Time is the great leveller. It is the one resource that is allocated equally to all of us. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that celebrated watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet appealed to personalities in both the armies that approached Waterloo for the epic battle that began on Sunday 18 June 1815.
The battle began at about 10 o’clock, when Napoleon attacked the farmhouse known as Hougoumont, the Duke of Wellington’s headquarters. Today, two hundred years on, Breguet is the main private sponsor for the restoration of the Hougoumont farm and its conversion into a museum, which is intended to stand as a symbol of European peace and stability. The inauguration of the museum will take place on 17 June 2015, in the presence of Marc A. Hayek, President and CEO of Breguet, Prince Charles, Prince Blücher von Wahlstatt, the Duke of Wellington, and Prince Charles Bonaparte, together with many politicians and media representatives. Below, an antique Breguet of the sort that could have been used on the battlefield by one of the protagonists.
Breguet’s customers present on the battlefield included the two key figures, Emperor Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, along with several other personalities on both sides. Before the French Revolution, Breguet’s customers included Queen Marie-Antoinette; during the Empire period, just about the entire imperial family were his clients. His watches were also popular in England, Spain and Russia. Below, the Emperor Napoleon:
Today, Breguet is appreciated world-wide for its innovative timepieces, and its sponsorship activities reflect its long links to European history. Previous Breguet projects include the funding of the Petit Trianon and the French Pavilion at Versailles, the restoration of 18th century halls at the Louvre, the sponsorship of the naval aviation hall at the National Navy Museum in Paris, and the creation of the Salon Doré in the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums.
The ceremony at Hougoumont on 17 June 2015 will end with handshakes between the current Duke of Wellington, Prince Blücher von Wahlstatt, and Prince Charles Bonaparte, in a symbolic demonstration of the value of peace. Two hundred years ago, Abraham-Louis Breguet had already shown how a shared passion can bridge the gap between warring nations. He visited London in the 1780s, and met British watchmaker John Arnold, and they got on very well. John Arnold later sent his son John Roger to Breguet for a two-year apprenticeship, and this led to a collaboration between the two great craftsmen on what would become the first tourbillon watch in history. This timepiece was originally made by Arnold, who gave it to Breguet (it was taken to Paris by his son); Breguet modified the watch, adding the tourbillon assembly, and returned it to John Roger Arnold after his father’s death, complete with an engraved plate reading, ‘The first tourbillon regulator by Breguet, incorporated into one of the first works by Arnold. Breguet’s tribute to the honoured memory of Arnold.’
Below, a portrait of Abraham-Louis Breguet: