Breguet at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco


From its founding in 1775, Breguet created timepieces that were miracles of mechanical engineering and objects of rare and simple beauty celebrated in the courts of Europe by the most preeminent figures of that time. See more than 70 historical watches and clocks in BREGUET: ART AND INNOVATION IN WATCHMAKING, the first American exhibition to focus on Breguet’s pioneering innovations in timekeeping, and the largest exhibition of its kind ever to be shown in the continent of the Americas.

Get tickets for the Breguet exhibition at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco


Breguet N°2008

“Subscription Watches”

Breguet’s subscription watch is one of relatively large diameter with a single hand, and equipped with a special movement of great simplicity. Launched in 1797, subscription watches were sold by Breguet on a subscription basis, whereby the firm required customers to make a down payment of a quarter of the price when the order is placed.

Breguet N°2008. Small subscription watch. Gold case with engine-turned sunbeam decoration on back, gold dial with engine-turned sunbeam decoration, ruby cylinder escapement; diam. 38mm. Sold November 12, 1806, to Prince Grassalkowics (Hungary).  

Breguet N°611

“Touch Watches”

Breguet equipped its tact watches with mechanisms that enable their wearers to tell the time by touch alone. A pointer on the outside of the case mirrors the position of the hour hand of the watch. By feeling the position of the pointer, the wearer can deduce the time from its position in relation to the diamond studs aligned with the hours. Available for purchase starting in 1799, the touch watch lent itself to a great wealth and variety of embellishment.

Breguet N°611. Small touch watch. Blue-enameled gold case, diamond-set pointer, touch studs of large round diamonds, silver dial, ruby cylinder escapement; diam. 39mm. Sold February 18, 1800 to Mrs. Bonaparte, later Empress Joséphine.

Breguet N°2784

“Simple Watches”

In the Breguet archives, the description  of “simple watches” denotes all watches without striking mechanisms. Thus, even a touch watch with a calendar and equation of time might be described in the ledgers as simple. Simple watches were much cheaper than repeating watches throughout the nineteenth century, yet they were often preferred by wealthy clients.

Breguet N°2784. Small simple watch. Gold engine-turned case, silver engine-turned dial with phases of moon and fast/slow regulator hand, barrel with pierced arbor wound with a male key, ruby cylinder escapement; diam. 33mm. Sold September 27, 1813, to Empress Marie-Louise.

Breguet N°3066

“Repeating Watches”

Repeating watches are equipped with striking mechanisms, activated at will, that indicate the hours and fractions of hours. As the inventor of the gong-spring and a number of striking mechanisms, A.-L. Breguet was the father of all modern repeating watches. His own repeating watches generally repeated the quarters and half-quarters, and some extremely prestigious examples repeated the minutes.

Breguet N°3066. First-class half-quarter-repeating watch. Gold engine-turned case, silver engine-turned dial with large window for phases of moon, ruby cylinder escapement; diam. 48mm. Sold June 18, 1818, to the Duke of Frias (Spain).

Breguet N°5

“Automatic Watches”

A.-L. Breguet used the name perpétuelle to describe watches that automatically self-wound. The perfection of this system was the first major success of his career. At a time when several of his contemporaries were engaged in work on solving this problem without achieving any convincing results, Breguet was the first to discover, through his oscillating platinum-weight watch, a formula that would produce a reliable automatic watch.

Breguet N°5. Automatic quarter-repeating watch with dumb repeater. Gold case with engine-turned decoration, silver engine-turned dial, seconds subdial at numeral 6, window for phases of moon and power reserve indicator, twin-barrel movement, lever escapement, compensating balance wheel, platinum oscillating weight; diam. 54mm. Sold March 14, 1794, to Count Journiac-Saint-Meard (France).

Breguet N°178. Musée National Suisse, Prangins

“Travel Clocks”

In 1796, Breguet built the first modern carriage clock. Endowed with a Breguet overcoil glazed on four sides, and of reduced dimensions, N°178 was bought by Napoleon Bonaparte in April 1798. Highly innovative, it anticipated, in both its technical and its aesthetic aspects, the general appearance of virtually all carriage clocks produced in France throughout the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twentieth.

Breguet N°178. Quarter-repeating travel clock. With almanac, gilt bronze case with Doric columns, four glassed sides, silver dial with large window for phases of moon, three windows for date, month, and day of week, eight-day movement of gilded metal, straight-line lever escapement, two-pitch striking mechanism; 111 × 79 × 57mm. Musée national suisse, Prangins. Sold April 24, 1798, to General Napoleon Bonaparte.

Breguet N°5107

“Marine Chronometers”

The term chronomètres de marine covers all precision watches designed specifically for the requirements of the French navy. Marine chronometers took the form of a movement of fairly large volume enclosed in a cylindrical brass casing. The casing was attached to a sturdy wooden box that served as a stabilizer and a shock absorber.

Breguet N°5107. Marine chronometer. Twin barrels, mahogany outer case with brass hinges and handles, clock case and Cardan suspension, silver dial with subdial for hours/minutes and subdial for seconds, power reserve indicator, Earnshaw spring detent platform escapement; 159 × 210 × 181mm. Sold January 9, 1841, to French Ministry of the Navy.

Breguet N°1328


Breguet used the term garde-temps specifically to denote his high-precision watches. A guarantee of the highest quality, it was applied equally to scientific instruments as well as to “civilian” pieces made “according to the principles of garde-temps.”

Breguet N°1328. Experimental chronometer (garde-temps). Silver case, enamel dial, seconds subdial at numeral 12, detent escapement; diam. 64mm. Made between 1804 and 1817; personal watch of Antoine-Louis Breguet (1776–1858).

