Breguet celebrates its rich history with a new Reine de Naples

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first wristwatch in history, created by the watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet for Caroline Murat, and the tenth anniversary of the launch of its tribute “Reine de Naples” collection, the Breguet brand is celebrating a double anniversary in 2012. A choice moment to present an exceptional watch, with a remarkable gem-set design.
By : Julie Mégevand
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The adventure of the first wristwatch in history began in June 1810. Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples between 1808 and 1815 and younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned a watch from one of the most talented watchmakers of her time, Abraham-Louis Breguet. Already a loyal customer of the craftsman's creations, the Queen of Naples wanted a watch like no other: "A minute-repeater bracelet watch for which the asking price shall be 5,000 francs," reads the register of "special orders" kept among the Breguet archives in the Place Vendôme in Paris. Naturally, at the time, watches were carried in the pocket and not worn on the wrist. Caroline Murat's request was a first – the Queen was a pioneer!

Two and a half years in the making

The watchmaker Breguet went to work and the timepiece, which in the meantime had been entered in the register with the serial number 2639, was ready by the end of 1811. The timepiece was a minute and quarter repeater, a complex achievement but commonplace enough for Breguet. The esthetics of the piece were much less commonplace however, as the oblong (or oval) shape was extremely special and it was mounted on a bracelet made of hair trimmed with gold. The piece was delivered a year later, in 1812, after the master watchmaker had been able to test and approve his creation. It had taken two and a half years from the commission to the delivery.

The final footnote in this story dates back to 1855, when it was sent for repair by Louise Murat, daughter of Caroline and Joachim Murat. Now nowhere to be found, this piece is not cited in any private or public collection. But is it lost forever? No one knows. What is certain today is that while the books sometimes attribute authorship of the first wristwatches to the Patek Philippe or Cartier brands, the Breguet registers prove otherwise. The inventor was indeed none other than Abraham-Louis Breguet, acting on the special order of Caroline Murat in the early 19th century.

An exceptional celebration for an exceptional timepiece

It is at Reggia di Capodimonte – an imposing palace located in Naples and occupied by Caroline Murat during the reign of her husband Joachim – that Breguet has chosen to unveil the exhibit to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of this oblong watch – a sweet historical reference. Paved with hundreds of diamonds and blue sapphires, the watch by Marc A. Hayek also contains a striking mechanism, i.e. a complication that sounds every hour, with two chimes repeated three times. The striking hammers appear on top of the dial, at 1 and 11 o'clock. Between the two, a rose graced with a diamond at its center stands out in relief, encapsulating the resplendent poetry of this beautiful piece.

The latest in the women's Reine de Naples collection, launched in 2002, this watch is intended to celebrate both this decade of success and the 200th anniversary of the first wristwatch in history. This special anniversary model numbers exactly 28 brilliant-cut diamonds and 27 blue sapphires distributed over its bezel, middle and attachment. On the dial, a gradient from white to blue (a nod to the brand's "corporate" blue) is made possible by the presence of 233 brilliant-cut diamonds and 303 sapphires of different blues. A complete collection, set with diamonds and perfectly accompanying this timepiece, showcases the talents of this fine company's jewelers at work in Switzerland’s famed Vallée de Joux. Consisting of a ring, earrings, a necklace and a tiara, the ensemble is made of 950 platinum. Each of these pieces features a blue oval-cut sapphire, surrounded by two oval rings pavé-set with baguette-cut diamonds and echoing the shape of the case of the first wristwatch.

In crafting this watch and these special jewels, Breguet has truly revealed its riches. What better way to honor its rich history and its much-coveted authorship of the world's first ever wristwatch? In the future, Breguet Watches intends to forge new paths in the vast world of watchmaking, and, of course, to continue to create exceptional pieces, especially for women, with complications achieving a perfect blend of technology and romance… just as it has done with the latest Reine de Naples.



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