Breguet's memoirs bring World Record $2.1m
The great watchmaker's fascinating writings on his greatest inventions are to be treasured in a museum
Abraham-Louis Breguet is regarded as one of horology's greatest innovators and inventors, responsible for the creation of the tourbillion amongst many other key parts of watchmaking today. Watch descriptions referring to Breguet numerals are also common.
So when, five years before his death, Breguet began to set down his horological memoirs for posterity it was always destined to be a unique and extremely valuable text. Dictated to assistant Louis Moinet, it was to contain all his experiences, creations and secrets.
The recent discovery of this work completely changes our understanding of the history of horology and our attitudes to and knowledge of watchmaking.
Simply written, it offered in-depth explanations from which other watchmakers could learn and understand Breguet's secrets, and from which they could incorporate his experiences and ideas into their own work.
Presented as the climactic end to an auction held in Geneva by Patrizzi on May 7, the work was initially offered as a provisional seven lots. From the start there was aggressive bidding both from inside the auction room and on the phone, and the first lot had a provisional bid of four times its estimate.
This was repeated throughout the provisional sale, with the volumes that cover Breguet's thoughts on the tourbillion and Marine chronometers respectively, achieving more than eight times their initial estimate.
The text was then re-offered as one lot, with initial bidding based on the sum of the highest provisional bids.
The ferocious bidding continued until there was just one participant left: the Breguet Museum, supported by Dr Nicolas Hayek of Montres Breguet SA. The winning bid was CHF2.3m ($2.1m).
The historic document has returned home, and will remain there for all interested parties to see.
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Manuscript image: Patrizzi