Breguet N°4009


Breguet made a number of prestigious watches with a seconds hand that could be stopped and started on demand. His split-seconds chronograph of 1820 went much further. With this instrument, which allowed the measurement of intermediate periods, or of the time elapsed during two separate but simultaneous events, Breguet laid the foundations for modern chronographs. In 1822, Breguet sold the first inking Fatton chronograph. The instrument featured a seconds hand linked to a small reservoir that deposited, when required, a tiny spot of ink on the dial, literally marking out passing time and fulfilling the requirements of chronography with etymological exactitude.

Breguet N°4009. Observation watch. Gold case, silver body, silver engine-turned dial, double center-seconds hands, lever escapement; diam. 57mm. Sold January 6, 1825, to Mr. Whaley (Britain).

Breguet N°180

“First Watches With Winding Crowns”

On December 30, 1830, Breguet watch N°4952 was purchased by Comte Charles de L’Espine of France. It had a knurled button in its pendant that the wearer used to set the hands and rewind the watch. The modern winding crown was born.

Breguet N°180. Small gold ring-watch. Alarm function, winding and time-set crown on right, smaller alarm-set knob on left (alarm triggers small needle that pricks the wearer's finger); gold dial with off-center chapter ring, seconds subdial at numeral 12, ruby cylinder escapement; diam. 25mm. Sold October 18, 1836, to Count Paul Demidov (Russia).

Breguet N°2667

“Highly Complicated Watches”

All functions other than the indication of the hour, minute, and second are called complications. A.-L. Breguet liked to endow his watches and clocks with some, or all, of the following functions: phases of the moon; a simple or perpetual calendar; a repeating mechanism; a power-reserve indicator; an equation of time; temperature; and a chronograph, or a watch equipped with two movements.

Breguet N°2667. Thin “resonance-type” watch. Made on chronometer principles, two movements, each housing barrel and lever escapement, guilloché gold case, silver dial with two chapter rings: one to left with Arabic numerals and small seconds at numeral 12, and one to right with Roman numerals and large central seconds hand; diam. 64mm. Sold August 1814 to Mr. Garcias of London.

Breguet N°2090

“Turkish Watches”

The name montres turques was given to all pieces that A.-L. Breguet and his successors produced specifically for the Turkish market. Turkish watches have enamel dials and Turkish-style numerals, which are easily recognizable. Their highly distinctive cases were enameled all throughout, and richly decorated with floral motifs and landscapes.

Breguet N°2090. Quarter-repeating watch. Grande and petite sonnerie, case and double case engraved and enameled with blue and red decor, enamel dial with gilt Turkish numerals, ruby cylinder escapement; diam. 64mm. Sold September 16, 1808, to His Excellency Esseid Ali Effendi (Turkey).

Breguet N°449

“Exceptional Clocks”

Although Breguet was above all a watchmaker, he also made a mark on his era with his clocks. His carriage clocks in particular enjoyed a fine lifetime, and his extremely rare ornamental clocks may be regarded as exceptional in every sense of the term. His so-called sympathique clocks are perhaps even more appealing. First devised by Breguet in 1795, the sympathique clock is a system composed of a clock and a watch. The clock is specifically designed to house a watch that is placed in a special recess or cradle, where it is both automatically reset to the correct time and automatically adjusted.

Breguet N°449. Pyramid clock. Bronzes by Pierre-Philippe Thomire and Nicolas Delafontaine, decorative gilt-bronze mounts, enamel dial, eight-day twin-barrel movement, constant-force escapement with compensating half-second pendulum, passing strike mechanism for hours and quarter hours; 575 × 346 × 124mm. Begun 1805; sold March 10, 1827, to Mr. Follope (France).


Breguet N°1176


A.-L. Breguet designed the tourbillon regulator, still indissolubly linked with the name of its inventor, to compensate for errors and fluctuations in a watch’s functioning caused by changes in the timepiece’s position. Breguet registered a patent for the mechanism for ten years, starting on June 26, 1801. This invention brought great acclaim to Breguet and his firm, which followed a long list of his other innovations.

Breguet N°1176. Gold pocket watch with tourbillon. Engraved gold case, gold dial with Roman numerals for hours, three subdials for running seconds (on left), for seconds on demand (on right), and for power reserve (below), gilt metal 24-lignes half-plate movement with inverted fusée, natural escapement fitted in two-armed carriage performing one turn every four minutes; diam. 64mm. Sold February 12, 1809, to Count Stanislas Potocki (Poland).

Breguet N°4418

“Art Deco Watches and Clocks”

The years between the two world wars saw an impressive diversification in Breguet’s production. While participating in the wristwatch boom, the house also boldly introduced surprising creations, including watches with square cases and Cubist numerals, sometimes set with precious stones; pocket watches without hands and wristwatches with jumping hours and a rotating dial; tonneau-shaped watches; and Art Deco clocks, sometimes featuring geometrical enameled motifs.

Breguet N°4418. Miniature minute-repeating carriage clock. Enameled bronze case and dial with Cubist-style numerals, eight-day movement, lever escapement; high 83mm. Made in 1921; sold October 23, 1943, to Mr. Jahard (France).



Zu Fuß

Muni bus line 18-46th Avenue: stops directly in front of the museum.

Muni bus line 38-Geary: stops at 33rd Avenue and Geary Street. From there, you can transfer to the 18 or you can walk two blocks north and one block west to 34th and Clement and up Legion of Honor Drive.

Muni bus line 1-California: stops at 33rd Avenue and Clement Street. From there, you can transfer to the 18 or you can walk one block west to 34th Avenue and up Legion of Honor Drive.

Mit dem Auto

Free accessible parking is available at several locations near the museum.