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Culture news, 15.07.2004 12:43

Antique Breguet Watches in the Hermitage

watches Chairman of the Board of Directors and President of Montres Breguet S.A. Nicholas G. Hayek plans to organize similar exhibitions in the largest museums of the world - in Europe, in the USA, and in Asia - to demonstrate Breguet’s contribution to European culture.

More than 100 exhibit items will be on display in the State Hermitage, among them watches from the Breguet museum, from private collections, and also from the Louvre, Musee des arts et metiers in Paris, the British Museum, the Kremlin Museums, the National Museum of Switzerland, and the State Hermitage itself.

Included in the exhibition are the military field watch with pedometer that belonged to Emperor Alexander I; the watch called ‘Sympathique’ of Grand Duke Konstantin; carriage clocks that were made for Napoleon Bonaparte and Prince Demidov; ceremonial watches of the Emperor on which the maps of Russia and St Petersburg were engraved; and also the Duc de Praslin watch. The latter is considered one of the most complex watches ever made by A.-L. Breguet.

Breguet established long term and advantageous ties with the Russian imperial court after earning the honorary title of clockmaker to the Russian fleet. His Russian clients were members of the most illustrious families of the empire and occupied an important place among Breguet’s over-all clientele.

Abraham-Louis Breguet was born on 10 January 1747 in the Swiss city of Neuchatel. At the age of 15 he already was studying the art of making timepieces in Paris. In 1775 he opened his own shop and attracted to his atelier talented master craftsmen who could implement his many designs. Breguet showed himself to be a good organizer of watch production. The master introduced seven major improvements in watches: in 1780 he perfected the watch mechanism; in 1783 he developed the design for the Breguet watch hands and a separate spring mechanism for the minute repeating function; and in 1788 the famous Breguet watch face appeared. He invented the so-called Tourbillon - a cage holding fast the spring balance mechanism, which made it possible to even out errors in the movement. Breguet also invented an anti-shock device, the so-called para-chute. He created flat watches, and his improved kinetic scheme made it possible to organize mass production of watches.

Breguet became not only one of the best watchmakers of the late 18th, early 19th centuries. He became the founder of a new fashion in watch production. We can say that in the past 200 years no one has added anything essentially new to the production of watch mechanisms as he established it.

Breguet died at age 77 and up to his last day he created new watches and worked on the design of pocket and wrist watches. He was joined in his work by his son Antoine and his descendants later continued to engage in watch production. The company created by Abraham-Louis Breguet exists to this day and keeps on making unique watches.

In the Hermitage collection there are 12 Breguet watches with micro-engraving, that is to say company originals; six watches which belonged to the Princes Yusupov, who bought them directly in Paris; and six watches from the collection of the antique store held by Agathon Faberge which came his way from Russian aristocrats. The Museum collection has three watches with the company name “Breguet et Fils” appearing on the watch face and security cover; as well as watches bearing the markings “Breguet” and others marked “Breguet à Paris”.

The exhibition will last till 26 September 2004

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