- Museum number
SILVER, PAINTED ENAMEL AND PEARL SET CASED LEVER WATCH WITH CENTRE SECONDS FOR THE CHINESE MARKET.
Centre seconds; decorated movement.
Silver-gilt case; spurious English assay marks; decorated split-pearls round bezels; Back: blue enamel on guilloche ground, miniature of lady,facing slightly to viewer's left.
- Production date
- 1830-50 (?)
Diameter: 56.10 millimetres
Height: 26 millimetres
Length: 122 millimetres (box)
Width: 90 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Text from 'Watches', by David Thompson, London, 2008, p. 112-113. (Comment relating to registration nos. 1942,1005.4-5)
Anonymous (attrib. Bovet)
PAIR OF GILT-BRASS AND ENAMEL CASED LEVER WATCHES
FLEURIER, SWITZERLAND, c. 1820
During the eighteenth century a major market developed for very elaborate and complicated automaton clocks made for export to the Far East. In the 1770s London entrepreneur jewellers and clockmakers such as James Cox and Timothy Williamson were responsible for considerable numbers of wildly eccentric and highly entertaining clocks and automata being exported to the Royal Court of China, where such elaborate Western luxury items were held in high regard, even by the Emperor himself.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century the trade in clocks declined, but there was a considerable rise in popularity of watches for the same clientele in China. However, the manufacturers of the watches sent out to China were mostly based not in London but in Switzerland, particularly in the town of Fleurier where an industry developed based on the manufactories of two companies, Bovet and the Juvet. Bovet is probably the best known of the Fleurier makers and, in his major work 'La Montre Chinoise', Alfred Chapuis devotes considerable space to its story. Established by Edouard Bovet in 1825, the firm was even known as 'Bovet-dit-de-Chine' (Bovet of China). It seems that Edouard had gone to China as a representative of an English firm, but soon realized that he could operate independently. While these watches are unsigned, they show every characteristic associated with Bovet watches of the period 1830-40 and it seems likely that the attribution can be made.
The design of the movements is immediately associated with the Fleurier makers and characteristic of the Chinese-market style, with all the components heavily engraved. The arrangement of the movement is one that developed in Fleurier, with separate cocks with jewelled bearings for the gear train wheels and the escapement. The mainspring barrel is pivoted only in the main plate and has a form of stop-work that is associated with Fleurier watches for the Chinese market. The lever in the escapement has a long shaped counterpoise. The balance gives the appearance of being split-bimetallic to provide compensation for changes in temperature, but is in fact a sham in that the balance rim is not cut through as in the real thing and the compensation 'screws' in the rim of the balance are functionless studs.
In China in the eighteenth century there was a fashion for items made in pairs, said to be a reflection of the Chinese desire to create symmetry. Here the two watches are not an exact pair, in that the portraits of the young women are opposites complementing each other. While many pairs of watches have since been separated, these two have stayed together, even to the extent of retaining the original red leather-covered box with spare mainsprings, glasses and two winding keys. With deliveries from Switzerland taking as long as a year to arrive, there is clear logic in supplying the two components that are most likely to break, the mainspring and the glass.
The gold and enamel cases are marked in a way which is a little dishonest: they are each marked with a leopard's head, a lion passant and a gothic letter 'J' in imitation of London hallmarks. This may be the reason why the maker's name does not appear on the watches and, whether intentional or not, it is perhaps significant that the letter 'J' was not used by the London Assay Office during the nineteenth century, the letter sequence always running from T to 'K', presumably to avoid confusion. Forgiving the indiscretion, however, it can still be seen that this ensemble is a fine example of Fleurier watchmaking for the Chinese market.
A similar pair of watches appear in the Christie's Geneva sale catalogue for 12th November 2012, lot 39.
Comment from Richard Good, Catalogue of Watches in the British Museum. Vol. V (Unpublished manuscript)
Anonymous but probably Bovet
Switzerland, c. 1860
Watch for the Chinese market with club tooth lever escapement. One of a pair see registration no. 1942,1005.4)
Case: Silver gilt open face the back enamelled with a left facing three quarter front portrait bust of a young girl with a garland in her hair on a blue guillauche background. The edge of the back and the bezel set with split pearls. Fake hall-marks in the back with a stylised rosette engraved in the centre.
Dial and Hands: Domed dial, 1/5 seconds marks on the minute circle, the minutes numbered 60, 15, 30, 45. Blued steel spade hour and minute hands, blue steel centre seconds hand.
Dial Plate: No dial plate.
Cuvette: of the edge variety, glazed pierced with winding and hand set holes. The cuvette has an engraved edge.
Ebauche Marks: scratched 714
Frame: Skeletonised movement with a barrel bridge, train bridge, a combined escape wheel and pallet cock and a balance cock. The fourth wheel is set at the centre of the movement. Every part of the movement visible from the back is engraved.
Barrel and Mainspring: A standing going barrel with continental stopwork. The barrel engraved to match the rest of the movement. A recessed cover to the barrel: I diameter 18.7 mm., height 2.6 mm.
Mainspring height 2.8 mm., thickness 0.20 mm.
Arbor: diameter 6.3 mm., not snailed.
Hooking: A pressed in tongue in the barrel wall.
Train: The wheels gilded one side only and with 5 crossings, except for the escape wheel which has 4.
Jewelled: From the third onwards in the back plate of the movement, only the balance pivot in the front plate is jewelled. A ruby endstone in the balance cock, a steel endplate for the balance pivot in the front plate.
Escapement: Club tooth lever, straight line layout, long lever, single roller, impulse pin elliptical. Pallets are steel, not jewelled. Escape wheel steel, teeth chamfered. Pallet frame with poising tail, pallet staff screwed in.
Number of teeth embraced, 3½.
Balance: A monometallic balance with simulated screws, diameter 17.2 mm., thickness 0.65 mm. Blued steel flat spiral spring with 13 turns.
Means of Regulation: Index on the balance cock registering against a divided scale with engraved 'F S'.
Train Counts and Beat Rate:
Great wheel (barrel) 80
Centre wheel 64 pinion 10
Third wheel 60 pinion 8
Fourth wheel 60 pinion 8
Escape wheel 15 pinion 6
Beat rate 18000
Motion work: cannon wheel 28
Minute wheel 42, minute pinion 8
Intermediate wheel on 'centre' arbor 28.
Hour wheel 64
Keyless work: Keywound
Dimensions: Case diameter 55.7 mm., height 20.8 mm (over the glass)
Movement: diameter 47.7 mm., height 11.0 mm.
Provenance: (Donated by E H Horstman in 1942).
(1) With the two watches is a red presentation box which takes both. The box contains two keys, two spare mainsprings and two spare glasses, already drilled, for the cuvettes.
(2) See 'La Montre Chinoise' by A Chapius Neuchatel s.d. (1919) pp. 171,172,178 and the illustration opposite.
Bibliography: Eric Bruton 'Clocks and Watches', Feltham 1968 p 50.
- On display (G39/dc14/no59)
- Latest: 2 (2016)
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number