Marie Antoinette (watch)
The Breguet No. 160 grand complication, more commonly known as the Marie-Antoinette or the Queen, is a case watch designed by Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet. It has been called 'a poem in clockwork'. Work on the watch was begun in 1782 and completed by Breguet's son in 1827, four years after Breguet's death.
The watch was to contain every watch function known at that time, including the following:
- Perpetual calendar
- Minute repeater
- Power reserve
- Independent seconds hand
Even by the standards of the day it was an astronomically expensive piece. The most valuable materials (including gold, platinum, rubies and sapphires) were used with no limit placed on time or cost. The watch is encased in gold, with a clear face that shows the complicated movement of the gears inside. Breguet used sapphires in the mechanism to decrease friction.
Breguet company records indicate that the factory costs eventually came to the colossal sum of 30,000 francs. This is more than six times the cost of Breguet's other major work, No. 92, which was sold to the Duc De Preslin for 4800 francs.
It took almost twenty years to complete. Marie Antoinette never lived to see the watch, as it was completed 34 years after she had been executed. Work stopped for around seven years (1789–1795) during the period of Breguet's exile. The "Marie Antoinette" remained in the possession of the Breguet company until it was sold to Sir Spencer Brunton in 1887, eventually finding its way into the collection of Breguet expert Sir David Lionel Salomons in the 1920s. On his death in 1925, Salomons bequeathed 57 of his best Breguet pieces (including the "Marie Antoinette") to the L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art in Jerusalem.
Watchmakers from Breguet, supported by Swatch chairman Nicolas Hayek, were commissioned to make a copy of the watch in 2005. The watch was finished after three years and presented to the public in a oak case, made from Marie-Antoinette's favourite tree.
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