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Glorious, Soaring Time: Breguet at The Frick Collection, New York
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There are watchmakers and then there are watchmakers. In the pantheon of the superlative, the name Abraham-Louis Breguet, namesake of the eponymous Swiss watchmaking company, takes a front-and-center position, high in the firmament of timekeeping geniuses. It was unquestionably Breguet who was considered the leading watchmaker of his time (1747-1823), responsible for countless innovations and inventions, not the least of which was the 1801 patent for the tourbillon escapement, which he developed around 1795.

Celebrating the wizardry of Breguet, now through February 2, 2014, is the exhibit entitled Breguet, the Innovator: Inventor of the Tourbillon which honors the man and the "machine" at The Frick Collection’s Portico Gallery, the only room in this illustrious jewel of a museum where direct sunlight bathes the artifacts—and therefore allows the treasured bijoux to glow in their own luminosity. Concommitantly, the Frick's Precision and Splendor: Clocks and Watches at The Frick Collection has also been mounted and it highlights some of the most spectacular timepieces ever created.

In his day, Breguet was the go-to guy for anyone wanting a specialty watch or a tricky clock—indeed, anything horological. His clientele included many leading political and public figures as well as members of the European aristocracy. Alongside his friend and contemporary John Arnold, Breguet is now widely acknowledged as one of the greatest horologists of all time.

Among other treasures, the exhibit features three historic Breguet timepieces by the master and his son, Antoine-Louis—a double-dial desk clock, a gold tourbillon pocket watch, and a gilt-bronze carriage clock—spanning the period from the early sixteenth century through the nineteenth century. Noted Ian Wardropper, director at The Frick Collection, New York, that for this exhibition, “We chose the Breguet watches and one clock before we ever thought about partnering with Breguet because they happen to be the finest clocks of that time. The three watches together just made a wonderful display and showed the innovation and clock-making of this era."  Indeed, this is a partnership made in heaven...the best of New York and the best of Breguet.

The show chronicles some of the most significant European watches in the United States and the items for it were carefully and artfully selected by Charlotte Vignon, The Frick Collection's associate curator of decorative arts. The exhibit comprises 11 clocks and 14 watches from the inheritance of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, as well as five clocks lent by collector Horace Wood Brock, which have never been on display in New York.

The Frick Collection is supporting the exhibition with educational programs, videos, and seminars during the run.  It is no coincidence that during the time the exhibit is mounted, the anniversary of Breguet's creation of the tourbillon will occur—this week, June 26th (1801), and at that time, at the Breguet boutique flagship store (711 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street), there will be a viewing of the company's Extra-Thin Tourbillon 5377 along with an extensive collection of  tourbillon timepieces and some of the newest and most novel models presented at the recent BaselWorld 2013. Additionally, earlier this year, Breguet began to celebrate its founder’s tourbillon innovation through a month-long exhibit in Geneva that will tour other cities worldwide.

Posted on June 24, 2013 - by

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About the Author: About the Author: Ruth J. Katz is a well-known shopping and service writer based in New York City. She has written about shopping for 25 years for New York magazine; covered the topic on-air at Fox-TV for several years as the Home Services expert; and had her own show on both the USA and Lifetime Cable networks. Katz wrote extensively for The New York Times as well, and contributed periodically to the New York Daily News. She is a passionate shopper, always looking for not merely a good buy, but the best buy, ferreting out a "steal" or discovering up-and-coming designers. She has written five books and is a former contributing editor to Hearst's Redbook, Classic Home, and Colonial Homes; she is currently a Contributing Editor of New York Home, Golf Connoisseur, The Modern Estate, and Promenade magazines. She is also the former Shopping Director for Davler Media's Manhattan Living.

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