Monarchists in Britain have endured a tough time of late. Just before coronavirus went literally viral, there was a right royal rumble as Prince Harry and Meghan quit the royal family. As if that wasn’t bad enough, 2021 now sees the royal family in danger of losing another of its crown jewels, the King George pocket watch.
It may not be as princely as Harry, but it’s arguably of far more material value, at least in the eyes of watch lovers around the world. Indeed, the UK Government has announced that King George’s pocket watch – an exceptionally rare example of a Breguet Four Minute Tourbillon valued at more than £2 million – is at risk of leaving the country unless a UK buyer can be found to stump up for it and save the work for the nation.
Designed by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the one-of-a-kind watch belonged to King George III in the early 19th century. “This watch is a tour-de-force of the art of horology,” said Pippa Shirley, a member of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest in an interview with europastar.com. “At the very cutting edge of technology, the beauty of its mechanism is matched by the restrained elegance of its case, all of which would have been prized by its original owner King George III, an astute collector and active horologist.”
Indeed, Daryn Schnipper, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Watch Division, said of the piece when it was auctioned last year: “Abraham Louis Breguet watches were the theory of everything in the early 19th century, incorporating all the scientific discoveries of the past centuries, the philosophy of the Enlightenment and the great vision of a man who revolutionised watchmaking and placed time and precision at the core of modern society.”
“When you hold the watch he made for George III, you instantly know you are in the presence of something truly exceptional. This watch not only captures Breguet’s genius – the ability to conceal layers of complexity behind apparent simplicity – it also encapsulates why historic timepieces are so relevant today. They transcend the function of mere timekeeping to tell us the history of the modern world.”
The former king was a keen horologist so would duly hope that this piece (Certificate No. 4178) finds a new home where its history can be preserved. The decision on the export licence application for this watch has been deferred to 28 April with the prospect of an extension. So UK readers, if you know anyone with a penchant for century-old pocket watches and a spare £2.5 million, you know what to do.