PARIS–Oh, Louis Louis—XIV and XVI to be exact.
After a decade-long closure and a nearly $34.4 million renovation, the Louvre reopened its “Louis rooms," the museum's 18th century decorative arts wing that houses grand furnishings from the Sun King and his doomed descendants, celebrated with a private tour and dinner sponsored by museum patron Breguet on Tuesday night.
It was the second night of the brand’s very formal French fete, which began with a cocktail reception and tour of a closed wing and theater building of Marie Antoinette’s Versailles’ residence, Le Petit Trianon, on Monday evening, and made several historical pit stops around Paris before the black-tie gala the following night.
“These collections now show off the real spirit of French-style art de vivre,” said Louvre president Jean-Luc Martinez of the refurbished rooms in the revamped decorative arts wing.
The luxury house, founded in 1775 and creator of the first wristwatch, boasts celebrity fans as diverse as Robert De Niro and Dr. Dre.
The museum has also been home to some Breguet originals since the 1800s, which are on display here, as are Marie Antoinette’s jewelry box, hot chocolate pot and personal picnic basket with monogrammed silver and china.
At the Louvre, the evening began with guests sipping champagne in the Napoleon Hall overlooking the courtyard before finishing with a four-course dinner under the grand glass I.M. Pei pyramid. And while guests practically had carte blanche to roam the rooms of the famed museum in between canapes and coffee, it was less Night at the Museum than the final act in what sounds like a sizzling summer blockbuster involving a doomed queen, a stolen watch, and an obsession to recreate a replica.
It’s the story behind Breguet’s sponsorship of the renovation of the Louvre rooms and the Petit Trianon; after the queen’s commissioned watch (though the timepiece never reached her wrist, but we all know the end to that story) was lifted from a Jerusalem museum in the 1980s, late CEO Nicolas Hayek Sr. became obsessed with the watch’s history, and when he heard the queen’s favorite tree had fallen in a storm, he set out to preserve her private residence. The watch was mysteriously found years later in a safe deposit box, but not before the exceptional partnership spawned the renovation at Versailles as well as the luxury watch company’s ongoing patronage of the Louvre's royal collection.
"I think everybody who is a little bit involved in the history of Breguet, in the history of the Louvre, knows that we are all sitting here because of one person: my father,” said Swatch Group chair Nayla Hayek. “I’m sure he’s here with us, and I’m sure he’s very proud of everybody who was involved in this project.”