- Museum number
GOLD CASE LEVER WATCH WITH DATE INDICATOR AND PORTRAIT MINIATURE.
Silver dial, secret signature, date aperture.
Gold case, has concealed miniature.
- Production date
1844 (sold by Breguet)
Diameter: 29 millimetres (miniature)
Diameter: 34.70 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Text from 'Watches', by David Thompson, London, 2008, p. 120-121.
Breguet et Fils
GOLD CASED LEVER WATCH
SIGNED: 'No. 4573 Breguet' (on the cuvette)
One of the most common occasions at which a watch is given is a birthday, and sometimes such a gift is intended to be cherished for years to come. This watch, by the celebrated firm of Breguet et Fils of Paris, fits this bill perfectly.
The Breguet archives list some of the craftsmen who made the watch: Benoist, Perruset, Tavernier and Bessaud. Pierre Benjamin Tavernier made the case and possibly the key, a well-made gold key with a squared end to engage in the square hole in the mainspring arbor. This key, known as a 'tipsy-key', also has a central ratchet so that it can function only in one direction. The back of the dial is punched 'B 4573 T", perhaps signifying that it was made by Pierre Tavernier for a Breguet watch.
The engine-turned silver dial has a small date aperture at the top beneath which a revolving disc is engraved with the even numbers. As well as on the cuvette inside the back, the watch is also inscribed, in tiny script, 'No. 4573 Breguet'. On the inside this silver dial is recessed in a most unconventional manner in order to minimize the thickness of the watch, leaving the thickness of the dial in the recesses paper-thin but never breaking through to the outside. The movement is also designed with slenderness and elegance in mind. The use of a positive square key, instead of a key which fits over a winding square, is undoubtedly a way of making a watch thinner, although using a normal positive-key for hand-setting to some extent loses the advantage.
Unusually the watch gear train has five wheels rather than four, because here the gear ratios are small, necessitating the extra wheel and pinion to get the required speeds of rotation for the gears. The lever escapement in the watch is not remarkable. However, the balance is of an unusual form with gold quarter screws for timing and platinum screws in the rim for temperature compensation in connection with the bimetallic balance rim.
The finely proportioned gold case is decorated on the back with the shield of arms of imperial Russia. Inside the case is a thin gold hinged cover engraved with the date '30th Août 1844'. Opening this cover reveals a charming portrait miniature, on ivory, of a young woman. Underneath the ivory, scratched into the inside of the case, is the inscription 'fait par Henry Rogien en 1844 a St Petersbourg', showing that it was made for Olga Nikolaievna Romanov, Grand Duchess of Russia. Olga was the second daughter of Tsar Nicholas I, and was born in St Petersburg on 30 August 1822 (in the Julian calendar used in Russia at that time). On 1 July 1846 she married Crown Prince Karl (later Karl I, King of Württemberg); she was a well-loved queen who did much to further education for girls in Württemburg. She died on 30 October 1892.
The Breguet record books show that the watch was sold to 'S.A.J. La Gd Dches de Russe' on 24 July 1844 for 5,000 francs. It would have made a charming and wonderful present for the young Princess Olga from her older sister, the Grand Duchess Alexandra.
Comment from Richard Good, Catalogue of Watches in the British Museum. Vol. V (Unpublished manuscript)
Made by Breguet
Paris, Sold in 1844 but probably made before 1839.(1)
Gold cased club tooth lever watch with wide impulse jewel and date indicator
Signature: On the dial 'BREGUET', on the cuvette 'No 4573 Breguet'. Also feintly inscribed 'No. 4573 Breguet' on the chapter ring either side of the XII position.
Case: Gold open face gold case, the back with an engraved border surrounding the Russian Imperial Arms.(2) The band is also engraved with foliate motifs. Inside the back is a miniature portrait of a young woman painted on ivory. The back of the miniature is has the inscription '1923 W------- 10 oN'. The portrait is protected by a glass and cover on the front face of which is the scratched number 26652. The catch for this cover is missing. Engraved on the rear face of this cover is the inscription '30 Août 1844'. On the inside of the case back, under the miniature are the scratched inscriptions 'fait par Henry Rogien en 1844 a St Petersbourg' and 'TR Liebsher StP 18/9 1863'. With the watch is an original gold double ended tipsy key with a male end for winding and a female end for hand setting. Two jump rings are secured to the body of the key.
