Breguet’s Reine de Naples is a timepiece of major historical significance as it is considered to be the first watch in history to be developed for use on the wrist, rather than an adaptation of a pocket watch to which leather straps were added, as was the case of the first wristwatches created at the beginning of the last century. As has always happened in horology, the origin and consequent history of the Reine de Naples was a reflection of the society of its time.
The story goes that during her reign in Naples, Caroline Murat, Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger sister, was a great advocate of the arts and an enthusiastic customer of Abraham-Louis Breguet, from whom she purchased over 30 Breguet watches. In 1810, the watchmaker began creating a watch designed to be worn on the wrist. It was the first wristwatch designed especially for this purpose. From its delivery in 1812 to the repairs in 1849 and 1855, Breguet’s archives have recorded the history and characteristics of this watch, whose current whereabouts are unfortunately unknown.
The new piece, Reine de Naples 8918, completes Breguet’s releases for this season and does so with royal elegance and demureness. The piece is no less accomplished, as it is being worn for the first time in these heavenly colors and finishings.
Surprisingly, this is the first time that Breguet has used a Grand Feu enamel finish for the dial. The “Grand Feu” enamel technique creates surfaces with a unique grain and immutable hues. During the particularly delicate process of creation, the decorated dial surface is heated to a temperature of over 800°C. The process is repeated as many times as necessary to create a natural and uniform surface shine. Three very significant elements are added to this large oval disc, completing the stylistic rubric of the representative timepiece.
First, there are the stylized Breguet Arabic numerals, all in different sizes that adapt to the contour of the case, taking advantage of the ample proportions that the very white cover gives them. The digits are shown in a distinguished blue color and, as they have a certain volume, they play with the light that bathes them, creating flashes that enliven the graphic display. The signature of the house is placed between numbers 11 and 12, also in blue enamel. To emphasize the beauty and brightness of the dial, the inner flank of the case frames it with diamonds.
The second major visual component is, of course, the hourly tiny dial, a small eccentric circle located above the 6 o’clock position. The register is defined by sixty dots, fleur-de-lis markings every five minutes and diamonds at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. A set of Breguet blued-steel hands keeps the time. A close observation of the dial will reveal Breguet’s secret signature at 3 o’clock on the time dial.
Finally, at the 6 o’clock position, a formidable pear-cut diamond — pretty much like the shape of the watch itself — magnificently finishes off the overall appearance of the timekeeper.
The richness of the “Neapolitan Queen” is amplified by all the other Breguet styling cues we well know and love. The edge of the fluted white-gold case redefines the oval shape of the watch and gives it volume, while the bezel is impeccably set with more brilliants which, when added to those on the case flank, add up to 117 (for a total of 0.99-carats). A large briolette-cut diamond tops the crown, which is aligned with the “4” index of the watch.
This new Reine de Naples houses the 537/3 self-winding caliber, which has a 45-hour power re-serve and where each component is carefully hand-decorated. If the owner so wishes, Breguet will record her name in its archives, which have been preserved since the end of the 18th century, along with the individual number, engraved on the back of the watch. The alligator-leather strap, with a folding buckle set with 28 diamonds, echoes the heavenly color hues that are more than ever part of the legend of Breguet and its romantic association with and origin in the realm of 19th-century French royalty.
Self-winding mechanical, Cal. 537/3; hours and minutes; 25,200 beats per hour; 45-hour power reserve
White gold, pear shaped, 36.5×28.45 mm, sapphire caseback, water resistant to 30 meters
Alligator leather in blue, triple folding clasp in white gold, set with 28 diamonds
Suggested Retail Price: US$37,400