- Museum number
Originally full-plate; fusee; Harrison's maintaining power; plate with inscription.
Peto cross detent escapement with tourbillon, compensation balance.
Silver engine-turned dial.
Silver engine-turned box.
- Production date
Diameter: 59.50 millimetres (max)
Height: 23 millimetres (max)
- Curator's comments
Text from 'Watches', by David Thompson, London, 2008, p. 84-85.
John Arnold and Abraham Louis Breguet
SILVER CASED CHRONOMETER WITH TOURBILLON AND SPRING-DETENT ESCAPEMENT LONDON, 1774, AND PARIS, 1808
Abraham Louis Breguet visited London in the 1780s. There he was introduced to John Arnold, one of the leading contemporary chronometer makers. The mutual admiration which grew between the men, two of the most inventive horologists of the time, was demonstrated by Arnold sending his son, John Roger, to work with Breguet at the Quai de l'Horloge, Paris, for two years between 1792 and 1794. In return, Breguet's son, Louis Antoine, spent time working in London with John Arnold. The friendship continued beyond Arnold's death in 1799 with his son and successor.
This pocket chronometer, no. 11, by John Arnold was made in London around 1774 and it has been suggested that John Roger Arnold probably took the piece with him to Paris, perhaps as a gift for Breguet from his father. Such was the close relationship between the Arnold and Breguet families that fourteen years later, in August 1809, Abraham Louis Breguet presented this converted piece to John Roger Arnold as a homage to John Roger's late father. Breguet's redesign of the watch, carried out between January 1808 and May 1809, is based on the original Arnold pocket chronometer but modified to operate with a Peto cross-detent escapement. Breguet also added his newly invented revolving carriage, called a tourbillon, which constantly changed the position of the escapement and balance to minimize timekeeping errors caused by changes in the watch's position. The practical alterations to the watch escapement do not appear to have been carried out by Breguet himself, but instead by two Swiss watchmakers working for the company, Monsieurs Renevier and Juntes. The Breguet record for the watch shows that in all fourteen different craftsmen were paid a total of 1,021 francs for the work, while the Arnold movement was valued at 336 francs. Pierre Benjamin Tavernier made the engine-turned silver box in which the completed conversion was fitted. His mark - PBT with a triangle and bar above, all enclosed in a lozenge - appears in the back of the case. He based his business at a number of locations in Paris, but in 1808, when this case was made, he was at Cour de la Ste Chapelle.
To commemorate the gift to John Roger Arnold, an inscribed plate on the movement reads: '1ER REGULATEUR A TOURBILLON DE BREGUET RÉUNI A UN DES PREMIERS OUVRAGES D'ARNOLD. HOMMAGE DE BREGUET, A LA MÉMOIRE RÉVÉRÉE D'ARNOLD, OFFERT A SON FILS AN 1808' ('The first tourbillon regulator by Breguet incorporated in one of the first works of Arnold. Breguet's homage to the revered memory of Arnold. Presented to his son in the year 1808').
Comment from Anthony G. Randall and Richard Good, Catalogue of Watches in the British Museum. Vol. VI (1990)
Made by John Arnold/A. L. Breguet, 1808
Signature: On the back plate, the engraved inscription 'John Arnold London Invt et Fecit No 11'.
On a silver plate attached to the back plate '1er REGULATEUR A TOURBILLON DE BREGUET RÉUNI A UN DES PREMIERS OUVRAGES D'ARNOLD. HOMMAGE DE BREGUET, A LA MÉMOIRE RÉVÉRÉE D'ARNOLD, OFFERT A SON FILS AN 1808'.
This can be translated as: 'The first Tourbillon regulator by Breguet incorporated in one of the first works of Arnold. Breguet's homage to the revered memory of Arnold. Presented to his son in 1808'.
Case: Engine-turned silver glazed box, the front pushing onto the middle, the glazed back secured by a bayonet fixing and screw, and with an additional cover pushing on. The following marks inside the back cover B over 169 and 2797, also the French quality control mark for 1798-1809. According to Breguet's records the watch was given the number 169 while being worked on. The glazed box was made by Tavernier and numbered 2797, and he was paid various sums at different times for the work involved including 100 francs for supplying the box, 2 francs for silver, 18 francs for engine turning and the sums of 12, 3 and 4 francs apparently for soldering, silver and adjusting the back. Overall diam. 59.3 mm, h. 22.5 mm.
Dial and hands: Silver dial engine-turned, retained by a single screw below XII. It is not clear from the records if the dial was supplied by Tavernier. The engraving was done by Michaud who was paid 8 francs and then 2 francs later for the seconds dial.
The blued steel hands were supplied by Thevenon who was paid 19 francs.
Scratched on the back of the dial 'F [?] L. Weber', erased but still faintly visible 'No. 169'. and 'J.F.C. 9/09'; probably a repair mark (James Ferguson Cole ?).
