Enfilade

Time at the Louvre

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on August 22, 2009

Breguet and the Louvre: An Apogee of European Watchmaking

Exhibition curated by Marc Bascou

Musée du Louvre, Sully Wing, La Chappelle exhibition hall, June 25 – September 7, 2009

Turkish Watch – The name was used to denote watches produced specially for the Turkish market by Breguet. They have enamel dials and very distinctive numerals in Turkish characters. The cases are also highly distinctive: sometimes double-enameled throughout and richly decorated with floral motifs and landscapes. The last watches and clocks with Turkish numerals date from the late nineteenth century, when the firm still had a representative in Constantinople.

Turkish Watch – The name was used to denote watches produced specially for the Turkish market. They have enamel dials and very distinctive numerals in Turkish characters. The cases are also highly distinctive: often richly decorated with floral motifs and landscapes.

 'Souscription' Watch – Launched through a publicity brochure in 1797, watches of this sort were sold on a subscription basis, with a down-payment of a quarter of the price when the order was placed. Called “Souscription” in the sales ledgers, they were reliable and proved a great success.

'Souscription' Watch – Launched through a publicity brochure in 1797, watches of this sort were sold on a subscription basis, with a down-payment of a quarter of the price when the order was placed. Called “Souscription” in the sales ledgers, they were reliable and proved a great success.

Abraham-Louis Breguet was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in 1747 but moved to Paris in 1775. A peerless technician, Breguet invented mechanisms that constituted wonderful advances in watchmaking, notably the tourbillon regulator, an astonishing device that corrected the effect of gravity on the balance wheel. Watches, clocks, and measuring instruments, accompanied by portraits, archive documents and patent applications, shed light on the developments pioneered by Breguet from his early years in Paris to the period when he handed the business over to his son, Antoine-Louis.

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Marine chronometers took the form of a movement of fairly large volume enclosed in a cylindrical brass casing. The latter was attached to a sturdy wooden box by means of brass gimbals serving as stabilizer and shock absorber. Fitted with handles and a glass face, the marine chronometer was placed at the heart of the vessel; among other functions, it was used to calculate longitude at sea.

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In 1796, Breguet built the first modern carriage clock. It is equipped with a Breguet overcoil – which offered major advantages over the pendulum balance it replaced, which was not adapted to being moved – glazed on four sides and of small dimensions. Some of the carriage clocks of the first half of the nineteenth century are veritable tours de force, endowed with various advanced features.

Combining items from the lavish collections of the Louvre and of the Musée Breguet, this exhibition of historic Breguet timepieces also includes masterpieces on loan from private collections and prestigious institutions such as the British Royal Collections, the Musée des Arts et Métiers de Paris, the Kremlin Museum and the Swiss National Museum.

Published in conjnction with the exhibition is the catalogue, Breguet au Louvre, un apogée de l’horlogerie européenne, edited by Marc Bascou and Emmanuel Breguet, 39 € (also available in English as Breguet and the Louvre, An Apogee of European Watchmaking)

[N.B. – Text, images, and captions are drawn from the exhibition website at the Louvre. Portions of the text also comes from the Breguet website.]

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  1. Editor said, on December 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    The exhibition certainly raises questions about the relationship between commerce and museums (not bad publicity for Breguet). For criticism of the exhibition, see Didier Rykner’s editorial (in French) for The Art Tribune (31 July 2009).


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