It’s worth reading about the detailed article at the first Sotheby’s link, but it was originally bought by the monarch in 1808, is engraved with his cypher, and is believed to have been the first commercially sold Breguet tourbillon. It is signed by Breguet on the tourbillon carriage and by Recordon, his London agent for the King. As Sotheby’s noted, of the four-minute tourbillons from this series currently known, this is the only one to have a dial in English. It is also the only example from the group known to have the addition of a thermometer, and the original price was FF 4,800.
Now, a temporary export bar has been place on the timepiece, currently valued at £2 million.
As per the U.K. government website, the bar is “to allow time for a UK gallery or institution to potentially come forward and save the work for the nation”. They state that it is “an exceptionally rare example of a Breguet Four Minute Tourbillon watch, owned by King George III, is at risk of leaving the country unless a UK buyer can be found to save the work for the nation”.
The Culture Minister’s decision follows the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA). The Committee made its recommendation on the grounds of the watch’s outstanding significance for the study of British collecting, horology and the social and political history of Britain and Europe.
The official government details of the watch are as follows:
“Certificate No. 4178 issued by the Breguet firm in Paris on 29 June 1808 shows that this watch was issued to their agent in London, Recordon, for King George III. The watch was signed by Recordon, rather than Breguet, perhaps to disguise the sale to the British King during the Napoleonic Wars. The watch is an early example incorporating Breguet’s tourbillon, possibly Breguet’s single greatest contribution to the field. He conceived the idea while in Switzerland between 1793-1795, in exile from the Reign of Terror in Paris. It was patented on June 26, 1801 and was finally put into commercial production in 1805.
The escapement, the beating-heart of a watch responsible for controlling its timekeeping, is subject to varying forces as it moves about in normal use, which can adversely affect timekeeping. Breguet sought to reduce these positional errors by incorporating the tourbillon which caused the entire escapement assembly to rotate continuously through 360°, the word “tourbillon” translating as “whirlwind”.
Breguet sold 35 tourbillon watches between 1805 and 1823 and less than ten survive, thus making them rare and coveted pieces. It includes a thermometer, seconds, stopping seconds and a state of wind indicator and has a high quality gold case.”
You can read the official statement regarding the bar, plus details should you be a relevant individual, institution, or organisation interested in purchasing it, at this link.
The decision on the export licence application for the watch will be deferred until 28 April 2021, with a possible extension until 28 September 2021 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £2,000,000 plus VAT of £400,000.
[Photo credit: Sotheby’s]