Breguet 1297 Whirling about regulator: A watch fit for King George III

Jul 12, 2020,03:34 AM

Whilst Sotheby's sold a probably unique, modern Rolex Daytona, for a King's ransom in their Hong Kong sale over the weekend, I managed a couple of hours at the preview of their London sale on Bond Street aiming to see some remarkable pieces of horology from two centuries ago.

The West End is still eerily quiet and fortunately (at least for me) there were no other members of the public at the gallery allowing me free reign over the exceptional sale items coming up on the 14th of this month (I recommend a peruse through the catalogue).

The star lot (possibly of the whole auction season), lot 28, is the watch featured below: a unique 4-minute tourbillon manufactured by Breguet and sold to the King of England in 1808 via the retailer Recordon. It is not necessary for me to elucidate on the history of this watch as this can be read at length on the Sotheby's website and has been penned expertly by Alex Barter, former head of watches in London for the auction house and now a consultant for them. 

However, from a personal perspective, as someone who has been fortunate enough to visit the Salomons collection in Jerusalem and seen the Marie Antoinette (ref.160) twice, this represented a truly privileged opportunity to handle the work of possibly the most inventive horologist to have lived. And not just any work: one of the first commercially available tourbillon watches. 

I have read various discussions recently about the position of the tourbillon in modern watchmaking and why it still exists and proliferates at an ever increasing pace whilst at the same time increasing in complexity and outrageousness. Fundamentally though, the most basic and straightforward expression of an original idea is sometimes the most beautiful even if it does not appear to excite in the same fashion as the same idea expressed many years later with the advent of new technologies and creativity. 

For me, the expression of the original tourbillon resonates because of its purity, its rudmimentary, not quite perfect mechanical form, because it was conceived as a solution rather than entertainment and also because as a pocket watch, it performed its magic discreetly without pretension. I believe, that even today, it contains everything one could hope for in a portable timepiece.  

Whilst there, i did photograph some other lots, but I will perhaps save that for another post. 

Regards to all and stay safe,


(Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Sotheby's)

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Jaw dropping masterpiece.

 By: ZSHSZ : July 12th, 2020-03:58
Fantastic photos as well! Thank you for the great presentation.


 By: countzero : July 12th, 2020-04:20
Thanks for the post and the detailed photos!

Glad you enjoyed it [nt]

 By: Baruch Coutts : July 12th, 2020-04:54


 By: George Gently : July 12th, 2020-04:27
Thank you Very much, Baruch, for this interesting write-up and for the pictures. Regards, George

You're welcome George. [nt]

 By: Baruch Coutts : July 12th, 2020-04:54

Beautifully written presentation. Watch worthy. My hat's off to you. Now just one thing...

 By: halgedahl : July 12th, 2020-04:44
For the life of me I con't figure out the difference between "common seconds'' and those "โ€ฆfor observation." Obviously I have a great deal, still to learn about watchmaking, but would you be so kind as to educate me on this difference. Is one "whirling ab... 

Thank you!

 By: Baruch Coutts : July 12th, 2020-04:58
Some further context. 'Whirling about regulator' is a translation of the French 'Ragulateur ร  tourbillon' as found on the cartouche of a similar watch. The common seconds is the running seconds and the 'seconds for observation' is essentially a 60 seconds... 

Not at all!

 By: Baruch Coutts : July 12th, 2020-06:39
So much information on the website I thought it best to direct interested parties there rather than trying to repeat it here badly!

A pleasure! [nt]

 By: Baruch Coutts : July 12th, 2020-06:40

I am fond of pocket watches and your presentation is a real delight, many thanks for...

 By: Mike H : July 12th, 2020-05:46
...for the time you spent on this great presentation and the beautiful numerous pics you took of this awesome granny.

Utterly jaw dropping

 By: Brandon Skinner : July 12th, 2020-09:28
Itโ€™s my hope the winning bidder is Breguet themselves, so this can become part of their extensive collection. I would love to see it myself one day, and selfishly this probably presents my best chance of having the opportunity. Whatever the final price is... 

Glad you enjoyed! [nt]

 By: Baruch Coutts : July 12th, 2020-10:42

A triple ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

 By: Jurry : July 12th, 2020-11:04
๐Ÿ‘for sharing this unique watch ๐Ÿ‘for great pictures ๐Ÿ‘for your superb eloquent wording which makes it pleasure to read

A pleasure my friend! [nt]

 By: Baruch Coutts : July 12th, 2020-13:36

:-) [nt]

 By: kjkt3 : July 12th, 2020-15:42