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Breguet subscription watch

Abraham-Louis Breguet and Antoine-Louis Breguet, subscription watch, sold in 1798. Silver case with gold fillets, enamel dial, and ruby cylinder escapement, diameter: 2 3/8 in. (6.2 cm). Collection Montres Breguet S.A.

Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking

September 19, 2015January 10, 2016
Rosekrans Court, Special Exhibition Galleries 20B-C

Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking explores the history of the watch and clock maker Breguet. The company’s cutting-edge innovations transformed the nature of personal timekeeping, and the exhibition will include displays describing the technology that earned Abraham-Louis Breguet his sobriquet as “the father of modern horology.”

From its beginnings in Paris in 1775, Breguet advanced great technical developments such as the self-winding watch, the first wristwatch, the repeating mechanism, and, most notably, the tourbillon—a revolutionary movement that neutralizes the negative effects of gravity on pocket watches. Breguet played a key role in the history of watchmaking, elevating the craft to its zenith by producing finely made watches that were a pleasure to handle and use.

The company's reputation for ingenuity, as well as the reliability and portability of its watches, led to Breguet’s watches being considered objects of great prestige, worn by the powerful and elite in Europe, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Tsar Alexander I, and Queen Victoria. The most famous Breguet timepiece linked to a European monarch is the world-renowned “Marie-Antoinette” pocket watch. This extraordinary piece took 44 years to make and was the most complicated watch of its time. During the 19th century, Breguet expanded its business into countries beyond France, supplying elegant timepieces to customers in Europe, Russia, and the United States. Today Breguet is a name known throughout the world.

Co-curated by Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European decorative arts and sculpture, and Emmanuel Breguet, Vice President and Head of Patrimony and Strategic Development of Montres Breguet S.A., this presentation at the Legion of Honor features more than 80 objects. A scholarly catalogue will be published by the Fine Arts Museums to coincide with the exhibition.

This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with Montres Breguet.