Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Breguet and the Louvre: Royal Room

No visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at the Louvre, it is said. Indeed, there are many and more beautiful monuments in the City of Lights, but especially to aficionados of history as well as art, the Louvre simply cannot be missed. Today, thanks to Montres Breguet, there is yet another reason […]

Oct 08, 2014 | By Staff Writer

No visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at the Louvre, it is said. Indeed, there are many and more beautiful monuments in the City of Lights, but especially to aficionados of history as well as art, the Louvre simply cannot be missed. Today, thanks to Montres Breguet, there is yet another reason to pay this centuries-old grand dame a visit. After five years of meticulous restoration funded by Breguet and other Louvre benefactors, three new galleries on the first floor of the museum’s Richelieu wing have opened to the public, and they are primarily dedicated to the artefacts, interior design, and lifestyle from the reign of Louis XIV up to the French Revolution.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 2Classique Grande Complication with Tourbillon 5359

A Storied Past

Not all may be aware, but there are historical connections between the Louvre and Breguet, and between these two entities and the French monarchy. The reason Breguet had stepped forward to fund the restoration of the Louis XIV to Louis XVI galleries is also because of this fabled past. In fact, one of the most illustrious chapters in its history links back to the French monarchy. In his time, Abraham-Louis Breguet had made clocks and watches for prominent members of the French royal family, most notably King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, for whom Breguet made the famous No. 160 Grand Complication.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 3Abraham-Louis Breguet

At the same time, the Louvre has also had long historical ties with French royalty. France during the reigns of Louis XIII, Louis XIV, and Louis XV had a major impact on the museum and the adjacent Tuileries Garden. Finally, the wing called Sully today had been known as the Pavillon de l’Horloge, or Clock Pavilion, in the 1600s. Numerous works by Abraham-Louis Breguet and his descendants have populated the Louvre since the historical era till now. Horology and history buffs might recall that since 1802, Abraham-Louis Breguet had the honour of presenting his masterpieces at the Exhibition of Industrial Products held at the Louvre. Although classical and arcane today, the master’s creations were regarded as cutting-edge technology of yesteryears.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 4Breguet No. 542 Souscription watch

Another notable client of Abraham-Louis Breguet is the French artist, writer, diplomat, author, and archaeologist Vivant Denon who, incidentally, is also a distant predecessor of the Louvre’s current director, Jean-Luc Martinez. Denon had acquired a minute repeater Breguet watch in 1810, followed by a bisque clock a year later. More creations signed by the master watchmaker can be found in the museum’s 18th century art collection where a huge watchmaking range includes timepieces partly bequeathed in 1961 by the widow of Lyon industrialist, Claudius Côte. Souscription (subscription) and repeater watches beautifully decorated by hand uphold the patrimony of the Breguet watchmaking company.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 5Marie-Antoinette’s roll-top desk by Jean-Henri Riesener, Paris, 1784

Montres Breguet’s exceptional patronage of the Louvre breathed new life to the galleries, which had been closed to the public for nearly 10 years. Its efforts to rejuvenate the space began in 2009 under the auspices of the late Nicolas G Hayek, founder and former chairman and delegate of the board of directors of the Swatch Group. The area of an estimated 2,500 sqm is now entirely revamped and over 2,000 exhibits have been carefully curated to replicate the living styles of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Rich wood panelling cover the floor and fine tapestries blanket the walls. Elaborate furniture, decorative bronzework, marble items, gold- and silverware, jewellery and timepieces, scientific instruments, and European faience and porcelain offer a glimpse into the lives of Louis XIV and the Régence (1660 to 1725), the development of the rococo style (1725 to 1755), and the return to classicism during the reign of Louis XVI (1755 to 1790). In addition, the museography and educational presentations have also been completely revised.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 7Room Gilbert and Rose Marie Chagoury

The Grand Unveiling

Restoring the galleries was a monumental project undertaken by the Louvre, but the results were worth every modicum of effort. In the summer of this year, the museum proudly unveiled the results of five years of hard labour and 300 distinguished guests from all over the world were invited to Paris to witness this momentous event. Graced by Martinez, as well as chair of the board of directors of the Swatch Group, Nayla Hayek, the unveiling was an exceptional affair that started not at the Louvre, but aptly at the Château du Petit Trianon, which in 2008 Montres Breguet had also helped restore. An evening at this charming chateau, once private residence of Queen Marie Antoinette, was a fitting prelude to what was to come.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 8

Regulars to the Louvre know that the museum is closed on Tuesdays, but Breguet had selected this very day to welcome its guests – a lovely gesture that had not gone unappreciated. How wonderful, wandering the halls and galleries of the Louvre without having to jostle with the hordes of wide-eyed tourists and guides brandishing flags of every garish hue imaginable. Even the famed Mona Lisa in the adjoining Denon wing who was, for once, not surrounded by the looming crowds, appeared relieved.

After a comprehensive tour of the new galleries and visiting the classical masterpieces, all the guests were ushered into the Hall Napoléon for an elegant cocktail. Seventh generation direct descendant of Abraham-Louis Breguet, Emannuel Breguet, graced the event as well, giving the horology aficionados a unique insight into the brand.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 9

At last, an elegant gala dinner took place under the Louvre’s beautiful glass pyramid. The sky was clear and moonlight shone through the spotless panels. Martinez and Hayek both addressed the guests in attendance, sharing their sense of satisfaction upon concluding this five-year-long project. Serenading the evening was young soprano, Polina Pasztircsák, winner of the 65th Geneva International Music Competition, of which Breguet has been a proud sponsor since 2002.

Breguet’s support of the arts has continued for almost a decade and even such a distinguished artistic entity as the Louvre has recognised its invaluable contributions. The 2009 exhibition organised on the initiative of Henri Loyette – then president and director of the Louvre – and entitled Breguet At The Louvre, An Apogee of European Watchmaking stood testament to art and culture’s recognition of Breguet’s efforts and passion. Now, with the reopening of the Louis XIV to Louis XVI galleries, the Breguet name is thus etched firmly into the history of the Louvre.Breguet Louvre Royal Room 10


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