Front plate diam. 48.0 mm; back plate diam. 46.2 mm; frame h. 10.3 mm.
Frame: Originally full plate construction with four turned pillars, the back plate retained by pins, and without a detachable barrel bridge. The dial plate has been discarded and the front plate reduced in diameter breaking into the holes for the dial feet. The case catch and spring have also been removed and the holes filled. The movement is now retained in the silver box by three dog screws. The dial is of larger diameter than the front plate and rests on a ledge turned in the case.
The back plate has been cut away leaving most of the original engraving, the holes for the steady pins and screw hole of the original balance cock are hidden under the silver dedication plate. One pillar has been cut off flush with the front plate. The front plate has had the hole for the third wheel enlarged to accommodate a cock for the third arbor upper pivot, and two slots cut under the now fixed fourth wheel, under the tourbillon. A chamfered hole has also been drilled partly under the great wheel for an unknown purpose. The bridge for the third and fourth bearings on the front plate has been cut away and the fixing made precarious at one end, and a hole drilled to expose the gearing between the third wheel and the fourth pinion on the carriage. The frame has been carefully regilded after the alterations, and a dust trap fitted round the winding arbor retained by two small blued steel dog screws.
Fusee: The original keywind fusee fitted with sun and planet maintaining power, as used by John Arnold in his earliest machines and abandoned in favour of the more usual Harrison system in about 1775. The stop-work and setting-up-work fitted between the plates are as in registration no. 1958,1201.1838, except that the block for the stop-pieces has been replaced. The mainspring barrel assembly and the fusee chain are also apparently original. The mainspring could well be that originally fitted by John Arnold, the hooking to the barrel wall does not appear to have been renewed. Spring h. 6.8 mm, th. 0.22 mm. Barrel internal diam. 21.5 mm.
Going train: Only the great wheel, the centre wheel and pinions, and possibly the third pinion, are as originally fitted, the remainder of the train has been completely altered. The great wheel, centre and fixed fourth wheel are gilded. The third wheel is plain brass, burnished on both sides, and showing signs of corrosion.
Jewelling: All the going train pivots are run in flat pierced jewels in brass settings themselves set in the plates and held by blued steel screws. The centre and fusee lower and the fusee upper have probably been added by Breguet. Although similar in style to the others, flat jewels without oil reservoirs, the colour of the stones and of the settings are different.
The lower pivot of the tourbillon carriage is apparently run in the original fourth arbor jewel hole. The upper pivot is run in a blind jewel in a resilient jewel setting on the overhanging cock mounted on the back plate. There is a screw to adjust the endshake. (See further description under Tourbillon and Escapement below.)
Tourbillon: Built up on steel disc with knurled edge, finished grey (diam. 16.3 mm, th. 0.5 mm). The fourth pinion of twenty-five leaves set in a brass collet driven into a boss in the centre of the steel disc, and having the extended seconds pivot on one end and a short piece of the arbor left on the other to limit the movement of the resilient lower balance jewel assembly.
The upper cone pivot for the carriage integral with a disc 4.4 mm in diameter screwed to the two-armed frame member. The last is wide enough to clear the balance, then waisted in to two feet with steady pins screwed to the knurled disc with two screws. The frame is made from a single piece of steel, bevelled and polished on the top surface, the sides grained (w. 10.5 mm, th. 0.48 mm approx.), the steady pins for it are fixed in the knurled disc.
The balance upper resilient bearing is screwed to the underside of the top cross member of the frame and is set with a jewel having a blind conical hole for the balance upper cone-shaped pivot. The balance lower resilient bearing is screwed to the knurled disc and is jewelled in the same way as the upper, for the balance lower cone-shaped pivot. There is no means for giving any endshake to the balance staff and it is held in compression, gripped between the two bearings. The escape wheel is pivoted between two light steel cocks screwed and steady pinned to the knurled disc, one on each side. Each cock is set with a very small diameter pierced jewel, allowing very little room for the oil reservoir.
The carriage is poised by a platinum screw set in the knurled disc, and part of the disc is pierced out near the escape wheel. The whole construction is both light and strong, and the workmanship of a very high order. The shock protection afforded by the resilient balance bearings and carriage upper bearing is such that the watch could easily survive a heavy fall without damage to any part of the tourbillon. From the records it appears that the maker of the tourbillon was probably Renevier, who received 100 francs.
Escapement: Peto cross detent escapement with steel escape wheel. The detent screwed to a separate bracket on the knurled disc. The slot for the locking stone open towards the gold banking screw, and the stone itself of square section providing a surface against which to bank. That part of the stone projecting above the detent is ground to a triangular section to clear the escape wheel teeth on the return of the detent after unlocking. The steel passing spring, integral with its foot screwed to the knurled disc, acts on a gold pin standing up from the end of the detent horn. Both impulse and discharge rollers jewelled on their acting surfaces. The impulse roller jewel leaning towards a radial from the roller centre to its tip (compare with Brockbanks, registration no. 1958,1201.1850).
