Breguet - Jewellery to mark two hundred years' wristwatches

The French brand celebrates the bicentennial of the wristwatch with an event in Naples - and an exclusive jewellery collection

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05 October 2012

The Reine de Naples jewellery set is based on oval-cut sapphires and 950 platinum, with a ring, earrings, necklace and tiara, and it is the latest addition to the Reine de Naples range, originally launched in 2002 and therefore celebrating its 10th anniversary. These beautiful pieces are also a tribute to another important commemoration, that of the first wristwatch. Their reference to this historical piece is created by the shape of the pieces, oval forms paved with baguette-cut diamonds encircling a sumptuous sapphire.

It was in fact 200 years ago that Abraham-Louis Breguet designed the first wristwatch in history, for Queen Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples. To mark the anniversary, Breguet have created a Reine de Naples anniversary piece, a Grande Complication repeater watch which chimes at every hour (the mechanism can be deactivated by means of a pushpiece at 2 o'clock). This oval watch incorporates a great deal of research by Breguet into the acoustics of chiming. Queen Caroline herself is celebrated by decoration on the bridges and oscillating weight visible through the sapphire caseback, which depicts a Mediterranean-style pavilion recalling her palaces.

The watch is an absolute jewel in every sense, with 28 brilliant-cut diamonds and 27 blue sapphires on the bezel, 233 brilliant-cut diamonds and 303 blue sapphires on the dial, and a briolette-cut diamond set into the crown at 4 o'clock. The hammers of the striking mechanism can be seen at 11 and 1 o'clock. The movement is a self-winding Breguet Calibre 78SO, providing 65 hours power reserve without chimes, and 50 hours with chimes operating.

The Reine de Naples collection – both the watch and the jewellery – is a tribute to the watch created by Caroline Murat from Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1810 and delivered two years later. Unfortunately, the watch is no longer in the Breguet collection, and indeed, no-one knows where it is. The Breguet order book records two commissions from the Queen of Naples in June 1810: a grand complication carriage clock, and a timepiece "for a bracelet, with minute repeater." The latter became Breguet's watch n° 2639, and the Maison described it as a "repeater in oblong form for bracelet." They completed it in December 1811, but the queen asked for some changes in the minute repeater system and the dial, for which she requested Arabic numerals. It was completed and delivered in December 1812.

Breguet have another two records of the watch, the first dating to March 1849, when Caroline Murat's daughter Louise brought it in to be repaired. They described it as "fitted into a bracelet of hair entwined with gold thread." In the second, 1855, the owner requested two new watch keys. From then on, its location is unknown. It would be an exciting find.

For the anniversary, celebrated in Naples and Capri on 5 and 6 October 2012, Breguet opened the Reggia di Capodimonte, home to Caroline Murat from 1808 to 1815. The Maison also showed a touring Reine de Naples exhibition dedicated to the exciting story of the first wristwatch. And of course, Breguet showcased the exclusive new Reine de Naples jewellery, and the special watch.

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