- Museum number
Gold cased "montre à tact" watch with interchangeable glass cover, winding key and presentation box.
Gold case with 12 touch pins around outer rim which in combination with the stout hand on the front cover allow the time to be read by touch. The gold front case cover forms the 'tact' dial, having Roman numerals (I-XII) and single gold hand.
Beneath the 'tact' cover there is another silver engine-turned dial with Roman numerals (I-XII) and single blued-steel hand.
Watch pendant at the 3 o'clock position, with chain and winding tipsy-key attached.
Red tooled leather presentation box (top detached from base) which houses the watch and a watch glass which can be swapped with the 'tact' dial allowing the watch to be used as a standard open-face watch.
- Production date
- 1818-1823 (Between)
Diameter: 41 millimetres (Watch (max))
Height: 19 millimetres (Box)
Height: 50 millimetres (Watch (inc. pendant))
Width: 128 millimetres (Box)
Depth: 74 millimetres (box)
Depth: 9 millimetres (watch)
- Curator's comments
For an article about this watch see the Horological Journal, March 1900, (Vol 42, No 07, p89-90) "A Curious Watch by Breguet", H. Cook
Text from article written by curator Oliver Cooke in the British Museum Magazine, Spring/Summer 2019
In Touch with Time
Oliver Cooke, Curator of Horology
The tact watch was invented by pre-eminent watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet at the end of the 18th century. The time can be read normally on the engine-turned silver dial or (when its gold cover is closed) by feeling the position of the stout hand against the touch-pins at the hours. These watches can thus be used in the dark and by visually-impaired persons, indeed they are commonly known as blind man’s watches. However, in Breguet’s original production ledgers they are entered as “montre à tact”, suggesting that they were instead conceived to be used discretely - perhaps under one’s garment at a dull party so as not to offend the host.
This exceptional example was generously donated to the museum by Mrs Margaret Treadgold in October. It is in barely used condition and arrived in its original red tooled-leather box. It also has the rare feature that its gold tact cover can be interchanged with a glass, allowing it to be used as a standard open face watch.
Caption: Tact watch, signed “"Breguet HOR.GER DE LA MARINE ROYALE N. 3730”, Paris, c. 1820.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- 4 October 2018
- Acquisition notes
- The watch was donated by Mrs Margaret Treadgold, the watch having been in her family for many years.
The earliest record she had of the watch was a letter written by Mrs Mercy Lindsey (the sister of Mrs Treadgold's maternal grandfather), in which she states "my watch was madefor the Duke of York who died
in I827 - son of Gearge III' . She also had a copy of the Horological Journal of March 1900 in which this watch is described in an article contributed by H. Cook of Newark entitled 'A Curious Watch by Breguet" and an envelope posted from London in 1898 by Hodder & Stoughton addressed to Mrs Lindsey at20 Castle Gate, Newark containing (retuming?) the photographs used in that article.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number