The escapement jewels were supplied by Pellet who received 48 francs, and its seems likely that Michel Weber, who was paid 342 francs; was responsible for fitting together and adjusting the escapement and tourbillon.
Balance: Bimetallic three-armed balance, the screws for poising, timing and compensation of red gold. Diam. of rim 19.9 mm, h. 1.24 mm.
Balance spring: Blued steel spiral spring with overcoil and terminal curve mounted upside down under the balance on a brass collet. The steel stud having a square hole and pin to secure it to the spring, the former fixed to the knurled disc by a single screw but with three more screws for levelling.
Great wheel (fusee) 48 teeth
Centre pinion 12 leaves, wheel 75 teeth, no crossings
Third pinion 8 leaves, wheel 96 teeth, 4 arms
Fourth pinion 15 leaves, wheel 60 teeth, solid
Escape pinion 6 leaves, wheel 18 teeth, 4 arms
Beats per hour, the unusually high number of 21,600
Cannon pinion 16 leaves, minute pinion 20 leaves, blued
Hour wheel 60 teeth, minute wheel 64 leaves
The minute wheel is gilded, the steel minute pinion blued and adjusted onto a tube on the minute wheel. The steel cannon pinion is waisted and slotted. The hour wheel is not gilded.
Provenance: The original watch made by John Arnold dates from 1774 or 1775; his No. 14 is dated 1775. According to the inscription on the silver plate attached to the back plate, the watch was fitted with a tourbillon mechanism and presented to John Roger Arnold in 1808. According to information supplied by the firm of Breguet, this watch and another tourbillon given the number 282 and also inscribed that it was the first tourbillon made by Breguet, were both made in 1808. They also state that John Roger Arnold received the watch on 30 August 1809. Ilbert Collection; purchased by Ilbert in 1933.
Exhibited: Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, May-September, 1976, see exhibition catalogue, pp. 32 and 33.
Note: Breguet's records relating to the work of conversion of John Arnold No. 11 and the construction and fitting of the tourbillon mechanism. Free translation and interpretation by the author:
Work done Work done by Francs
movement of a watch by 336
escapement (tourbillon?) Renevier(1) 300
case 2797 Tavernier 100
tipsy key (?) Winisch 7
engraving of the figures on the Michaud 8
gilding Guerau 3
wheel Sandoz 4
two holes (jewels ?) Nocker 24
colouring dial (rough dial?) Cherrier 2
escapement jewels Pellet 48
drilling the front glass Robert 15
engraving of the seconds ring Michaud 2
hands Thevenon 15
silver Tavernier 2
repaired 2 holes Pellet 6
engine turning Tavernier 18
balance Courtin 42
checking Weber(2) 000
adjusting or correcting Pellet 2
a jewel Pellet 2
screws Courtin 4
soldering of joints Tavernier 12
silver Tavernier 3
cutting the back Tavernier 4
polishing two wheels Paris 1
drilling a glass Robert 5
checking (might mean assembly Weber(2) 342
and making go)
engraving Michaud 50
Total cost: 1357 Francs
Timekeeper, jewelled train, silver box
In charge Weber - Box by Tavernier No. 2797
The work was carried out between January 1808 and May 1809
Given as a present to Mr Arnold, the 30th August 1809.
(1) Renevier was apparently Swiss and worked for Breguet et Le Locle with another workman from Geneva called Juntes until 1796 (see A. Chapuis and E. Jaquet, 'History of the Self-Winding Watch', Neuchâtel, 1952, p. 84).
(2) Michel Weber, one of Breguet's most gifted pupils, was made responsible for the Marie Antoinette watch, No. 160 (Clutton and Daniels 1965, p. 61).
(3) Thanks are due to the firm of Chaumet for this information.
Bibliography: Reinhard Meis, 'Das Tourbillon', Munich, 1986, pp. 88, 89.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
12 Sep 2023 - 8 Sep 2024. Science Museum - Breguet: The English Connection
2004 10 Jun-26 Sep, Russia, St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, Breguet
1976 15 May-20 Sep, Switzerland, La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Musee Internationale d'Horologie, Abraham-Louis Breguet
Latest: 5 (22 Sep 2022) Front glass cleaned (weeping), continue to monitor glass, otherwise ok
5 (21 Sep 2022) small amount moisture under top glass , otherwise ok
5 (Jan 2019) no sign of moisture but continue to monitor glass, otherwise ok
5 (2017) Front glass weeping
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.1848 (Ilbert Collection)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: N80 (Ilbert Ledger)