The watchmakers at Breguet have wished a very happy bicentennial to their own very first recorded wristwatch in an exhibition that started on January 16th and ended last Sunday (Feb 12th). The exhibition was held in Geneva’s Cité du Temps, and was coincided with the prestigious Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH ). The Geneva exhibition is designed for visitors to discover the unique history of this groundbreaking timepiece and the mystery of what became of it.
As far as horological history can tell us the first record of a wristwatch was ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Caroline Murat in 1810. At the time, Murat sat on the throne as the Queen of Naples, and was a well-known admirer of the timepieces made by Breguet founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet. Yes, Breguet can say they made the first wristwatch for a queen. Queen Caroline’s wristwatch took two years to make and safely deliver, and was only one of the many she ordered from Breguet over the years.
Though the famous first wristwatch has never been found in any public or private collection, the little that is known of it is that the model number was N° 2639.
Nevertheless, Queen Caroline’s special relationship as the favorite customer of Breguet during this time produced something revolutionary. The watch as we know it was a very thin (for the time) repeating watch, had an oblong feminine shape, was set with a thermometer and used hair intertwined with gold thread to create the strap. The concept must have certainly been innovative and fascinating for the time. As Queen Caroline was known to history as extravagant and ambitious, it is no surprise that she would dream up an ostentatious new watch to be paraded on her wrist at court.
The event in Geneva was also used by Breguet to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the more modern Reine de Naples ladies’ watch collection. The public re-discovery of the Reine de Naples collection also allowed for many experts in the horological field to offer their expertise on the Breguet line. These women’s watches are very much reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with their exaggerated and surreal numbers spinning around the watch’s face. Breguet’s official website states that the line was inspired by Queen Caroline’s first wristwatch, as well as others made for Marie Antoinnette and Empress Josephine. The collection was designed to create a symbol of feminine refinement and precision.