One of Breguet’s extremely rare and impressive large-size carriage clocks, the present example, recently discovered in a private collection, has been passed down within the same family for over 100 years.
It is not only exquisitely beautiful but also highly complicated and of exceptional quality. Featuring Grande and Petite sonnerie striking with quarter repeating, calendar as well as moon phases and a pull-wind alarm system, it is furthermore accompanied by the original key and gold-tooled red Moroccan leather travelling box.
A treasured possession of the present owner’s family, the clock remains wonderfully crisp, having acquired the charming natural patina that epitomizes the ‘sleeping beauty’ condition so appreciated by collectors.
The construction of Breguet ‘Pendule Portative à Almanach’ No. 3445 was begun in 1819 but not completed until a decade later in 1829. Its first owner was Count Merystas Potocki, a member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful aristocratic families in Poland. A little over a year before he purchased the present clock, on 10 November 1829, Count Merystas Potocki acquired another highly expensive watch from Breguet, ‘Montre Perpetuelle’, No. 22/3175, for 4000 Francs. In fact, the extended Potocki family including Counts Stanislas and François were very good clients of Breguet, purchasing at least 10 pieces from him. Poland proved to have a wealthy and sophisticated clientele among the great aristocratic families: as early as 1797, Breguet had sold watches to Polish clients.
A small but important market for Breguet, Poland continued to provide a steady stream of customers for over a century.
Only three Breguet carriage clocks of identical size, design and function, including the present clock, are known publicly:
No. 3145: Delivered on 5th January 1825 for 6,000 francs to Wenham (now in the Musée Breguet)
No. 3347: Sold on 20th August 1831 for 6,000 Francs to Maria Cristina de Bourbon-Sicile, Queen of Spain.
No. 3445 – the present clock: Sold on 19th January 1831 for 5,600 Francs to Count Merystas Potocki
Breguet Certificate No. 4630 states that clock No. 3445 was begun in 1819 and completed in 1829. It was sold to Count Merystas Potocki in 1831. The names of some of its subsequent owners can be found in the Breguet repair ledgers. The clock was last submitted to their workshops in 1903. The dates that the clock was serviced or repaired at the Breguet workshops including the owners at the time are as follows:
1834 - Comte Merystas Potocki, 51 Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the original buyer in 1831
1856 - Marquis de Morsan, 26 rue Godot de Mauroy
1858 - Marquis de Morsan, 26 rue Godot de Mauroy
1861 - Marquis de Morsan, 26 rue Godot de Mauroy
1862 - Marquis de Morsan, 26 rue Godot de Mauroy
1868 - Demongeot Horloger, rue des Saussaies
1903 - M. Chaubet, 39 rue du Général Foy – an ancestor of the present owner
We are indebted to Mr. Emmanuel Breguet for his valuable assistance in researching the present timepiece.
Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) is one of the most celebrated and innovative horologers of all time. Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, he was sent to work with a watchmaker in Les Verrières in 1762. By the end of the year he had moved close to the French court at Versailles. After some two years he moved to Paris, where he benefited from his relationship with the great clockmakers Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807) and Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814), before setting up business in 1775 at Quai de l'Horloge in Île de la Cité.
The master clock and watchmaker George Daniels states of Breguet: 'During the four hundred years that horology has been accepted as a separate art only a dozen or so men have made a positive contribution to its direction of progress. Included in this little group of masters is the illustrious name of Abraham-Louis Breguet, the arch-mechanicien in an age of mechanics. His contribution was as brilliant as it was original' (Daniels, 1975, op cit., p. 3).
Breguet was the originator of the carriage clock as we know it today, which he referred to by several different names, including Pendule Portative, Pendule de Carrosse, Pendule de Voyage and Pendule Portique. In 1796 he built his first carriage clock, No. 178, and this was sold on 5 Floreal an 6 (24 April 1798) for 1,500 Francs to Napoleon Bonaparte just a few weeks before he set off for his Egyptian campaign.
THE BREGUET CERTIFICATE
The first certificates of authenticity were supplied by Breguet in 1808. In that year certain clients who bought watches or clocks were given a 'bill', on which were indicated the name of the purchaser or agent, the date of sale or supply, a description of the piece and its full specifications. For the most part the certificates were intended for prestigious clients or for those living abroad who might be vulnerable to counterfeiters (throughout the 19th Century watches intended for Russia or Turkey were always accompanied by a certificate). After 1860 certificates were produced to accompany earlier pieces and provided to collectors on request. This authentication process is made possible by the Breguet archives and continues to this day.
Thus, clock no. 3445 is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity numbered 4630 issued on 14 September 2020.
Breguet, Art and Innovation in Watchmaking, Emmanuel Breguet & Martin Chapman, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, pp. 90-95.
Breguet, Watchmaker’s Since 1775, Emmanuel Breguet, 1997, pp. 219-221.