and-down indication and moon phases. Salomons also later owned no. 92 which he rather quietly described as: "a remarkable piece of work, and not inferior to the one intended for Marie-Antoinette (no. 160)." Breguet began work on no. 92 in around 1783 at about the same time as the commission for Marie Antoinette's famous watch began. Watch no. 92 was begun in c.1783 but was not finished and sold until 1805; this latter watch was donated by Salomons to the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris. A further watch owned by the Duc was a Souscription, (no. 443 sold 1799), for that watch see: Antiquorum Geneva, The Art of Breguet, 14 April 1991, lot 13.