An excerpt from my upcoming book, Marie Antoinette’s Watch. Sign up for more information here.
A walker in 18th-century Paris, his boots caked with mud and much worse, would not come upon the Place Dauphine by chance. To find the quiet triangle one has to traverse Pont Neuf, or the New Bridge (this, the oldest bridge in the city, was also the first one not covered in houses and shops) onto the island where Paris began: the Île de la Cité. A jog to the left, between two four-story buildings, brings him to a small park with a few stunted trees and perhaps a bench or two where men spoke furiously over plans and scraps of polished metal. The walker, however, could do no better than to sit listening to the quiet susurration of the the trees and the gentle ting-ting of jewelers hammers. It was in this courtyard, he would quickly discover, where the mechanical heart of Paris ticked. It was, in fact, the home to most of France’s most illustrious horologers.