Inspired by a watch lost in the annals of time, the first ever wristwatch created for Caroline Murat, the Queen of Naples, in 1812, Breguet’s Reine de Naples collection is one of breathtaking horological works of art, crafted exclusively for women.
Breguet – Reine De Naples collection
A Royal Muse
Created by the maison entirely from historical descriptions of the original piece, known by its production number 2639, and Abraham-Louis Breguet’s archives in the Breguet Museum in the Place Vendôme in Paris, the collection features an oval shape and off-centered dial at 6 o’clock. In an homage to the piece commissioned by the Queen which featured a strap made of hair entwined with gold thread, and a thermometer outside the hour chapter, some models in the Reine de Naples collection also come with a plaited strap or a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock.
The ‘watch for a bracelet with minute repeater’, for which a price of 5000 CHF was quoted, as recorded in Breguet’s historical registers included a lever escapement, called a ‘free escapement’. The elaborate timepiece involved 34 different operations to make, and was completed by 17 people. After it was completed, the guilloché-worked dial had to be replaced, most likely at the request of the queen herself, and was replaced by a guilloché-worked dial in silver with Arabic numerals. The piece was finished on 21st December 1812.
Between 1812 and August 1855, which is the last time the watch has been mentioned in Breguet’s record, it was repaired at least once in 1849 by its then owner, Louise Murat, the Countess Rasponi, who was the fourth and last child of Caroline Murat, the queen of Naples. In 1955, the Countess had the keys on the watch replaced, with one male key for winding and one female key for setting the time.
Poetry and Magic
The Reine de Naples collection is a striking demonstration of the maison’s exceptional ability to access the deepest emotions of women, and cater to their secret desires by showcasing unmatched femininity in a beautiful jewellery watch.
Inspired by history, but presented in a thoroughly modern and innovative way, the collection includes over 15 stunning timepieces, each with the original’s signature egg-shaped case and finely fluted caseband. The watches all have engine turned dials, individually numbered signed Breguet automatic movements, a power reserve of 40 hours, open tipped Breguet hands in blued steel and a sapphire crystal caseback. The entire collection is also water resistant up to 30 meters.
Different variations of models in the collection include an original dial with a moonphase indicator, large numerals in differing sizes, a unique woven string bracelet and an Haute Joaillerie version.
One of the highlights from Breguet’s collection is the Reine de Naples 8939 Haute Joaillerie model with its case entirely set in baguette cut diamonds. In a masterpiece of technical skill, the dial features a pavé setting of baguette diamonds, completed as a result of unparalleled precision and resulting in each dial being truly unique. The off-centered dial in silvered-gold is manually engine-turned and displays a pear-cut diamond at 6 o’clock with mother-of-pearl rays marking the hours. The watch is available with a stunning bracelet of pink Akoya pearls from Tahiti. Alternately, a diamond set bracelet or elegant satin strap completes the timepiece.
The Reine de Naples Haute Joaillerie 8909 with a self-winding movement is a symbol of palatial opulence with the added allure of a moon phase indicator and crown set with a briolette diamond. The bezel, which surrounds a hand-engraved dial, is set with 86 baguette-cut diamonds and an exquisitely fluted caseband. Available with bracelets featuring either rubies or sapphires to offset the diamonds, this timepiece brings an enchanting sparkle to the wrist of its wearer.
The Reine de Naples Cammea is another stand-out piece from this special collection. Honouring the time-old tradition of cameo work, this watch, bearing the number 8958 has a cameo dial, which is the first of its kind in the world and sculpted on shell. The hours and minutes hands are offset at 6 o’clock as if they are attempting to disappear from the dial and allow the cameo itself to rise to prominence. The white-gold case is set with diamonds with sapphire glass and a transparent back which reveals a hand-turned, gold winding rotor engine inlaid with natural mother-of-pearl. Available with a chocolate coloured alligator strap with a diamond-set folding clasp, this watch would be on the list of every purveyor of horological artistry and technical mastery.
To mark the anniversary of the Reine de Naples collection, the House of Breguet added to the line of its Grandes Complications with the Reine de Naples Anniversary Special 8973 that has a striking mechanism to mark the top of every hour with two chimes repeated thrice to mark the passage of time. A close look at the special piece shows the image of a Mediterranean style garden pavilion, identical to the residences of Caroline Murat, the original patron of the Reine de Naples watch. This image is masterfully crafted through a combination of the geometry of the bridges, the oscillating weight and the decoration itself, displayed through a sapphire crystal caseback. The bezel and snap feature 28 brilliant cut diamonds and 27 sapphires with the striking hammers at 11 and 1 o’clock and a rose with a diamond center engraved in gold in between them which indicates the engagement of the hour striker. The dial is in Breguet’s trademark silvered gold, and along with the flange is paved with 233 brilliant cut diamonds and 303 blue sapphires. The stones have slight nuances which create a subtle colour gradation. The crown, at 4 o’clock, is set with a briolette cut diamond. The timepiece has an alligator strap with a folding clasp set with 26 diamonds, making this watch a true treasure for a collector of haute horlogerie.
A true testament to the precision and skill of Breguet’s craftsmen, the Day/Night model 8998 from the Reine de Naples collection is a symphony of mechanical and artistic brilliance and enchanting whimsy. The watch features a patented movement with the unique addition of two dials, one for the traditional hours and minutes engraved in roman numerals, and the other to highlight the complication showing hours of day and night which are depicted in Breguet Arabic numerals. The Day/Night dial comprises a lapis lazuli disc to represent the sky, interspersed with white mother-of-pear clouds, gold stars and an engraved titanium moon. The piece de resistance however, is the sun, represented by the facetted rim of the balance wheel which projects rays of light. Through the day, the sum completes a journey around its orbit, passing under the steel bridge which supports the mechanism and meets the hour and minutes hands before returning to its peak opposite the moon. The dial flange and bezel of this radiant timepiece have been set with 143 diamonds, and the crown is also topped by a briolette diamond. The Breguet open tipped hands are in blued steel, and the sapphire crystal caseback allows the rays of the sun engraved on winding rotor to be admired. The case, water resistant to 30 metres is set on a black satin strap with a three-blade clasp.
The poetry of the Reine de Naples collection continues with its other models including the Mini, Princesse, the Princesse Mini, the Reine de Naples Steel, the Fil d’Or which is a true homage to the original inspiration with its unique gold thread bracelet, and the Reine the Naples 8918. Each piece in Breguet’s collection is representative of the exceptional watchmaker’s dedication to creating excellent timepieces, and demonstrates exactly why the maison has become synonymous with innovation, elegance, stylistic and technical perfection.