Breguet Grand Complication Ref. 1160 Pocket Watch:
Louis Abraham Breguet was commissioned by Count Axel de Ferson, an officer in the Queen Marie Antoinette‘s high guard and a suitor to create the world’s most elegant and complicated timepiece (at the time) in 1783. Marie Antoinette was known to have a strong affinity for jewelry and luxurious lifestyle, and price and time meant nothing to her. However, within 10 years of work by Breguet, the French revolution began and the aristocracy began to crumble which lead to the beheading of Queen Marie Antoinette by a guillotine for treason.
The work on the complicated pocket watch continued however, and in 1827 the timepiece was completed. Over the span of 34 years, this magnificent pocket watch was embedded with every known complication to man (at that time period). The automatic, self-winding, mechanical movement timepiece had a 48 hour power reserve. The long list of complications included: an on demand minute repeater chiming on the hour, quarter hour, or each minute; an equation of time indicator (this shows actual solar time vs. clock time), full perpetual calendar, jumping hour display, bimetallic mechanical thermometer, and internal stability and accuracy mechanisms. The 63mm pocket watch was beautiful, yet intimidating to most, except the most elite horology lovers.
This was a huge achievement for the world of horology, and Breguet was crowned for his hard work and effort. The timepiece embodied everything that defined technological achievement at that time period.
Over time the esteemed timepiece made its way into an exhibit of the LA Mayer Islamic Art Museum located in Jerusalem Israel. The museum dedicated a wing to historical timepiece, which included many Breguet’s and of course the Marie Antoinette pocket watch. In 1983, these timepieces were stolen and every police investigation came up empty handed.
During the early years of 2000 Nicolas Hayek, attempted to search for the legendary timepiece by offering a large sum reward for information on the whereabouts that would lead to a safe recovery. Hayek altered his plans when he received news that Marie Antoinette’s favorite tree located in Versailles was about to cut down. He subsequently negotiated with the French government to receive a portion of the tree to make a replica of the pocket watch’s display box.
Hayek subsequently asked watch makers to begin working on the replica which would be known as the Breguet Grand Complication Ref. 1160 Pocket Watch. Watch makers only used diagrams, pictures, and written descriptions from the original timepiece, work began on this ambitious project in 2005. Breguet used special metals and alloys in attempt to replicate the same colors, and replication of identical dimensions and functionality were strictly followed.
Breguet would eventually have a chance to see the original timepiece which would allow them to compare their Grand Complication Ref. 1160 with the original Marie Antoinette watch when the original appeared in 2007.
Breguet’s hard work eventually completed and the Grand Complication Ref. 1160 was unveiled to the public at Baselworld 2008. A testimony to Breguet’s craftsmanship, heritage, and to the world of horology, the Grand Complication Ref. 1160 became a benchmark in the watch industry. It also elicited a question from the world of horology, how far along has it come since the inception of the original timepiece.
As of 2013, the original Marie-Antoinette pocketwatch is valued at $30 million.
The Grand Complication Ref. 1160 is available for viewing at Breguet’s boutique in New York through an appointment.