Retailed by Mappin and Webb, London. Circa 1900.
The Empire case style was first introduced by Abraham Louis Breguet for the clock he made for Napoleon Bonaparte, the first true carriage clock.
Although very late, this example is beautifully executed and a handsome example of a Breguet style carriage clock.
Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) is counted among the finest horologists of all time. George Daniels has written of him: 'During the four hundred years that horology has been accepted as a separate art only a dozen or so men have made a positive contribution to its direction of progress. Included in this little group of masters is the illustrious name of
Abraham-Louis Breguet, the arch-mechanicien in an age of mechanics. His contribution was as brilliant as it was original' (Daniels, p. 3). Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, he was sent in 1762 to work with a watchmaker in Les Verrières. By the end of the year he had moved close to the French court at Versailles. After some two years he moved to Paris, where he benefited from his relationship with the great clockmakers Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807) and Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814), before setting up business in 1775 at Quai de l'Horloge in Île de la Cité. Among the many technical innovations of Breguet's early career were the perpetuelle (self-winding) watch, an improvement to Mudge's lever escapement by the addition of a ruby pallet and a three-wheel clock. His first recorded client, the Comte de Lort, bought a watch in 1778 and in 1780 the Duc d'Orleans, one of the wealthiest men in France, became the first client to buy a perpetuelle. In October 1782 he completed a repeating calendar watch for Marie-Antoinette and that same year was presented to the King and Queen. Louis XVI bought a watch from Breguet in December 1784 for 1680 livres. Before long, Breguet numbered some of the greatest names of France among his clients. In time they would span Europe. During 1785-90 he extended his reach to England, receiving commissions from George III, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. Later notable clients would include Napoleon Bonaparte (see below), the King and Queen of Spain, the Kings of Prussia and Bavaria and the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, to whom a sympathique clock which cost 35000 francs (the most expensive single item made by Breguet) was presented in 1812. Breguet's best client was Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and wife to Joachim Murat, who reigned as King of Naples from 1808-1815. For Caroline Murat, Breguet created the first watch specially designed to be worn on the wrist.
BREGUET AND THE CARRIAGE CLOCK
Breguet invented the travelling timekeeper which came to be known as the carriage clock and which he called variously pendule portative, pendule de carosse, pendule de voyage and pendule portique. In 1796 he built his first carriage clock, No. 178, and this was sold on 5 Floreal an 6 (24 April 1798) for 1500 francs to Napoleon Bonaparte just a few weeks before he set off for his Egyptian campaign. Today it is in the Swiss National Museum, Zurich.