The Great Horological Heist - Part II "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )

For these watches “time had stopped”. And I will take this short interlude in the story to briefly describe one of the greatest watches ever made, the Reine Marie-Antoinette. The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )
In 1783 Breguet had received a commission from Count Hans Axel von Fersen, an officer in the Queen’s guards and supposedly one of her lovers to make ‘the most spectacular watch the world has ever seen’. It was to have every conceivable complication, be made of gold wherever possible and there was no time limit on the manufacture , nor was price an object. The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )
Abraham Louis Breguet
The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )
The watch took 44 years to complete and, ironically, neither the queen nor Breguet ever saw its completion. Marie-Antoinette lost her head to the guillotine and therefore had no need of a watch. Sadly Breguet died in 1823 before the watch could be finished. His son continued on and completed this chef d’oeuvre in 1827. The watch was encased in gold and had a transparent rock crystal front and back. The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )

The front and back covers of "The Art of Time" showing the front and back of the Ref. 160.

The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )
It was 63mm in diameter and comprised 823 parts. It had 23 complications in all including a self-winding movement (perpetuelle), a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, a jump-hour mechanism, a start-stop centre second hand, an equation of time indicator, moon-phase, a shock-absorbing device (parachute), a power reserve indicator and even a thermometer. The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )
The front and back of the watch, from the Art of Breguet by george Daniels.
The back shows the "rotor" of the self-winding module.

Daniels, in his “The Art of Breguet, describes the watch thusly: “Without doubt the most famous complicated watch made by Breguet is the so-called Marie-Antoinette….No limit on the time of manufacture or cost was imposed and all parts normally of brass were to be made of gold. The exact date of starting the watch is not known to the author but the movement is by Prudhomme and therefore a date of 1783 is not impossible….By 1812 it had been recorded in the 1794 books, by which time it had cost 8410 francs. …It was not finished until 1820 by which time it had cost 16,864 francs. The gifted pupil Michel Weber made most of the mechanism for which he was paid 7250 francs for seven hundred and twenty-five hours work between 1812 and 1815. (The official completion was in 1827).” “A general description of the watch is as follows: perpetuelle winding, perpetual calendar, equation of time, thermometer, centre seconds hand marking whole seconds, indicator for the state of winding, equal locking and lift lever escapement and repetition for hours, quarter hours and minutes. The band of the case is hinged to open at the front and the movement can be hinged out of the case for examination and adjustment. The dial and back and front covers are of rock crystal to display the mechanism. The plates and all the bridges and the whole of the going, repeating and calendar train wheels are of polished pink gold. The steel work is finished with a fine-grained surface with the edges beveled and polished. The plate screws are of polished and blued steel. All friction surfaces are jeweled with sapphire, in common with the safety rollers for the weight and the rollers in the buffer springs. Every detail of the watch is perfectly executed and finished and if, as was said, Breguet intended the watch as a monument to eighteenth century horology, he could not have produced a more fitting tribute.” The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )
Escapement of the Marie-Antoinette watch

But the watch was never collected by von Fersen. The watch stayed in the Breguet family and was eventually sold to the Marquis de la Groye, who brought it back to Breguet in 1838 for repair but also failed to return to collect it. In 1887 the widow of Louis Clément Breguet, the last to run the business, sold to an English collector, Sir Spencer Brunton for £600. After changing hands several times, the watch ended up in the collection of Sir David Salomons who already had a very large collection of Breguet masterpieces. It was part of his collection for the rest of his life and upon his death was left to his daughter, Vera who eventually brought to Israel and the L.A. Mayer Museum. In 2005, Nicolas Hayek believing that the “Queen”, Ref 160 would never be seen again, ( and likely to show off his company's abilities) commissioned the production of an exact duplicate (Grand Complication Ref.1160), in conjunction with the renovation of the Petit Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s residence at Versailles. The watch was presented at the Basel Fair in 2008. The Great Horological Heist - Part II  "La Reine" ( "The Queen" )