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‘Revolutionary’ Breguet watch once owned by King George III sells for £1.6million

Abraham-Louis Breguet was born in Neuchatel, France, in 1747. He soon moved to Paris and spent most of his career working there. 

After his father died he mother remarried a man who came from a family of watchmakers. 

He became an apprentice to a watchmaker in Versailles at the age of 15 and soon ‘astonished’ his master with his eptitude.  

His tutor, Abbe Marie, introduced Brequet to King Louis XVI of France and his passion for mechanics led to numerous royal commissions.  

He started his Breguet watchmaking company in 1775 and it is estimated that during his life the company created 17,000 watches.  

His most innovative inventions include the tourbillon, automatic winding mechanisms and the overcoil.

Within ten years Breguet had commissions from the aristocratic families of France and even the French queen, Marie-Antoinette. 

Breguet became friends with revolutionary politician Jean-Paul Marat.  

And in 1793 Marat discovered that Breguet was going to be sent to the guillotine for unknown reasons.

However, Marat arranged for a safe-pass that enabled Breguet to escape to Switzerland, from where he travelled to England. 

He remained there for two years, during which time he worked for King George III. When the political scene in France stabilised, Breguet returned to Paris. 

Breguet became a member of the Bureau des Longitudes in 1814 and the following year gained an official appointment as chronometer-maker to the French Navy. 

He entered the French Academy of Sciences in 1816 as a full member, and received the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour from the hands of Louis XVIII in 1819. Breguet’s name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

If a workman came to Breguet with a finished piece of work that he was satisfied with and an invoice for payment, Breguet would add a tail to the zero to make it a ‘9’ so the workman to be paid nine francs more than he had asked for. 

After Breguet died in 1823 it was carried on by Louis-Antoine. After Antoine-Louis retired in 1833 (he died in 1858) the business continued under Abraham-Louis’ grandson Louis François Clément Breguet (1804–1883).

His great-grandson Louis Antoine (1851–1882) was the last of the Breguet family to run the business.