Breguet - The Hong Kong Watch Auction: ONE Hong Kong Monday, November 30, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Breguet
    Year: Circa 1829
    Case No: 4'730
    Material: Yellow gold
    Calibre: Mechanical, main train is fully jewelled, compensation balance fitted with 22 platinum screws
    Dimensions: 37 mm. diameter
    Signed: Case numbered, dial signed and numbered
    Accessories: With Breguet Certificate issued on 12 October 2015 and original Breguet gold key with male end for winding the movement and female end for setting the hands.
    Provenance: Sold for 4,000 Francs to Princess Bagration on December 1829 and purchased back by Breguet in 1830. The watch was then resold to Mr. Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1836.

  • Provenance

    Sold for 4,000 Francs to Princess Bagration on December 1829 and purchased back by Breguet in 1830. The watch was then resold to Mr. Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1836.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Breguet, the watchmaker to the Kings, Queens and important members of the society, was acknowledged as a benefactor of horology and a supreme master of his art.

    This miniature complicated watch, numbered 4730, previously unknown to the market or recorded anywhere in literature, is an incredible watch on many levels. The first is the size, the case measures 37 millimetres, which is slightly larger than a one Euro coin. Next, is the provenance of the watch, having been sold to the Russian Princess Catherina Bagration in 1829 and rumoured to be a gift for Colonel Caradoc, whom she was married to at the time. This marriage soon ended and the watch was resold to Breguet in 1830. In 1835, the watch was then resold to Mr. Nathaniel de Rothschild, the famous businessman, banker and winemaker, whom established the Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

    The third and most important aspect of this watch are the complexities of its mechanism. The calendars advance in an anti-clockwise direction. The days of the week do not advance every 24 hours, but are advancing every 12 hours. The watch is half quarter repeating that is activated by a plunge lever in the band, repeating on one gong and one hammer. The escapement is a double wheel duplex escapement, which is extremely rare for Breguet, because it works better in thick watches and was found more in favour in English watches than French. It was rarely used by Breguet and only a few examples are known to be used for his watches. A duplex escapement is a single-impulse escapement; it is inclined to stop if the balance arc is small. This disadvantage of the duplex escapement is why Breguet abandoned its use and concentrated on other types of escapements. The main train is fully jewelled; the compensation balance with elastic suspension is fitted with 22 regulation screws made from platinum. The winding of the watch is very interesting that one selects a corrector in the band, which in turn reveals a winding hole in the case back. On further examination, when the corrector is selected, a bridge covering the winding hole is moved so that a key can fit through the case back.

    Another example similar to the present watch cannot be found in The Art of Breguet by George Daniels nor Breguet by Sir David Lionel Salomons, Bt., highlighting its rarity and importance. The numerals are also very intriguing and this watch is the only known Breguet finished with Roman numerals that all sit vertical and do not turn with the dial on the watch.

    All of these facts can only lead us to believe that this Breguet number 4730 was made upon special request. Given the watch’s petite size, we can only assume that it was designed specifically to the Princess Bagration’s specifications. The watch is preserved in absolutely exceptional condition and appears in many cases to be unused. The watch, still running today, is an important discovery and further expands upon the surpreme master Breguet and his creations.

    “The Wandering Princess”

    Emancipated, coquettish and stunningly beautiful, Princess Catherina Bagration, or “The Wandering Princess” led an extraordinary if not scandalous life.
    Born with impeccable lineage, Princess Catherine Bagration was the daughter of Count Pavel Martinovich Skavronsky, Chamberlain of the Royal Court and Minister Plenipotentiary to Naples and Yekaterina von Engelhardt, niece of Prince Grigory Potemkin. She was educated in the court of Empress Catherine II the Great. Princess Bagration married General Pyotr Bagration, a Prince of the Bagrationi dynasty.

    Despite the trappings of a royal life, Princess Bagration left her husband in 1805 to travel extensively around the globe. Such was the extent of her travels that she was dubbed “The Wandering Princess”. The Princess frequently donned transparent and form fitting garb made of thin muslin cloth. Her clothing, coupled with her alabaster skin, inspired her admirers to dub her le Bel Ange Nu ("the beautiful nude angel"). Princess Bagration’s notoriety extended beyond her clothing choice. She embarked on a number of high profile dalliances with ambassadors and princes, even bearing a daughter out of wedlock.

    During her travels, the Princess most notably opened her own anti Napoleonic salon in Vienna, which attracted intellectuals, the boulevardier and royals alike. There, she befriended visionaries such as Victor Hugo, and even served as Honore de Balzac’s muse for his iconic novel La Peau de Chagrin.

    Our research suggests that Princess Bagration bought the Breguet Nevau N° 4730 pocket watch at age 52 in 1829, a year before her second marriage to British general and diplomat Sir John Hobart Caradoc, Attaché to the British Ambassador, distinguished as the British Commissioner to the French Army. However, they separated soon after, and the watch was also sold back to Breguet in 1830. It is possible that the watch was sold alongside the dissolution of the Princess’ marriage. Even more possible is that the Princess liquidated her assets to fund her lavish lifestyle. She also famously sold the famous "Potemkin Diamond", which was purchased by the Emperor Napoléon III for his wife the Empress Eugénie.

    Nathaniel de Rothschild
    Banker-Winemaker-Businessman-Philanthropist Nathaniel de Rothschild was a third generation member of the Rothschild dynasty. A member of the English branch of the Rothschild family, he also founded Château Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux, France.

    The Rothschild Empire mainly accumulated its wealth through banking, but the Rothschild family also produced scientists, inventors, lawyers and academics. By the 19th century, also known as the gilded age, the Rothschild dynasty controlled an enormous portion of the banking industry in Europe.

    Our research suggests that the Baron was fascinated by jeweled and horological pieces. Several of the Baron’s pieces have appeared on the market such as a late Ormulu clock attributed to James Cox. The present watch was resold to Baron de Rothschild in 1835.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1775

    Established in 1775 by Abraham Louis Breguet, widely considered the greatest watchmaker of all time, the storied brand continues to thrive in the modern era, creating exceptional high-end watches as the Swatch Group's premier prestige brand. Some of the most important and lasting inventions in watchmaking are attributed to Abraham Louis Breguet, including the tourbillon, shock resistance and the use of hammers and gongs employed in nearly all minute repeating watches made since.

    Eighteenth and nineteenth century Breguet pocketwatches are especially sought-after by collectors, and many of them were made for the elite of European society, including Napoléon and Marie Antoinette. Key wristwatches from the twentieth century include oversized dress watches, two-register chronographs, triple calendars and Type XX aviator's chronographs made for the French military and civilians.

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An exceptional, highly important and historical yellow gold slim miniature half quarter repeating openface watch with date and day running anti-clockwise, moon phases, compensation balance with 22 platinum screws, double wheel duplex escapement and certificate

Circa 1829
37 mm. diameter
Case numbered, dial signed and numbered

HK$1,950,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$2,320,000

Contact Specialist

Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2001

Ziyong Ho
+852 9386 2032

Jill Chen
+852 2318 2033

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: ONE

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2015 11am