This timepiece is one of two montre a tact watches the Duke of Wellington acquired from Breguet in 1815. This watch, bought for 1,800 Francs, was the second purchase the Duke made from Breguet, the first being procured in December 1814 after his appointment as ambassador to Paris.
Montre à tact earns its name from the unique way in which they are used to tell the time; through touch and feel. Similar to repeater pocket watch, a montre à tact enables its owner to tell the time in the dark or in their pocket, by feeling the position of the hand on the front of the case relative to touch pieces on the edge of the case used to mark the hours. As the Duke himself suggested, this style of watch was fashionable for those who wished to know the time without the embarrassment of visually checking their watch without showing insult to their host by showing one’s boredom or anxiety over the time.
This particular pocket watch was presented to William Booth (1792 – 1880) an officer in the British Army Commissary and later Clerk of Survey at the Ordnance Office in Dublin, by his close friend, the Duke of Wellington. As the watch inscription reads, ‘This watch worn by Arthur, Duke of Wellington, in the war in Spain and at the Battle of Waterloo, was presented to Deputy Commissary General William Booth in 1833’. Booth joined the war in the 1808 before joining Wellington’s staff in 1809, where he would stay until the end of the Peninsular War in 1814. He was appointed controller of the army Commissary accounts in the field before taking charge of army Commissary accounts in the Netherlands. Booth accompanied Wellington and the army to Paris after the battle of Waterloo, where he remained in charge of Commissariat accounts until the final evacuation in 1818. Booth retired from government work in 1856 and would spend his remaining years at his home in Cheltenham until his death in May 1880.