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The Queen – Marie Antoinette’s Watch

Q Report Team
Updated on October 06, 2022
3 min read

SWATCH GROUP MARIE ANTOINETTE NO. 1160

An extraordinary watch with an extraordinary history - The Breguet No. 160 grand complication, more commonly known as the Marie-Antoinette or “the Queen”.

Master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet was commissioned to make the watch in 1782 by Count Hans Axel von Fersen, the alleged lover of  the French Queen, Marie Antoinette. No limit was given on price, no deadline demanded for completion. Gold would replace brass wherever possible. Some parts were carved in sapphire to reduce friction. It was to contain every known watch function of the time, including:

  • Clock
  • Perpetual calendar
  • Minute repeater
  • Thermometer
  • Chronograph (stopwatch)
  • Hour hand that jumped from hour to hour rather than slowly rotating around the face
  • Self-winding with 48-hour power reserve
  • “Pare-Chute”, an anti-shock device
  • Chime
  • Independent second hand

Marie Antoinette Portrait, 1767

Unfortunately, Antoinette never lived to see the watch as she was executed during the French Revolution before it could be completed. Neither did Breguet, who died in 1823.

His son completed the watch in 1827, 44 years after work began.

By 1983, the Queen was in the collection of the L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art in Jerusalem. There it was stolen by the infamous thief Na’aman Diller, along with many other pieces.

In 2005, with the watch still missing, watchmakers from modern Breguet were commissioned to make a copy of it.

It took this team of master watchmakers 3 years to finish the job with modern tools and techniques – but just as it was nearing completion, the original Marie Antoinette watch was rediscovered, returned by the widow of Na’aman Diller.

The watch is currently hanging in the basement of the L. A. Mayer museum. It is valued at roughly $30 million.

 

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