Length: 17.500 cm
Room 38-39: Clocks and Watches
Gold chatelaine and quarter-repeating watch
London, England, late 18th century
The enamels were made in 1777
The painted enamels by William Hopkins Craft (1730?-1810)
The term 'chatelaine' dates from the nineteenth century. It usually refers to a set of short chains hung from the belt that might hold a variety of items for daily use, such as keys and watches. The gold outer case of the watch is covered with a translucent green enamel over a patterned ground. The two profile portraits in grisaille enamel of King George III of England (reigned 1760-1811) and Queen Charlotte strongly reflect the neo-classical style that was prevalent in England from the mid 1770s.
The medallions on the chatelaine are in a similar style. William Hopkins Craft (1730?-1810) based much of his work on antique engraved gems and exhibited pieces at the Royal Academy in the classical manner. The heads of Hercules and Medusa are taken from classical gems now in The British Museum. These gems were widely published in the eighteenth century and were frequently copied in a variety of media until well into the nineteenth century.
The watch is particularly remarkable as it is the best-documented watch that survives from the eighteenth century. It was purchased by the eminent physician Sir James Napier (died 1797) in 1779 for £63.10s and remained in the family until it was purchased by The British Museum.
A.J. Toppin, 'William Hopkins Craft, enamel painter (1730?-1810)', Transactions of the English Ce, 4: 4 (1959), pp. 14-18, plate 12
H. Tait, 'Sir James Napier's watch', Antique Collector (December 1983), pp. 73-75
H. Tait, Clocks and watches (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)