Centuries of Time: A Private Collection
Centuries of Time: A Private Collection
An important gold and enamel cabriolet pair cased clock watch with grande and petite sonnerie, independent minute repetition and five hammers striking on five gongs, made for the Ottoman market Sold on 6 may 1808 to his Excellency the Ottoman Ambassador Galib Effendi, no. 1950
May 14, 02:23 PM GMT
500,000 - 1,500,000 CHF
An important gold and enamel cabriolet pair cased clock watch with grande and petite sonnerie, independent minute repetition and five hammers striking on five gongs, made for the Ottoman market
Sold on 6 may 1808 to his Excellency the Ottoman Ambassador Galib Effendi, no. 1950
• Movement: 17''' frosted gilded full plate with third series ébauche, ruby cylinder escapement, two barrels for going and strike, three gear trains, plain three-arm balance, parachute suspension, spiral spring, clock watch mechanism partially visible to the backplate, five polished steel hammers and five blued steel gongs, signed and numbered Breguet, no. 1950
• Dial: white enamel dial, Turkish numerals, outer minute ring, blued steel Breguet hands, signed Breguet et Fils at 6, secret signature at 12 signed and numbered Breguet, no. 1950
• Cases: inner case - gold, the back centred with red translucent enamel over sunburst engine turning, heightened with paillons in the form of palm leaves, rosette to centre, front and back bezels decorated with bunches of grapes and vine leaf paillons, 1/4 turn piston repeat, inner bezel signed and numbered Breguet No. 1950 inside back with French control marks for 1798-1809, case maker's mark PBT within a lozenge-shaped cartouche for Pierre-Benjamin Tavernier, stamped B for Breguet and numbered 1950/2563, hinged gold cuvette, apertures for winding going and strike trains, further apertures to the edge for selecting grande/petite sonnerie and strike/silence, signed Breguet, no. 1950 • outer case - gold, the back with translucent red enamel over sunburst engine turning, heightened with segmented paillons and centred by a Turkish star and crescent moon motif, bezels with opaque blue and turquoise champlevé enamel interspersed by red flinqué enamel and gold festoons, inside back with French control marks for 1798-1809, case maker's mark PBT within a lozenge-shaped cartouche for Pierre-Benjamin Tavernier, stamped B for Breguet and numbered 1950
• Chain: accompanied by a gold double link Breguet chain and ratchet key
diameter of outer case 64mm, inner case 52mm
Accompanied by Breguet certificate no. 3736 dated 16 March 1982 detailing the sale of watch no. 1950 on 6 May 1808 "a son Excellence Galib Effendi...pour le prix de 4,000 Francs".
A fascinating and remarkable Breguet watch, no. 1950 is one the most important watches ever made for the Ottoman market. Using a third series ébauche, the watch has an extraordinarily compact yet complex movement; between them, the strike and repeat trains control a total of five hammers and five gongs. The decoration of the case is uniquely executed for the Ottoman market and provides a dramatic contrast to Breguet’s other watches produced for the European and Russian markets. As noted by Emmanuel Breguet in his book “Breguet, Watchmakers Since 1775”, the author writes: “the only real freedom which Breguet permitted himself in the decoration of his watches concerned those which fell into two highly specific categories: tact watches decorated with enamelling…and enamelled Turkish watches” (see ibid 2nd Edition, p. 373). Created by one of Breguet’s most distinguished case makers, Tavernier, the case is made in a ‘pair cased’ style but most unusually is of ‘cabriolet’ form. As a cabriolet case, in addition to displaying the watch in an open-faced format, the inner case may be reversed within its outer case to display the sumptuously decorated inner case back. Such is the superior level of finishing that, when reversed within its outer case, the back of the inner case fits so perfectly within the bezel of the outer, that the two elements appear as one. The Ottomans wore their watches on the outside of their clothes which meant that their decorative elements were of even greater importance – indeed, the use of outer cases also provided a further level of protection to the exposed timepieces.
Trade with the Ottoman Empire became increasingly important to Breguet during the first decade of the 19th century as the Napoleonic wars interrupted trade with three of Breguet’s most important outlets – first Britain (in the wake of Napoleon’s Continental System), followed by Spain from 1808 and Russia in 1810. Breguet’s main conduit to important Ottoman clients was via the Ottoman Ambassador to France, Esseid Ali Effendi, known as Galib Effendi. Ali Effendi arrived in Paris in 1797 and was introduced to high society by the French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Having received an introduction to Breguet, Effendi’s first Breguet purchases were a striking minute repeating watch and a long case clock (ibid p. 246). Ali Effendi and Breguet became friends and following the former’s return to Turkey in 1802, they continued to correspond regularly. Effendi held important positions at the Ottoman court, rising to the position of Minister of the Navy.
Effendi was clearly of great help to Breguet, not only by introducing the watchmaker to important clients, but by advising on the style of watch and type of decoration preferred by clients in Turkey – especially their preference for white enamel dials with Turkish numerals and cases ornately decorated with enamels, particularly in red. It was also through Effendi that Breguet was introduced to a local watch and clock dealer Stephanaki, through whom Breguet would conduct much business (ibid p. 246). Effendi’s commissions included ten repeating watches and, in 1804, Effendi specifically requested from Breguet a repeating watch of the finest quality for the Ottoman emperor himself, Selim III; the Emeperor was clearly pleased with the resulting watch for, the following year, he requested a second, identical watch (ibid. pp. 248-249). The Breguet archives note that construction of this watch began in 1806 and finished in 1807. A former owner stated that, by family tradition, the present watch was given to his ancestor by Sultan Abdulaziz (reign 1861-1876), the son of Mahmud II (reign 1808-1839). Certainly, the opulent decoration of the case and exceptional quality of the movement would have ensured the present watch’s suitability for the Ottoman Sultan. Selim III’s reign, which began in 1789, was deposed and imprisoned in 1807 and therefore, if the watch was indeed ordered by the Sultan, it is possible that following its supply to Effendi on 6 May 1808, it may have been presented to his successor, Mahmud II.
A similar but less complicated clock watch with quarter repetition rather than minute repetition was sold to Ali Effendi later in the same year as the present watch (no. 2090 sold 16 September 1808 for 3,360 Francs). The latter watch was also pair ‘cabriolet’ cased but featured a smooth edge to the bezel of the outer case rather than the more elaborate scalloped bezel of the present lot. Interestingly, the inside of the outer case of no. 2090 is engraved “Hadji Assim Effendi” perhaps suggesting that the watch was intended to be kept by Effendi himself or, if not, to act as a reminder of Ali Effendi’s generosity to its recipient. Breguet no .2090 is illustrated in E. Breguet, Breguet Watchmakers Since 1775, 2nd Edition, p.249 and G. Daniels, The Art of Breguet, 1975, p. 207, pl. 201 a-d. Interestingly the French presented Mahmud II with a specially commission Breguet Sympathique clock and watch, no. 758, at a cost of 35,000 Francs, an extraordinary sum at the time. Mahmud was delighted with the gift which was presented to him in 1813 and subsequently summoned Breguet’s agent Leroy (Leroy was Breguet’s agent in Constantinople from 1811), presenting him with a gift and placing him in charge of the maintenance of the Topkapi palace’s clocks.
¹ Sotheby’s would like to express their gratitude to Emmanuel Breguet for the information provided from the Breguet SA Archives.