The portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun inspired a watch’s design

BUSINESSES have to change in order to adjust to the times. One can see this as either a way of survival, or a dedication to producing quality products no matter what.

Watches from Breguet, namely Reine de Naples and Secret de la Reine.
Watches from Breguet, namely Reine de Naples and Secret de la Reine.

Take for example the watchmaker Breguet, which was founded in 1755. In 1782, Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, ordered a watch from Breguet, fascinated by its No. 2 10/82, which was a self-winding repeater watch with a date calendar. More transactions followed from the queen. In 1783, Breguet received an order (allegedly from an admirer of the queen) for a magnificent and intricate timepiece which would include many, if not all, the horological features present during that time, all in one watch. The order was finally completed in 1827, meanwhile, Marie Antoinette was executed in 1796, and never saw the watch.

In the carnage of the French Revolution that killed Marie Antoinette, a general from obscure Corsica would rise to become Emperor. He unseated many royals from their thrones in his quest for expansion, including Marie Antoinette’s sister, the Queen of Naples. The throne of Naples would then be occupied by Napoleon’s brother, and then his brother-in-law, who was married to his sister, Caroline Murat.

Queen Caroline would be remembered in history for two things: first, she successfully convinced her brother Napoleon of his wife, the Empress Josephine’s infertility, paving the way for his second marriage to Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria (who was the great-niece of Marie Antoinette, and granddaughter of the Queen of Naples whom Napoleon had ousted). Marriage to the imperial daughter and the son she eventually bore him lent legitimacy to the former soldier’s shaky empire and bought the emperor some time against his enemies.

Second, Caroline commissioned from Breguet one of the world’s first wristwatches, lovingly executed in an ovoid shape by Breguet.

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Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France (left) and Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples (right) both ordered and eventually inspired
ROYAL WATCHES
The watches inspired by the two queens were shown during breakfast at the Raffles Residence Lounge on Nov. 23. The watch inspired by Caroline, the Reine de Naples, had been a staple in the company since the early 2000s, while a watch inspired by Marie Antoinette, the Secret de Reine, had only become a reality in this decade.

The Reine de Naples watches all share the ovoid shape first seen on the wrist of Caroline.

Meanwhile, the Secret de la Reine incorporates Marie Antoinette’s love for games and luxurious simplicity (this was a woman who commissioned the building of a very expensive farm). The watch itself is shaped like an apple, paved with diamonds, while a cover ornamented with a cameo of a rose discreetly but playfully conceals the dial. The watch is attached to a strap crafted to look like a thick ribbon.

The watch’s design was inspired by a portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, the queen’s favorite portraitist. The painting, where she is in a blue dress and holding a rose, was intended to pacify citizens who said that a previous version of the portrait had been too informal (in it she was wearing a white dress and a straw hat, holding the rose in the same pose).

“The logic is that, they want to have more of a… recognition of Marie Antoinette’s days,” said Martin Ganz, vice-president of The Swatch Group (Hong Kong), Breguet Division. “It’s still a tribute to Marie Antoinette.”

Another tribute by the company to Marie Antoinette was the restoration of her “farm” retreat, the Petit Trianon, a project that began in 2007 and ended in 2008.

Added a resource speaker from Breguet, who was present during the breakfast, “We launched these pieces because we know that… the original Queen of Naples [watch] is not enough. We want to push, we want to challenge ourselves, that’s why we… find more inspirations from our patrons.”

There’s a trade in products associated with people who have changed the world, or have become simply famous: take for instance, Jackie O’s Hermes Trim bag, or her daughter-in-law Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s favorite perfume. It’s a way of connecting our stories with theirs, even if just in their shopping choices. When asked if Breguet’s products, based on the personalities of Marie Antoinette and Caroline Murat, run on the same principle, Mr. Ganz said, “Maybe not necessarily that person — I don’t think so. I think it’s more a question of… these people realizing that, you know, the wealthy, influential heads of states, royalty today, have these watches. That’s maybe the link there.”

“Number one, for me, you must start with a good product,” said the resource speaker from Breguet, about products that tell stories. “With that right product, you can have millions of words.” — Joseph L. Garcia

Breguet is exclusively distributed in the Philippines by Lucerne.

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