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Review: Andersen Genève Montre à Tact

by Peter Chong on November 14, 2015

One of the interesting watches which Andersen Genève makes which perhaps no other watchmaker does is the Montre à Tact. Originally created by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1795, this style of watch, a complication of sorts, was seemingly lost until Svend Andersen revived it. Svend made several versions, some which are whimsical, like the Dogs Playing Poker series which uses the entire dial surface to showcase a brilliant painting. And some, like this one we are showing here is more discrete.

 

Svend Andersen Montre à Tact.

Svend Andersen Montre à Tact.

 

Back in the day, it was late 18th century, it was considered impolite to consult one’s watch in company. Indeed the dress decorum for formal evening dress was white tie with tailcoats for the gentlemen. The customary waist coat used in white tie does not provide a pocket to hold one’s watch. It was a question of etiquete. The montre à tact  is a double entendre (French tact meaning touch, give rise to the English tact and tactful): a watch which one reads the time by touch, while remaining tactful. This watch solved the problem of having to look at one’s watch by feeling the hour hand, which were exposed (no glass over the hand)  and judging their position relative to the winding crown at 12, or to the knobs which serve as hour markers on the case side.

 

 

An early example of the Breguet Montre à Tact offered for sale by Christie's on 10 Nov 2014. Sold for CHF87,500.

An early example of the Breguet Montre à Tact offered for sale by Christie’s on 10 Nov 2014. Sold for CHF87,500. Photo: Christie’s.

 

Svend Andersen used this idea, and created one for the wrist watch. As we mentioned, several variations exist. Some, like the Dogs Playing Poker shows the time only on the case side, where it is visible as one glances at one’s wrist. Without the need to twist the wrist to reveal the dial, the time can be read tactfully.

And in this version, Svend has provided two time displays, one as a disc turning in an aperture on the dial, and one at the case side between the lugs. Both displays turn clockwise.

 

The second time display is a turning cylinder, visible between the lugs. Looking up the time will not require the customary twist of the wrist to reveal the dial, and hence more discrete and more tactful.

The second time display is a turning cylinder, visible between the lugs. Looking up the time will not require the customary twist of the wrist to reveal the dial, and hence more discrete and more tactful.

 

The dial in gold and engraved with an Egyptian Hieroglyphic motif and Andersen Genève offers several options, including the buyer to customize. The location of the dial aperture for the time display can also be customized. In this case it is at 12 o’clock, but practically any position around the same circumference is possible. Andersen also offers the customization of the engraving, or a guilloché medallion like one in this article by our friend Martin Green on Revo-online, or a painting.

 

The crown is placed on the back,

The crown is placed on the back,

 

Interesting watch for those looking for something more unusual. And quite a refreshing change from the usual watch with three hands on a dial.

 

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