1787 - Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

A fascinating figure of 18th and 19th century France and for some years the country’s minister of foreign affairs, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand was an enthusiastic admirer of Breguet’s timepieces. Testifying to his solid friendship with the master watchmaker, he provided the latter with a good number of his customers. It was most likely thanks to Talleyrand that Breguet was able to make the acquaintance of Esseid Ali Effendi, the ambassador of the Ottoman Empire in France, and measure the country’s impressive commercial potential, as well as of Prince Joseph of Monaco and his spouse, Princess Thérèse.

Talleyrand greatly prized the stylishness and exceptional quality of Breguet’s work. So close were the two men that whenever necessary Breguet’s commercial correspondence and even his timepieces travelled courtesy of the postal service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ancestor of the diplomatic pouch.

Talleyrand’s receptions, staged at the Ministry until 1807 as well as at his private homes, ranked among the most dazzling in all of Paris. It was in fact at one of Talleyrand’s numerous parties that Breguet was asked to demonstrate the practical aspects of an invention of his, the “pare-chute”, whose principle he had been describing. Breguet simply pulled out his watch and threw it on the floor. He then proposed that someone pick it up and pass it around. All present had to admit that it was in good running order despite the shock it had just experienced. Talleyrand could only complain “That confounded Breguet never stops improving on perfection!”.

Talleyrand shared his admiration for Breguet watches with his family and with the diplomatic community at large. Delivered between 1798 and 1823, his own purchases, those of his wife, nephews, illegitimate son Charles de Flahaut and his entourage numbered not far from thirty.