Auction Report: A Breguet Four-Minute Tourbillon Sold Secretly To King George III During The Napoleonic Wars

Between 1808 and 1815, however, Breguet produced a small number of four-minute and six-minute tourbillons, which were fitted with sophisticated, somewhat experimental escapements. The four-minute tourbillons had a very high frequency for watches of the era – 21,600 vph, which would ordinarily require a more powerful mainspring. This in turn would be apt to produce more wear in the going train; Breguet sought to avoid this problem by reducing the speed at which the tourbillon rotated. In The Art Of Breguet, George Daniels notes, “The faster the balance vibrates, the less likelihood there is of the watch being moved at the same speed [at which the balance is oscillating] and consequently the rate will be more stable. This is a distinct advantage in principle but a stronger mainspring is required … in order to avoid using a stronger spring, Breguet slowed the carriage from one minute to four minutes. In that way, the acceleration is proportionately reduced, and the surplus power available is utilised to maintain the amplitude of the increased vibrations.” Daniels mentions two specific four-minute tourbillons – numbers 1188 (sold to Don Antonio de Bourbon, Infante of Spain, in 1808) and 2980, and there is also the famous no. 1176, which was acquired by the Breguet Museum from Christie’s in 2014, for CHF 821,000

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