Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking

Aug 26, 2015

Photograph of intricate gold and silver pocket watch with visible gears.

Subscription watch, sold in 1798. Silver case with gold fillets, back with engine-turned decoration and the monogram JB in the center, enamel dial, ruby cylinder escapement, Collection Montres Breguet S.A.

Legion of Honor \ September 19, 2015–January 10, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (September 25, 2014)—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to announce Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking, an exhibition that explores the history of the watch and clock maker, on view at the Legion of Honor beginning September 19, 2015. The company’s cutting-edge innovations transformed the nature of personal timekeeping, and the exhibition will include displays describing the technology that exemplify Abraham-Louis Breguet’s reputation as “the father of modern horology.”

From its beginnings in Paris in 1775, Breguet advanced great technical developments such as the self-winding watch, the first wristwatch, the repeating mechanism and most notably, the tourbillon—a revolutionary movement that neutralizes the negative effects of gravity on pocket watches. Breguet played a key role in the history of watchmaking, elevating the craft to its zenith by producing finely made watches that were a pleasure to handle and use.

“I am enormously proud of the association between our prestigious institutions: Breguet and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. With our longstanding tradition of preserving arts and culture around the world, we are thrilled to bring this history-making exhibition to the city of San Francisco,” said Marc A. Hayek, president and CEO of Breguet.

The company’s reputation for ingenuity, as well as the reliability and portability of its watches, led to Breguet’s watches being considered objects of great prestige, worn by the powerful and elite in Europe, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Tsar Alexander I and Queen Victoria. The most famous Breguet timepiece linked to a European monarch is the world-renowned “Marie-Antoinette” pocket watch, No. 160. This extraordinary piece took 44 years to make and was the most complicated watch of its time.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to experience the elegant designs and technical refinement of Breguet watches from the firm’s beginnings in the late 18th century up to the 1930s,” said Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European decorative arts and sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

During the 19th century, Breguet expanded its business into countries beyond France, supplying elegant timepieces to customers in Europe, Russia and the United States. Today Breguet is a name known throughout the world. \ @LegionofHonor

Visiting \ Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; open select holidays; closed most Mondays.

Information on purchasing tickets, groups of 15 or more, & membership.

This fascinating, elegantly designed volume features more than seventy watches and clocks that were constructed by the Breguet company, and it contains many insights into the inner workings that made these objects so innovative and valuable. Engaging essays explore Breguet’s personal history, the technologies he perfected, and his vast international reputation—which survives to this day. This beautiful overview of Breguet’s achievements will speak to anyone who treasures their watch—whether as an indispensable daily accessory, or as a prized piece of jewelry. Hardcover, 176 pages. Purchase here.

Exhibition Organization
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with Montres Breguet.

About Breguet
Founded in 1775 by the father of modern horology, Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747–1823), and known for innovations such as the tourbillon, guilloche dials and the first wristwatch, the Breguet watch brand has contributed to all facets of watchmaking for nearly 240 years. All modern day prestigious watches carry some Breguet element. Regarded as the premier watchmaker to European nobility throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Breguet brand has been worn by celebrated figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie-Antoinette, Tsar Alexander I, Winston Churchill and countless other legends of history. Acquired by the Swatch Group in 1999, Montres Breguet continues to reinforce its dominant role in watchmaking mechanics by devoting significant investments to research and development that will drive the innovation of tomorrow’s timepieces.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, which was a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and became the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

Media Contacts:
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Erin Garcia, Director of Public Relations
415.750.8904 \

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Miriam Newcomer, Public Relations Manager
415.750.3554 \

Liliana Chen, Public Relations Manager
201.271.4644 \ \