Abraham-Louis Breguet was born in Switzerland in 1747, but had moved to Paris by the time he was 15. By 1775 he was married, and had set up a horology shop, and by 1780, he was introducing unique, almost radical new technical advances in watchmaking. He presented the perpetuelle, or automatic watch, and later added such momentous advancements as the tourbillon itself, a rotating cage that allows a watch to countermand the effects of gravity on its movements. The name Breguet became synonymous with both technical and aesthetic advances in watchmaking, and to this day, the company remains steadfast in its aesthetic and technical prowess. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were among his acquaintances, and Napoleon Bonaparte purchased a clock from Breguet.
It is quite something to look at antique watches, in centuries past all pocket watches or, another Breguet innovation, the desk clock. Soon, in San Francisco, at the Legion of Honor, it will be possible to take an intimate look at some of the most momentous and important pieces from the House of Breguet, including pieces that Abraham-Louis himself touched. “Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking” is the largest exhibition of Breguet antique timepieces ever to be organized in North America. The exhibition runs from Sept. 19, 2015 to Jan. 10, 2016. For watch aficionados, this is destination viewing.
The exhibition is divided into 15 categories, and provides a comprehensive look at the development not only of Breguet, but of the entire watch industry. Such was the influence Breguet held. Some notable pieces to see: the Breguet N°2008, small (médaillon) subscription watch, made in 1806; Breguet N°3066, first-class half-quarter-repeating watch, sold in 1821; Breguet N°5, automatic (perpétuelle) quarter-repeating watch with dumb (à toc) repeater, sold in 1794; Breguet N°178, quarter-repeating travel clock, made (and sold to Napoleon Bonaparte) in 1798; Breguet N°2667, thin “resonance-type” watch, sold in 1814; and Breguet N°1176, gold pocket watch with tourbillon, sold in 1809.
These are some, but by no means all, of the good reasons to make a visit before January 10. It may seem like you have a lot of time, but that often turns out to be illusory.
“Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking” runs Sept. 19, 2015 to Jan. 10, 2016.
Legion of Honor, 100 34th Avenue, San Francisco, California, 94121, United States, 415-750-3600.