“Montre Médaillon à Tact”, Abraham Louis Breguet, Paris, circa 1809
Extremely rare gold enamel “Montre Medaillon de Souscription à Tact” savonette pocket watch, embellished with demi pearl beads, 36mm diameter, 47g. Gold enamel case, the front and back with elaborate radial decoration. Translucid, dove-blue enamelled rotating front cover with applique arrow “sous émail” for the hour indication. “F” engraved on the back, middle section decorated with demi pearl beads to “feel” the time. Numbered and signed gold cuvette Tavernier No. 2934 with the case maker’s stamp “PBT” (Pierre Benjamin Tavernier). Beneath the spring-hinged cover is the gold plate with small guilloche subdial and blued Breguet hands, signed Breguet N 2378. Movement: small calibre 31.58mm diameter, key wind, ruby cylinder escapement, three-arm gold ring balance, parachute shock absorption. Original winding key belonging to the watch.
Breguet was the first watchmaker to manufacture such a watch. He sold the first of its kind at the beginning of 1799 to Madame Betancourt, the wife of his best friend. He made various versions of this watch and it proved extremely popular, in spite of the tremendously high prices of between 1500 and 3000 francs. In the early 19th century, these sums were huge even for the exclusively wealthy customers. One of the reasons for the popularity of the watch was that it was considered unseemly at the time to look at a watch in public. These very costly watches allowed their owners to tell the time with their fingers, “feeling” the time without removing the watch from their pocket. The front cover with the golden arrow turns until it is arrested at the bead representing the current hour.
The 2378 watch was sold in 1809 for 2025 francs to Madame Savari, née Félicité de Faudoas-Barbazan. Extract from the Breguet family register of 2012 (see photo on the back).
Félicité was a distant relative of Joséphine de Beauharnais (Napoleon’s first wife) and married to the Duke of Rovigo, René Savary, a loyal follower of Napoleon Bonaparte.