Breguet at Frieze LA: Where Old World Craftsmanship and Contemporary Art Meet
Wander past the outlandish outfits, famous and infamous faces, and contemporary art at Frieze Los Angeles at the Santa Monica Airport, and you’ll discover a special lounge where old-world watchmaking and innovation meet contemporary art and ephemera.
Breguet, the luxury Swiss watchmaker, and Frieze, a traveling global art fair that takes place throughout the year in New York, London, Seoul, and Los Angeles, are in their second year of partnership. At these events, art collectors, celebrities, and watch aficionados come to get a glimpse of the craftsmanship and heritage of Breguet, learn more about the art and science behind the very first tourbillion and the intricacies of guillochage, alongside some of the most provocative and innovative artworks from more than 100 galleries and artists across the globe.
Breguet’s origin story is not unlike some of the fantastical displays at Frieze LA — a blend of hand craftsmanship, technology, and contemporary themes. Breguet’s founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet, created and patented the tourbillion in 1801. His innovative watches, pricing methodology (he created a pocket watch called the Souscription, which allowed buyers to purchase a watch by making payments over time), and designs put time into the palms of many wealthy and well-known, including Marie Antoinette and many in the French court.
The Frieze-Breguet partnership came to the culmination of its first year this past weekend in Los Angeles. The final of four pieces by the UK-based Argentinian artist Pablo Bronstein’s bespoke work, entitled Scenic Wallpaper with Important Machinery of the 18th Century, graced the walls of the Breguet display. Breguet brought a number of historic watches, including a breathtaking 1797 Souscription pocket watch and items from the modern and newest Marine, Reine de Naples, and Tradition lines.
Bronstein’s architectural drawings were blown up to larger-than-life-size by Sklya Bridges, a digital artist and Bronstein’s collaborator, and turned into one-of-a-kind wallpaper by Allyson McDermott, a wallpaper conservator, historian, consultant, and maker. Bronstein has had a long-standing fascination with the 18th century, and wallpaper was a product of the era, which developed alongside Abraham-Louis Breguet’s innovative timekeeping technology as well as the rise of bourgeois taste. Bronstein’s modern work evolved through a narrative arc at each Frieze location and showed machines of the 18th century in various states, from the rise to the fall of the artist’s imagined machine world. At the Los Angeles location, the drawings were of a post-apocalyptic scene showing the remnants of everything from a guillotine and drill presses to watch parts and gears after an imagined machine war. Following Frieze Los Angeles, Bronstein’s Scenic Wallpaper will not see the light of day again, driving home the ephemeral nature of both time and art.
The aim of the buzzy Frieze events is to show blue chip art alongside contemporary up-and-comers making waves in the art world, and Breguet, with its storied heritage, handcrafting and machining techniques, and exclusive clientele, goes hand-in-hand with that goal.
If one thing is clear about the Frieze LA x Breguet partnership, it’s that it has officially “made it” in Hollywood. Globally famous faces like Owen Wilson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyenth Paltrow, and Lionel Ritchie made the rounds on the opening day of the traveling art show, as did locally famous folks like James Goldstein, a real-estate magnate, and NBA superfan. The partnership between Frieze and Breguet will run through 2024, and the LA event marks the end of the current collaboration with Pablo Bronstein. When Frieze returns to New York in May, a new, as-yet-unnamed artist will become part of the Breguet lounge.