This lot has been withdrawn
THE PRINCE REGENT'S NO. 2788
AN IMPORTANT AND LARGE EXPERIMENTAL GOLD PRECISION WATCH OF ROYAL PROVENANCE CONSTRUCTED ON THE PRINCIPLES OF RESONANCE WITH TWO DIALS AND TWO MOVEMENTS EACH WITH LEVER ESCAPEMENTS AND SECONDS INDICATIONS
NO. 2788 'MONTRE À DEUX MOUVEMENTS' PRODUCTION BEGUN IN 1812, SOLD TO THE PRINCE REGENT ON 2 OCTOBER 1818 FOR £350
• Movement: gilded, two mechanisms on a single plate, both with lever escapements, the escapement to the right side of the backplate with positional adjustment, compensation balances with conical pivots and steel guards, parachute suspension, spiral springs with terminal curves free-sprung, two pushers at the edge - one beneath each balance activating a sprung lever to engage with and stop the balance via its rim, the pushers locked via blued steel screws, numbered to the top-plate beneath the dial 2788
• Dial: silver, engine-turned, two subsidiary dials for mean time, satin-finished chapter rings, one with Roman numerals and subsidiary seconds, the other with Arabic numerals, gold and blued steel hands, blued steel centre seconds for left time dial, signed Breguet et Fils, dial plate numbered to the underside B 2788 T
• Case: gold, engine-turned band, refinished engine-turned case back, gold cuvette engraved with equation table, signed and numbered Breguet No. 2788, interiors of the case back and cuvette both numbered B 2788
• Key: with a gold chain and double-ended ratchet key for winding and setting
• Certificates: accompanied by a Breguet Certificate and a 'notice' from Breguet to David Salomons both dated 3 November 1920 and each annotated with David Salomons' collection number • further Breguet Certificate dated 18 August 2020
Pièce commencée en 1812, vendu au Prince-Régent d'Angleterre le 2 October 1818 pour le prix de 350 Livres Sterling évalué à 7,200 Francs [from 2020 Breguet Certificate]
Sir Berkeley Sheffield Bt.
Louis Desoutter sold May 1920 to Sir David Salomons
The Sir David Salomons Collection, Cat. No. 3
Vera Bryce Salomons
L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute, Jerusalem, inventory no. WA 76-71
Sir David Lionel Salomons, Breguet (1747 - 1823), 1921, p. 31, ill. p.118
Musée Galliéra, Paris,
Centenaire de A. L. Breguet, Exposition de son Oeuvre d"Horologerie,
October 1923, p. 29, cat. no. 162
George Daniels, The Art of Breguet, 1975, pp. 76-77 & p. 226 figs. 244a-c
George Daniels & Ohannes Markarian, Watches and Clocks in the Sir David Salomons Collection, 1980, pp. 62-63, figs. 25, 25a, 25b
Cedric Jagger, Royal Clocks, 1983, p. 181
Horological Journal, Vol. LXXXI, no. 975, December 1939, p. 423
Antiquarian Horology, No. 4, Vol. 24, Winter 1998, p. 362
Horological Journal, Resonance in Watches, September 2004, p.325
Musée Galliéra, Paris, Centenaire de A. L. Breguet, Exposition de son Oeuvre d"Horologerie, October 1923, cat. no. 162
L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute, Jerusalem
Sir David Salomons famously wrote: "to carry a fine Breguet watch is to feel that you have the brains of a genius in your pocket" and such is the remarkable and experimental nature of no. 2788 that in viewing its movement, that genius is clearly revealed. One of the most expensive watches sold by Breguet, watch no. 2788 was delivered to the Prince Regent, later King George IV, for the remarkable sum of £350 (Fr. 7,200). Exceedingly rare, only two other similar watches are currently known. In his book, The Art of Breguet, the late Dr. George Daniels wrote:
“Watch No. 2788…and No. 2794 are examples of an experiment to demonstrate Breguet’s theory of dynamics as applied to oscillating bodies. They are mentioned in an undated treatise written in Breguet’s own hand…in common with some other pieces made by Breguet, [they] were intended to be a demonstration of his art”
George Daniels, The Art of Breguet, 1975, pp. 76-77
The principle of ‘resonance’ is based on the theory that two oscillating bodies placed in close proximity will influence one another. Abraham-Louis Breguet was the first to apply the theory to a watch movement. Breguet’s ‘double watches’ introduced two independent movements within the same case and, in so doing, Breguet was able to demonstrate that the balances became regulated by the ‘resonance’ phenomenon, beating in sympathetic opposition to one another. In his study of clocks, Breguet discovered that the motion of the pendulum created tiny vibrations within the clock’s frame, by introducing two pendulums he found any resulting error would be shared and effectively compensated for.
