The Science Museum’s New Display of Rare Abraham-Louis Breguet Timepieces

The Science Museum's New Display of Rare Abraham-Louis Breguet Timepieces

More than 20 extraordinary timepieces designed by inventor and watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747 – 1823) are to go on public display together in a Museum for the first time. The unique exhibition marks the bicentenary of Breguet’s death and the start of a new programme of annual presentations in the Clockmakers’ Museum at the Science Museum.

A new display containing timepieces by one of the greatest watchmakers of all time, Abraham-Louis Breguet, will open in the Clockmakers’ Museum at the Science Museum on Tuesday, 12 September.

Abraham-Louis Breguet: The English Connection has been created to mark the bicentenary of Breguet’s death on 17 September 1823 and brings together a selection of his remarkable pieces, united by their connection to England. This new display will be the first in a programme of annually changing displays showcasing extraordinary objects from public and private horological collections.

The display will feature 25 important items seldom seen in public, including an exceptionally rare gold four-minute tourbillon watch made for George III in 1808. This cutting-edge pocket watch was ordered for the King, who notably had a great interest in the sciences with his own collection of instruments in his private observatory at Kew.

The watch movement bearing the signature Louis Recordon

The watch was ordered when England was at war with France and, interestingly, bears the signature of Breguet’s London agent, Louis Recordon, perhaps to disguise its French origins at the time.

A close up view of the pocket watches dial

The exquisite timepiece features a gold case and dial with multiple contrasting finishes and blued steel moon hands and includes the rare feature of a thermometer. The watch is labelled as a ‘Whirling About Regulator’, another literal translation from the French’ Régulateur à Tourbillon’, meaning ‘whirlwind’.

Breguet developed the radical and now-famous tourbillon mechanism to help pocket watches keep good time, and its invention in 1801 is considered one of the most outstanding technical achievements in watchmaking. Its legacy, alongside Breguet’s many other innovations, can still be found in modern wristwatches.

Born in 1747 in Switzerland, Breguet travelled to France as a teenager to study the field of watchmaking, eventually establishing himself as a leading master craftsman in Paris. He counted Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette amongst his clients, alongside other international nobility, and the elegance and technical innovations of his designs were considered the height of style and fashion.

His English clients read as a who’s who of Georgian Britain, and during the late 1700s, he frequently visited London, becoming friends with one of the country’s finest chronometer makers, John Arnold, and later recruited English artisans to work for him in France.

Other Breguet items with English connections on display include the ‘Simple à 2 Aiguilles equation’ pocket watch made for politician Thomas Noel Hill, 2nd Baron Berwick of Attingham. The elegant gold timepiece contains an ingenious mechanism which can tell mean time (indicated by a silver star) and true solar or sundial time (shown by a gold sun disc on the dial).

Also on display will be the gilt bronze carriage clock ‘Pendule de voyage petite’ originally belonging to Robert Henry Herbert, the 12th Earl Pembroke, with ‘flaming torch’ columns, and the silver watch with one-minute tourbillon No. 2571 which was originally bought from Breguet by the Princess de Valançay in 1812 for 1600 francs and which subsequently formed part of the well-known Sir David Lionel Salomons Bt Collection.

Anna Rolls, Curator of the Clockmakers’ Museum and Archive, said, “I am delighted that we now have the opportunity to showcase some extraordinary pieces from private and public collections from around the world, and I hope that these annually changing displays will allow the public to learn more about the fascinating world of horology.

Abraham-Louis Breguet: The English Connection, especially the four-minute tourbillon watch, is exciting because George III was a fervent supporter of the sciences, particularly horology, and was known to take timepieces apart to understand their workings better.

His commission and the resulting watch represent the pinnacle of horological technology of its time. Breguet’s genius in design and mechanical innovation must really be seen to be fully appreciated.”

The new display will provide an opportunity for visitors to see some extremely rare, technically remarkable watches and clocks up close alongside other incredible items from the Clockmakers’ Museum – the oldest collection of clocks and watches in the world.

These items, assembled by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, which was founded in 1631, include, amongst other items, some 600 watches, 90 clocks and 30 marine timekeepers and spans the period from the 15th century to the present day. Abraham-Louis Breguet: The English Connection will start a significant loan collaboration with the Science Museum.

Dr Peter Thomas, Collections Committee Chair of the Clockmakers’ Museum and Archive, said, “We start our series of annual displays with the work of Abraham-Louis Breguet, whose genius has captured the enthusiasm of generations of clients and collectors.

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers is mounting this series of annual displays to promote the wonderful legacy that the art and craft of horology provides. Our intention is to give all an opportunity to see rare objects, many of which are not on public view.”

The exhibit will open on 12 September 2023 within the Clockmakers’ Museum on Level 2 of the Science Museum.

Abraham-Louis Breguet: The English Connection
Clockmakers’ Museum, Science Museum
Ticketed, free
Opens: 12 September 2023
More information on display at the Science Museum can be found at

Read more horological news and features here.

The case of the gold pocket watch

The images used in the feature are ©Sotheby’s, London. The Science Museum's New Display of Rare Abraham-Louis Breguet Timepieces 2

Editorial Team

The independent luxury magazine showcasing the finest and most luxurious things in life. Luxurious Magazine travels the world visiting the best resorts, hotel and restaurants to see whether they warrant the 'Luxurious Magazine' seal of approval. We also feature the latest news, finest products and services, luxury events and talk to leading personalities and celebrities.

error: Copying this content is prohibited by Luxurious Magazine®