Early last week, leading luxury watch brand Breguet took over the Gulf of Naples, an enchanting region in southern Italy that is rich in history, to celebrate the bicentennial of the first wristwatch, as well as the 10th anniversary of the brand's iconic Reine de Naples collection for ladies.
Christophe Viguerie, right, managing director of Breguet Thailand, with Thai guests, from left, Onchuma Durongdej, Wanvisa Udol, Busaba Mayalarp, Supanras Sirihong, Vichitra and Wichai Songthaveephol, at the Reggia Di Capodimonte palace museum in Naples.
"As a brand that represents a great historical and cultural heritage as well as avant-garde technology, Breguet has always had a fascinating ability to innovate and we owe our place in European cultural history to our prodigiously inventive founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet," said Marc Hayek, president and CEO of Montres Breguet.
Born in Neuchatel, Switzerland, in 1747, AL Breguet started his own watchmaking business in 1775 which quickly became one of the most popular watch companies. King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Queen of Naples (Napoleon Bonaparte's younger sister, Caroline Murat), the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Winston Churchill were among his many illustrious clients.
Breguet watchmaker demonstrating a decorative technique.
AL Breguet spent much of his life in Paris where many of his important creations were produced. He enjoyed working in all areas of watchmaking, achieving a series of masterly inventions in his career _ the automatic watch, referred to as "a perpetual", the gong spring for repeater watches, and the first shock-absorber device.
During his time, the visionary watchmaker also paid particular attention to the decoration of his creations. His timepieces all exhibited different motifs that enhance the beauty not only of their movements, but also of their cases and dials.
In 1810, the Queen of Naples, who already owned no less than 34 watches and clocks produced by AL Breguet, commissioned him to produce another extraordinary timepiece _ a watch that she could wear on the wrist. It was a real first at that time, not to say highly unconventional. Breguet worked on this challenging project for two-and-a-half years and on Dec 21, 1812, put the final touch to his innovation _ the first ever wristwatch in the history of horology. It was officially recorded as watch No.2639.
The Breguet watch No.2639 was a revolutionary construction, consisting of an ultra-thin repeating watch, oblong and slender, with a wristlet made of hair intertwined with gold thread. On his death in 1823, Breguet was eulogised as a man whose genius had revolutionised every aspect of timekeeping.
As a tribute to Breguet's most innovative timepiece of its day, and in memory of the woman who commissioned it, in 2002 Montres Breguet launched an exclusively "Reine de Naples", a feminine watch collection that took its inspiration from the original No.2639 wristwatch first ordered by the Queen of Naples.
"Although the No.2639 model made for the Queen of Naples has not yet been found and thus remains an enigma, not mentioned in any private or public collection, the Breguet company archives have made it possible to retrace this historical retrospective of the unprecedented creation of this unique wristwatch," said Mr Hayek. True to style, the creations of the Reine de Naples collection are oval in shape and have an off-centre dial at 6 o'clock.
Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples.
Certain models come with a plaited strap or a power reserve indicator at 12 o'clock, in reference to the aesthetics of watch No.2639, whose strap was of hair entwined with gold thread and which displayed a thermometer outside the hour chapter.
In Naples, guests and the media from around the world were invited by Montres Breguet to participate in the festivities to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the delivery of the first wristwatch and the 10th anniversary of the iconic Reine de Naples collection.
The day started with exploring the Reggia Di Capodimonte and Palazzo Reale, home palace to Caroline Murat, the Queen of Naples, without whose true passion for watches the emblematic first wristwatch in history might never have been created. Today a national museum, the palace museum still houses some apartments from the time of Caroline Murat.
At the Capodimonte Museum, the president and CEO of Montres Breguet also unveiled the world preview of a new Reine de Naples special anniversary watch, as well as a complete Reine de Naples jewellery set, designed exclusively for this milestone double jubilee.
The festivities continued on the isle of Capri where the famous Swiss watchmaker brought its Reine de Naples global travelling exhibition to an end on the heights of Capri _ at the Capri Palace. First shown in January 2012 in Geneva, then presented in succession in the largest cities in Asia, the United States and Europe, this exhibition looks back over the history and the mysteries of the first wristwatch. Part of the finest pieces of the contemporary Reine de Naples collection were also on show, illustrating the ingenuity and elegance of Abraham-Louis Breguet's timepieces.
The exhibition at Capri Palace also saw a team of Breguet watchmakers demonstrating some of the more meticulous stages in the creation of a watch including the decorative techniques of bevelling, engraving, engine-turning and the art of the cameo.
"Today more than ever, Breguet is committed to respecting the legacy of the brand's founder. We offer an increasing fascinating range of timepieces that combine refined design with technical complications," said Christophe Viguerie, managing director of Breguet Thailand.
"The watch's simple lines, the refinement and the special features delight collectors and all lovers of the brand," said Mr Viguerie. "The famous Breguet hands in blued steel with the off-centre, openwork 'moon' tip have graced the watches for more than 200 years. Fluted case bands have also been an integral part of the restrained 'Breguet style', and one of the most precious attributes is the manually engine-turned dials of the watches since 1786.
"It is not only connoisseurs who understand that owning a Breguet means owning something exceptional. For many people, the originality and timeless style of the watches express a philosophy and an identity that clearly sets them apart."
Breguet watches can be viewed at Cortina Watch Espace boutique on the first floor of Erawan Bangkok (tel 02-250-7999) and S.T. Dimension watch boutique on the M floor of Siam Paragon (tel 02-610-9678).
An ode to femininity
The Reine de Naples anniversary watch is the latest in the line of Breguet's Grandes Complications. This striking mechanism marks the top of every hour with two chimes repeated thrice. It offers a discreet reminder of the passing of time. A pushpiece at 2 o'clock disables the function. Along with the usual technical imperatives involved in designing an oval movement, this unique timepiece incorporates the results of fundamental research by Breguet into the acoustics of chiming and repeating watches.
The geometry of the bridges, the oscillating weight and the decoration, displayed through the sapphire crystal back of the watch, form the image of a garden pavilion in the Mediterranean style, identical to the stately residences of Caroline Murat. The bezel, the caseband and the snap are set with 28 brilliant cut diamonds and 27 blue sapphires. The striking hammers appear above the dial at 11 and 1 o'clock, while between them the diamond heart of a rose engraved in gold indicates the engagement of the hour striker.
The silvered gold dial and its flange are paved with 233 brilliant cut diamonds and 303 blue sapphires with different nuances, offering a subtle colour gradation. A crown is placed at 4 o'clock and set with a briolette-cut diamond, mounted on an alligator strap with a folding clasp set with 26 diamonds.
The Reine de Naples jewellery set is composed of a ring, a pair of earrings, a necklace and a tiara. Each of these jewels is in 950 platinum, the most resistant material found in jewellery today. The central motif of the jewels is an oval-cut blue sapphire. It is surrounded by two ovoid rings paved with baguette-cut diamonds in an elegant and refined echo of the case of the first wristwatch, which had an oblong shape.
Breguet Reine de Naples special anniversary timepiece for ladies.
About the author
- Writer: Prapai Kraisornkovit
Position: Life Editor