Understanding that a similar vibrational effect is transmitted by the balance and its spring to the plate of a watch, Breguet realised that by placing two movements with two escapements in close proximity, each would compensate the other - any error accrued by one movement would effectively be cancelled by the other. In order to study how the balances' proximity to one another impacted the performance of the watch, Breguet designed an adjustable mount for the right-hand balance, thereby allowing the balances to be moved closer together or further apart. Breguet was concerned that the displacement of air as the balances oscillated would negatively impact the ability of two balances to work together. To help overcome this issue in the present watch, he introduced a thin steel guard around the balances to limit air disturbance; in order to access the timing screws, these guards were pierced. Following experimentation, Breguet was surprised to discover that air disturbance had only a minimal impact and consequently the steel guards were not included on no. 2794 which was sold in 1821, 3 years after no. 2788.
Each of the movements are geared with their own seconds hands. As viewed from the back of the watch, the movement to the left side (which indicates to the right side of the dial) has subsidiary seconds, while the movement to the right (indicating to the left side of the dial) incorporates the centre seconds. There is no regulation to the balances - with the exception of his later tourbillon watches, Breguet almost always used a regulator with his spiral springs, yet their absence in these double movement watches “was essential if the effect of the vibration was to be fully transmitted to the cock” [George Daniels, The Art of Breguet, p.77].
In The Art of Breguet, George Daniels notes that Breguet stated he made several examples of this type of watch, however, only two were known to Daniels at the time of his book’s publication in 1975, those were the present watch, and no. 2794 which was sold to King Louis XVIII on 3 September 1821. Both 2788 and 2794 have similarly styled dials and cases, each have cuvettes engraved with equation tables and their movements are similarly executed; their main point of difference lies in the steel guards mounted around the balances of the present watch. Breguet was undoubtedly delighted with the results he obtained from his double movement watches. Daniels quotes from Breguet’s own notes as follows: “the first of these double watches was three months in the hands of M. M. Bouvard and Arago without the seconds hands having parted by the smallest part of a second; it was put twice in a vacuum and maintained in ‘absolute void’ for twenty-four hours, as well as worn, laid flat and hanging from a chain without ceasing to keep to the second” [see op.cit. p.77]. Since the publication of the Art of Breguet a further example of a double movement watch of this type has emerged, numbered 2667 it was sold to a Mr Garcias in August 1814 for the sum of Fr. 5,000 - the watch was subsequently offered at Christie's Geneva on 14 May 2012, lot 230 (sold for CHF 4,339,000). Despite the fact that no. 2667 was sold in 1814, four years before the sale of the present watch, the Breguet certificate for no. 2788 clearly states that production of the present watch began in 1812. Considering both this dating and the experimental nature of the balances of no. 2788 with guards that are absent in both nos. 2667 and 2794, it seems likely that 2788 was in fact the first of the three watches to be constructed. Indeed, it was not uncommon for Breguet to retain some pieces for several years before their final sale. It is also interesting to note that in addition to the sale of 2788 and 2794 respectively to the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and King Louis XVIII, Breguet also supplied these Royal figures with double-pendulum clocks. George IV’s clock was numbered 3671 and sold in 1825 for £1,000 (see: Jagger, Royal Clocks, p.181). George IV’s magnificent clock is still part of the Royal Collection, for an illustration see: Jagger, Royal Clocks, p.174 figs.235-236.
It is rather fascinating to see that the back of the dial has been scratch engraved in the manner of a watch repairer: “Molyneux & Sons, 44 Devonshire Street, Queens Square, London.” Robert Molyneux (1764-1833), an eminent watch, clock and chronometer maker was listed as a tenant at 44 Devonshire Street, Queens Square in the land tax register of 1805-1806 and Holden’s Directory for 1811 records him as a watchmaker at that address. He remained at Devonshire Street until 1830 and it was during his final two years at that address that he began working in partnership with his sons. The fact that the scratch engraving states both the company name Molyneux & Sons and the Devonshire Street address would therefore suggest that the watch was serviced or adjusted at Molyneux’s workshop sometime between the years 1828 and 1830. Robert Molyneux specialised in making chronometers, watches and astronomical regulators and he was a regular competitor at the Admiralty Chronometer trials held at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Molyneux’s knowledge and experience as a watchmaker was already recognised in 1805 when he was asked to comment on the explanations given by John Arnold and Thomas Earnshaw for chronometers each had submitted to the Board of Longitude. By the late 1820s, his reputation and experience would certainly have marked Molyneux as a suitable watchmaker to attend to the King’s watch.
For further information on Robert Molyneux see: Dr. Gloria Clifton, New Light on Chronometer-Makers and the Scientific Instrument Trades in the Nineteenth Century, Antiquarian Horology, No. 3, Vol. 37, September 2016, p.347).
The Prince Regent (later King George IV) had a fractious relationship with his father, King George III, however, they clearly shared a passion for horology and during their lifetimes an array of unusual and important watches and clocks entered the Royal Collection. Indeed, Sir David Salomons captioned no. 2788 in his own book: "Watch sold to the Prince Regent for George III" [Salomons, Breguet 1747-1823, 1923, pp.118-111]. Although the Breguet certificate only mentions its sale to the Prince Regent, such a fascinating and experimental watch as the present piece would clearly have appealed to both George III and his son. Among the other watches that the Royal Family owned was Breguet no. 1297, a four-minute tourbillon sold to George III in 1808; that watch which may have been the first tourbillon watch sold commercially, had a dial specially annotated for the King in English, complete with a literal translation of ‘Regulateur à Tourbillon’ marked prominently as a ‘Whirling About Regulator’ (see: Sotheby’s London, The Collection of a Connoisseur, 14 July 2020, lot 28). The Prince Regent purchased several Breguets himself; as Prince of Wales, he bought watch no.83, a gold ten-minute repeating ruby cylinder watch which, remarkably, also repeated the date. The latter watch, sold in 1805, was also later owned by Sir David Salomons (see: Salomons, Breguet 1747-1823, p.30). In 1814, the Prince Regent purchased a Breguet ‘Sympatique’ clock, no. 666 (Royal Collection) which was designed to accommodate watch no. 507. Following his accession to the throne, George IV’s passion for works by Breguet remained undimmed and, as late as 1827, he purchased Breguet no. 4548, a Montre à Tact Perpetuelle (Private Collection).
As a young boy during the 1770s, the Prince of Wales, as George IV then was, may well have been aware of his father’s involvement in the long running dispute between John Harrison and the Board of Longitude over tests for Harrison’s chronometer. On 31 January 1771, Harrison’s son William had been received and interviewed by King George III, who is recorded to have remarked: “these people have been cruelly treated...And By God Harrison, I will see you righted!” King George III subsequently arranged an independent trial for H5, Harrison’s last timekeeper. H5 was reported to have performed the trial superbly during 10 weeks of daily observation between May and July 1772. However, the board of Longitude refused to recognize the King’s trial. Next the King helped the Harrisons appeal directly to the Prime Minister and to Parliament. Finally, on 21 June 1773, an Act of Parliament was accepted and recognized John Harrison as the man who solved the Longitude problem.
George August Frederick was born on 12 August 1762 the eldest child of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Soon after his birth he was created Prince of Wales. An intelligent and gifted student, he was an accomplished linguist and in addition to his native English, he learnt to speak French, German and Italian. In his late teens, the contrast between the young George and his scandal-free father was already stark. With generous annual grants from both parliament and the King, George August Frederick spent lavishly on drink, parties, mistresses, palaces and art. He famously built the exotic pleasure palace at Brighton, known as the Royal Pavilion, and transformed both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. Although he could be charming and witty, his profligate behaviour made him deeply unpopular and he was subjected to ridicule by influential contemporary caricaturists such as James Gillray (1756-1815). George controversially fell in love with Maria Fitzherbert, a commoner who was also a catholic – the 1701 Act of Settlement forbade the monarch from marrying a catholic. In 1785, without obtaining permission from his father and in contravention of both the Act of Settlement and the 1772 Royal Marriages Act, George married Maria Fitzherbert in secret. As the consent of his father King George III had not been obtained, the marriage was legally void and in 1795 he officially married Princess Caroline of Brunswick. His marriage to Caroline was a failure and their only child, Princess Charlotte, tragically died giving birth to a stillborn child in 1817. Princess Caroline was a popular figure and George’s ill treatment of his wife added to his own unpopularity. Following his father’s relapse into mental instability, George acted as Regent from 1811. Upon the death of his father on 29 January 1820, George August Frederick succeeded to the throne as King George IV before his own death ten years later on 26 June 1830.