Friday, July 24, 2009

Breguet's Marie Antoinette Back on Display

It was in November of last year that Breguet's most famous piece, the Marie Antoinette watch, was recovered. In 1983 it was stolen from the Israeli museum that had it as an exhibit, and was never seen again until it popped up in a watchmaker's shop with the person who brought it in asking what they could get for it. Thankfully the watchmaker instantly recognized the watch and reported it immediately. The watch officially went back on display at the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem along with several other Breguet pieces until September 9th, 2009.

Now for a quick history; the watch was commissioned in 1783 for Marie Antoinette. The request came from a suitor of hers. He requested that the pocket watch have every complication available at the time. The idea was to have a timepiece that would find her speechless at the sight of it. Unfortunately she was never able to obtain the piece as she died in 1793. Breguet actually finished and unveiled the watch in 1827, nearly 44 years after her passing.

The watch eventually found it's way into the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art where it sat until 1983 when it, along with 106 other timepieces were stolen in a heist that only a Hollywood writer could come up with. There were no real clues left behind and no one ever heard any word about who may have them.

Fast forward to 2005; Nicolas Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group & Breguet, announced that the original plans were found and he intended on building an exact reproduction of the Marie Antoinette by hand [this one didn't take 44 years to make, it was completed in 2007]. Ironically enough only months after he showed his reproduction at Basel World 2008, the original watch was recovered. It turns out that the notorious thief; Naaman Diller was the sole perpetrator of the crime and held onto the watch until his death in 2004, when it was anonymously sold to a watchmaker in a lot of vintage watches for $40,000. There was initially some argument as to the rightful owner of the watch, but it was decided that since the museum had official and legal ownership last, it would remain with them.

At this time the watch's estimated value is approximately 30 million dollars. Though Hayek spent a lot of time and money making a fine reproduction...There truly is only one of this piece in the world. Below are some pics of the two watches.

The Original Marie Antoinette after recovery

Breguet CEO Nicolas Hayek with his fine reproduction in 2008.

Read more about the exhibit from the original Associated Press Story HERE.

Click HERE for a Google image search of this stunning beauty.

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