Breguet a Paris French Verge Fusee Dial Restoration

The following concerns an old verge fusee watch that apparently dates back to the French Revolution era of the 1790’s.

This is what the dial looked like when it arrived in the workshop. Can you read the name on it?

The case is significantly deformed. The front bezel is bent and does not snap properly. The case back is cracked, and the silver body is covered with a black patina after going many years without a cleaning or service.

The dial is rusty and tarnished, and achieving a full restoration seems hopeless, but we will have to try…

The enamel parts look pretty good but are still dirty and scratched. The metal base plate must be cleaned separately from the enamel parts.

Dial Restoration

To restore the dial, first we must find a way to separate the enamel subdials from the dial base plate. Th enamel plates are mounted on tiny feet, and fixed with thinner pins.

You can see the base plate foot and the feet of the enamel subdials.

Now that the pins have been removed, the enamel subdials can be unmounted. Unworn fire-gilt surfaces can be seen underneath where the subdials were fixed (below). We must make all the darkened surfaces shine like the golden parts.

Step 1 – Cleaning

First, we clean the base plate with an ultrasound machine and cleaning powder. Some tarnish is removed, but the original gold plating has worn off, which is why it looks uneven and stained.

We cannot improve the appearance of the surface any more by just cleaning. No abrasive grinding or polishing should be used for this finely detailed dial engraving.

The solution to our problem is gold plating. After removing all of the extra parts from the brass plate, we can gild it again.

Step 2 – Gilding

Here, we have adjusted the galvanic parameters to make plating colour look like antique fire gilding. It is between an ’18K yellow gold’ and ’14K rose gold’ colour.

After four layers of gold plating, we have managed to achieve the right surface colour – a sort of honey-tint.

Next, we assemble the dial, and then mount the enamel plates:

The appearance has improved significantly, while simultaneously still looking antique enough to express its 200+ years of age.

About This “Breguet” Timepiece

Some final words about the watch itself. Unfortunately, this is not an original timepiece made by Abraham-Louis Breguet. It is merely a contemporary imitation of the pocket watches of the French Revolution era of the 1790’s. Many of these “Breguet a Paris” imitations were manufactured in Switzerland from the 1790’s up to 1840’s.

The details of the movement uncover the true origins of this watch. The backplate is signed “Breguet a Paris”, and has a truly spectacular and ornate balance cock, but simultaneously also a simple verge & fusee movement type, generically mass-produced from 1790-1800. A true Breguet would never use such a cheap type of movement. There is no serial number, no secret signature, no ruby jewels and moreover it does not match the style of handcrafted Breguet masterpieces.

If you ever stumble across a simple verge movement with a fancy polychrome dial – it obviously can’t be an original Breguet. Many unknown contemporary watchmakers have used the famous master’s inscriptions to add more value to their creations.

But what about this watch? Is it valuable? A nice, working 200+ year old timepiece will be of interest to collectors.

The top enamel scene shows a warrior woman with a sword, a shield, and the flag of French Revolution. She bears some resemblance to Minerva, the Roman goddess (Pallas Athena in ancient Greek mythology). Despite its origin, after its restoration this is still a beautiful antique timepiece. Moreover, it perfectly illustrates the high level of fame and popularity of Abraham-Louis Breguet back in the 1790’s.

The original masterpieces made by A.-L. Breguet will appear later on, so keep an eye on our site 😉

Here is original Breguet from the later 1890’s: Breguet No 4666.

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