In December a very special clock will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York: the Duc d’Orléans Breguet Sympatique. Ferdinand-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, was the son of Louis Philippe, King of France from 1830 till 1848. The Duc d’Orléans placed an order for a Sympatique with Abraham-Louis Breguet, the famous watchmaker who for many years had been a purveyor of clocks and watches to the family d’Orléans.
The Sympatique in question was delivered in 1836 and, although Breguet died in 1823, he must his been responsible for its conception as it has the most complex mechanism of all 12 known Sympatiques (eight of which are in national museums). It sets time, regulates and winds an accompanying pocket watch sitting on top of its case. For this case, the Duc d’Orléans turned to Charles-Auguste Questel, his architect, and the bronze parts were made by bronzier Guillaume Denière, a famous artist in his own right.
What happened to the clock afterwards is unknown. When Seth G. Atwood, an American collector, started his Time Museum in Rockford, Ill., he also wanted a Sympatique in his collection. In 1974 he turned to George Daniels, already a Breguet scholar of repute. Surprisingly, Daniels located an example in Paris. The entire self-winding mechanism was missing, but Daniels being Daniels was able to restore the clock. The Time Museum closed its doors in 1999 and the collection was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999, 2002 and 2004. The Duc d’Orléans Sympatique was offered at auction in 1999, where it achieved $ 5,777,500, an auction record for any clock. It will be no surprise that in the coming auction the clock carries an estimate in excess of $ 5 million.