Four timepieces by company founder go on display in Getty's world-renown permanent collection of French Decorative Arts through October
At The J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
On View through October 2011
May 19, 2011
LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today the loan of four pocket watches created by Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), founder of the Breguet watch company. These watches, part of the company's historic timepiece collection, date to the late-18th/early-19th- centuries and will join the Getty's display of French decorative arts in the South Pavilion at the Getty Center. They will be on view through October 2011.
Born into a Swiss family of watchmakers, A.L. Breguet trained in Versailles and Paris before establishing his own Parisian workshop in 1775. His beautifully crafted and technologically innovative watches set new standards of quality that appealed to discerning clients among the French royal family and scientifically minded elites, including Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette. As indicators of luxury and elegance, Breguet watches appear in works by Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and others.
In the decades following the French Revolution in 1789, Breguet's continuing efforts to improve the accuracy and durability of his time-keeping mechanisms won fresh recognition from new patrons throughout Europe and the United States who appreciated the reliability of his watches and the streamlined appearance of their design. He was responsible for several major inventions, for instance, in 1790 a component known as a "parachute" that acts as a shock absorber, the Breguet balance spring in 1795 and the famous tourbillon regulator in 1801.
"We are delighted to welcome these watches to our French 18th-century Decorative Arts galleries, where they will join other items treasured by Parisians of the era," said Antonia Boström, senior curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. "The Getty's collection does not include personal timepieces and placing these objects within the context of our collection helps enliven the story we tell in those galleries of daily life through the exquisitely crafted objects found in the finest homes."
Although all four watches on view were sold and used in the 1800s, three of them were designed in the late 1700s. They are all from the Breguet Museum in Paris, which houses more than 100 timepieces and items related to the history of the House of Breguet.
"We are honored to share our cherished cultural heritage with visitors to the Getty Museum, and to convey the rich traditions of Paris in the 18th-century, in which Breguet played a very special role," said Breguet President, Marc Hayek. "That was the dream that led my grandfather Nicolas Hayek to found the Breguet Museum more than 10 years ago, a dream I'm proud to help continue."
Breguet is a sponsor of Paris: Life and Luxury, on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center through August 7, 2011. The exhibition re-imagines, through art and material culture, the complex and nuanced lifestyle of elite 18th-century Parisians who made their city the fashionable and cultural epicenter of Europe. The exhibition travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston where it will be on view from September 18 to December 10, 2011.
Breguet is the ultimate watch brand among the 19 watch companies comprising the Swatch Group Ltd. of Biel, Switzerland, the largest watch company in the world. With boutiques in Beverly Hills, New York, Cannes, London, Paris, Geneva, Zürich, Vienna, Moscow, Ekaterinenburg, Dubai, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Singapore, Macao and Taiwan, the brand continues to uphold its reputation as the supplier of timepieces to people with discriminating tastes and an eye for the exceptional.
If Breguet holds a special place in European cultural heritage, it is because its founder, A. L. Breguet (1747-1823), set the standard by which all fine watchmaking has been judged. Today, his heirs at Breguet still make each watch as a model of supreme horological art. In addition to pursuing watchmaking excellence, Breguet is led toward the principle of preserving humanity's historical and cultural heritage well beyond the watchmaking world through various prestigious patronage activities. In recent years, Breguet has strengthened its cultural ties through partnerships with the LA Philharmonic, the Louvre Museum, the New York Philharmonic, and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Its partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum is yet another step toward promoting and preserving the world's great cultural institutions.
Image at top: Typical movement of a "Souscription" watch. Calibre with centre going barrel, overhanging ruby cylinder escapement, pare-chute suspension and bimetallic thermal compensation curve on the index. Diameter: 57 mm. Sold in 1803 to Mr. Frankman, for the sum of 692 Francs.
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