1782 - Queen Marie-Antoinette
On the 16th of October 1793, queen Marie-Antoinette of France was led to the guillotine a few months after her husband, king Louis XVI.
The queen had in her day been one of the keenest admirers of the timepieces created by A.-L. Breguet. At the French court of the 1780s, Breguet could not have wished for a finer supporter. She herself owned many of the master watchmaker’s designs and enthusiastically recommended him to the entire kingdom as well as to the court’s most exalted guests. Thanks to her, not a few crowned heads, emperors included, and diplomatic envoys, including one Axel de Fersen, acquired a taste for Breguet’s works, consolidating his reputation in Europe and beyond. A regular patron of the horological workshop on the Quai de l’Horloge, in the heart of Paris, until her tragic demise, she event requested, and in September 1792 received, “ a simple Breguet watch” in her cell at the Temple prison. The watch later acquired the aura of a precious relic, finding its way into the prestigious collection of Sir David Salomons along with Breguet’s masterpiece, the celebrated watch No 160 known as the “Marie-Antoinette”, which the queen never saw completed. Ordered in 1783 by an officer of the Queen’s Guards, whose name has remained unknown to this day, the watch was to incorporate every known refinement, complication and function known at the time. No time or monetary limit had been placed on the order. A.-L. Breguet completed the watch many years after the French Revolution and kept it in a safe place, testifying to his loyalty to the queen.
The complexity of the watch itself and its convoluted history remained in the collective conscience of horology and of collectors for nearly two centuries. Stolen in 1983 from a Jerusalem museum, the “Marie-Antoinette” watch bearing Breguet number 160 resurfaced in 2007 while at Baselworld 2008 Montres Breguet unveiled the new “Marie-Antoinette” number 1160, built on the basis of archival research and original drawings.