- Museum number
GOLD, ENAMEL AND SHAGREEN TRIPLE-CASED CYLINDER WATCH WITH HALF-QUARTER-REPEAT [OUTER CASE NOT ORIGINAL].
Full-plate; fusee; pendant operated half-quarter-repeat; pulse-piece missing.
Cylinder escapement, steel wheel and sapphire cylinder. Plain steel balance.
White enamel dial.
Gold arrow-head hands.
Plain gold inner case; gold and polychrome enamelled middle case; shagreen covered glazed outer protecting case [not original].
- Production date
- 1775 (case)
Diameter: 40.70 millimetres (inner case)
Diameter: 47 millimetres (middle case)
Diameter: 55.10 millimetres (outer case)
- Curator's comments
- Text from 'Watches', by David Thompson, London, 2008, p. 86-87.
GOLD AND ENAMEL CASED CYLINDER WATCH WITH HALF-QUARTER REPEAT
SIGNED: 'Jno Arnold London 253'
When this watch was made in 1775, John Arnold was living and working at 2 John Adam Street, a small street leading from the Strand down to some steps on the Thames where boatmen would pick up and drop off customers from the City and Westminster. At this time Arnold was forty years old, had been married for some years and his son, John Roger, was just six years old. Arnold had already proved himself to be an extraordinary watchmaker, not least with two miniature watches that he made for King George III. The first, made in 1764, was a tiny watch set into a finger ring, which not only had a quarter-repeating mechanism but also an escapement with the cylinder made of ruby, the first of its kind. In a description of the watch published in the 'Gentleman's Magazine', the whole movement was described as 'weight only 2 dwts, 2 grs and an 8th of a grain'. A second finger-ring watch was presented to the king in 1770. In a description, the ruby cylinder in this watch was said to be just one fifty-fourth of an inch in diameter and one forty-seventh of an inch long.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century the style of decoration moved on from rococo to the classical revival, particularly in the work of Robert Adam. It comes as no surprise to find this change reflected in the design of fashionable watch cases worn more as items of jewellery than time-measuring machines. Here the outer case has been made by Mary Reasey, whose mark, 'MR' in cameo, appears in both cases. She is recorded as a small-worker with a business in Compton Street, Soho, whose mark was registered at Goldsmiths' Hall in March 1773. It is thought that she was the widow of James Reasey, also a small-worker whose earlier mark was registered in 1769.
The outer case has borders of blue and white enamel around the bezel and band. On the back there are green enamelled palm fronds at the bottom and at the top a translucent blue enamel ribbon tied in a bow. In the centre the large blue translucent enamel cartouche has been executed in the guilloché technique, in which the translucent blue enamel is laid over an engine-turned decoration in the gold below. The inner case is plain gold and bears both the London hallmark for 1775 and Mary Reasey's mark. Inside this case, the bell for the half-quarter repeat is scratched with the name 'Drury', the mark of the bell-maker James Drury of Islington, who supplied many of the leading watchmakers with high quality bells. His name is found on bells in countless good-quality repeating- and clock-watches of the eighteenth century.
The movement is a good-quality fusee with cylinder escapement, in all ways standard for the period, except that the cylinder in the escapement is made from sapphire. Under the dial is a well-made half-quarter repeat mechanism of Matthew Stogden's design, which strikes the bell in a sequence of single blows for the hours and double blows for each half quarter (7½ minutes). Whether or not the mechanism was made by Stogden cannot be determined, but it is more likely to have been made in Arnold's workshop. The style of the white enamel dial is a little less standard. It is of a type that began to appear in the 1770s, with a very fine minute circle around small Roman hour numerals and without the further line decoration commonly found on earlier London enamel dials.
- On display (G39/dc14/no44)
Latest: 3 (2016)
3 (1994) Broken cylinder.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.1914 (Ilbert Collection)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: D42 (Ilbert Ledger)