Emmanuel Breguet (left), on the phone with Marc Hayek, and Jean-Claude Sabrier, looking tense, as the hammer comes down on the highlight of the Sotheby’s sale.
After a missed opportunity in eventful circumstances in 2008, the Breguet Museum in Paris finally took home the Breguet N° 4691 pocket Replica Watches for CHF 1,025,000. In addition, Emmanuel Breguet, director of Breguet France and at the head of Swatch Group’s heritage, acquired a further four important lots.
“I had Marc Hayek on the other end of the line. We had a great time. We were in it to win it!”. Beaming with delight, Emmanuel Breguet could finally breathe easy. The man at the head of both Breguet France and Swatch Group heritage had just seen Geoffroy Ader’s hammer come down on his winning bid. On November 12th in Geneva, the director of Sotheby’s watch department auctioned an exceptional grandes complications pocket Omega Replica watches from 1831, signed by the Swiss master. After a swift bidding battle, it went to the Breguet Museum in Paris for CHF 1,025,000 (CHF 850,000 excl. buyer’s premium, estimated CHF 600,000-1,000,000). “This watch was meant to be ours,” declared Emmanuel Breguet, who spent a total CHF 1,465,000 at the Geneva auctions on five lots for the Swatch Group, including a portrait and a bust of Breguet. One item, however, did slip through his fingers: the Breguet N° 1135 from 1806 with échappement naturel.
“We wanted it”
Emmanuel Breguet had every reason to be pleased, given that he had previously missed out on this extra-flat watch, once the property of the British collector Sir Richard Wallace, when it came under the gavel at the Parisian auction house Drouot in 2008. Five years ago, on April 10th to be precise, bidding went sky-high, reaching EUR 3,469,760 (EUR 2,800,000 hammer price). “I was in the room, on the phone with Nicolas Hayek senior,” recalled Emmanuel Breguet. “What happened that day was an accident.” Indeed, the successful bidder, an Egyptian businessman, killed himself a week after placing what turned out to be a wild bid. “The owners took the wise decision to wait a few years before consigning the Replica Watches UK again. And we wanted it.”
This exceptionally rare Breguet N° 4691 is a feat of technique in such limited confines. Just 7.7 mm high (8.8 mm with the pair case), this half quarter repeater proposes an exceptional number of complications for that period, including an equation of time, a power-reserve indication, day, date and month, and moon phases. Jean-Claude Sabrier, a respected expert and antiques dealer who accompanied Emmanuel Breguet at Sotheby’s, observed how “the dimensions and complexity [of the watch] are characteristic of the work of Breguet Fils.” It is one of just three similar examples from this period. The first is part of the collections of the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem. The second was purchased by the Viceroy of Egypt, Said Pacha, and now belongs to his heir, Ismail Pacha.
All but one
Nor was this the museum’s only purchase. Shortly before the Breguet N° 4691 came on the block, Emmanuel Breguet placed a successful bid of CHF 62,500 for an oil portrait of the master (CHF 50,000 excl. buyer’s premium, estimated CHF 20,000-40,000) and another for a bronze bust from the 1830s, purchased for CHF 37,500 (CHF 30,000 excl. buyer’s premium, estimated CHF 2,000-3,000) after competing for the lot with a telephone bidder. The previous day, at Christie’s, he had come away with pocket watch N° 5015, dated 1833, for CHF 47,500 (CHF 38,000 excl. buyer’s premium, estimated CHF 15,000-25,000) and a Breguet N° 4420 with excentric hour and minute dials, originally sold to King George IV, for CHF 293,000 (CHF 240,000 excl. buyer’s premium, estimated CHF 80,000-120,000). There was, however, one important piece which the Museum didn’t tick off its list. The “quarter repeating watch with free escapement with natural lift” N° 1135 (estimated CHF 300,000-500,000), for which Breguet succeeded in doing without lubricant, failed to attract a single bid. “This Replica Omega watch certainly warrants interest but was over-estimated,” Emmanuel Breguet declared, adding “but I’ll definitely be among the bidders next time.”