Dial and Hands: A flat silver engine-turned dial with an off-set chapter ring and a date aperture above XII o'clock. The back of the dial is elaborately recessed to clear the various under-dial parts and is stamped 'B 4573 T'. Gold moon pattern hour and minute hands.
Dial-plate: None intended.
Dust-cap: A cuvette secured by a single screw and engraved with an arrow showing the direction of wind as well as the signature and number described above.
Ebauche Marks: 4753
Frame: Lepine calibre, the second wheel offset, not at the centre of the movement.
Barrel and Mainspring:
Barrel: going barrel with geared stopwork, ineternal diameter 14.0 mm, height 1.3 mm.
Mainspring: height 1.2 mm, thickness 0.18 mm.
Barrel Arbor: diameter 4.5 mm. snailed. The arbor head is secured to the arbor proper by dog screws. The hook is a separate piece inserted into the head.
Hooking: round but with additionally a T piece.(3)
Train: Plain brass wheels, the second wheel with five crossings, the third, fourth and fifth wheels with four crossings.(4)
Jewelled: From the third onwards, the escape wheel and pallets with ruby endstones. The balance provided with 'parachute' bearings.
Escapement: A straight-line layout club tooth lever escapement with long lever, double roller and a wide impulse pin of flattened oval section. An equal locking escapement. The exposed pallet stones have convex impulse faces and flat locking faces. The pallets have poising tails. The brass escape wheel has four crossings with the impulse faces slightly convex along their length.
No. of teeth embraced: 32.
Balance and Spring: A bimetallic balance with gold quarter screws. The platinum compensation screws are well bunched up towards the cut end of the rim and so large in diameter that they have had to be flattened to achieve clearance. Balance diameter 12.5 mm, thickness 0.5 mm. A blued-steel flat spiral spring of small diameter - 4.7 mm, and with a raised outer turn - not formed as a true terminal curve. The spring has nine turns and is attached to a large collet on the balance staff and a stud which is clamped and can be adjusted for its radial position.
Means of Regulation: An index ring is set into a recess in the front plate. Its controlling lever protrudes beyond the edge of the dial and registers against a divided scale with 'A' and 'R' engraved on the band of the case.
Train Counts and Beat Rate:
Great wheel 86 (barrel)
Second wheel 45 pinion 10
Third wheel 39 pinion 7
Fourth wheel 36 pinion 7
Fifth wheel 35 pinion 7
Escape wheel 13 pinion 10
Beat Rate: 16,762.04
Motion Work: cannon pinion 10
minute wheel 30 minute pinion 8
hour wheel 32
Calendar Work: A gold date wheel with 62 teeth is advanced by an arm indexed by a pin on the hour wheel. The date wheel is engraved with the even numbered dates, the numerals being filled black.
Winding Mechanism: Key wound.
Case: diameter 34.6 mm, height 8.3 mm (over the glass).
Movement: diameter 30.5 mm, height 4.6 mm, pillar height 0.00 mm.
Provenance: The Breguet archive record that this watch was sold to S.A.J. La Gd Dches de Russe, 24th July 1844 for 5,000 francs.
Formerly in the Ilbert collection. Ilbert purchased this from Wartski 23/7/1932.
(1) See George Daniels, 'The Art of Breguet', 1975, p.282 for 3rd series watch No. 4578, c. 1826 sold 1831, an almost identical but larger watch, (diameter 42.00 mm.). The date aperture is at 6 o'clock in this version.
(2) The engraved shield of arms on the back of the case are those of the house of Romanov. At the time that this watch was made the Emperor of Russia was Tsar Nicholas I and the existence of this shield on the back of the watch would suggest a connection with the royal family. The portrait miniature in the back of the case is possibly that of Princess Olga, the third child of Nicholas, who was born in 1822, married to Charles I King of Württemberg in 1846 and died in 1892.
(3) Breguet introduced this feature early on, it is present in his watches made around the end of the 18th century/beginning of 19th century.
(4) This helps to keep the spring against the barrel wall to prevent clustering of the spring as it unwinds.
The necessity for the five wheel train is brought about by virtue of the small ratio between each pair of wheels. The watch is very flat and the design helps to achieve this without the necessity for flimsy components.
The craftsmen who contributed to the making of this watch included Benoist, Perruset, Tavernier and Bessaud. Tavernier would have made the case and possibly the key. Since Tavernier died in 1839 this watch must have been made prior to this date.
- On display (G39/dc14/no64)
- Latest: 2 (2016)
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.1187 (Ilbert Collection)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: M195 (Ilbert Ledger)