Collectors of antique timepieces have one more to lust for.
And if Jim Michaels is right, it's a real gem.Michaels, an Arizona jeweler and watchmaker, says he's pretty sure he has the first watch ever made by Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), considered by many to be history's finest horologist.
Michaels bought the watch from a colleague on the East Coast, who got it from a man who said it had been in his family for years.
Michaels is an expert in antique restoration and a longtime admirer of Breguet.
"My son's middle name is Breguet," he says.
Michaels and Green Valley townsman Evan Edwards, who is on the board of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Inc., examined the timepiece when it arrived at Michaels' shop several weeks ago.
"What we found is a priceless piece of history," Michaels says. "We believe that the watch is the first one Breguet ever made."
Known for making stylish and elegant watches for the rich, Breguet was a supreme master of technical innovation, Michaels says. He perfected the self-winding watch, invented the repeater gong and invented the shockproof device.
Till now, the oldest known Breguet watch was the one he made for Marie Antoinette in 1782, Michaels says.
That timepiece bears the inscription "1082 No. 2," indicating the date it was made, according to historical records. But it hasn't been seen since the queen was executed during the French Revolution.
Michaels says the watch he has bears the inscription "882 No. 1," indicating it was made in August 1782, two months before that of Marie Antoinette.
The watch, undergoing repair by several craftsmen, has features other than the inscription that suggest Breguet, Michaels says.
It has a ruby cylinder, for example, a distinctive Breguet mark, and incorporates six jewels - four on the balance and two plate jewels. The screw heads are another feature traced to Breguet by the design and style of the threads, he says.