French Time Pieces
Chronology : 1650-1659 1800-1809 1810-1819 1830-1839
ca 1650 Three Virtues in a Watch
2019 SOLD for £ 2.17M including premium
Jean Toutin applied his method to watches that were appreciated at the court of Louis XIII but also in England. No piece created by him has survived but his technique had a few followers and is known as Blois-style enamel work.
Six pocket watches have survived with a turquoise blue decoration made around 1650 in the style of Blois. A certain similarity may suggest that this camaieu was made by a single artist but the dials are signed by six different watchmakers, three in London, two in Paris and one in Bordeaux.
The watch signed by a man named Jehan Cremsdorff in Paris uses several enamel techniques. The exterior of its cover and back is decorated in enamel on chased gold, with a champlevé relief flower pattern on a turquoise background. One of these sides is cloisonné. The inner walls of both the cover and the back and the dial are decorated in the Blois-style blue. These three figures are reproductions of allegories of Virtues edited as engravings by Abraham Bosse around 1636. It is also inlaid with diamonds.
This Cremsdorff specimen is a 6 cm diameter verge escapement watch, 7.6 cm in height including the pendant. It has a single hand which is normal for its time : the minute hand will be available on watches from 1687.
It was sold for CHF 1.8M by Christie's on May 13, 1986, a very high price for a pocket watch at that time (for information, 1 CHF was worth between 0.48 and 0.62 USD in 1986). It is estimated £ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3, lot 4.
#AuctionUpdate: Landmark price for a 17th century watch: Jehan Cremsdorff’s extraordinary gold, enamel and diamond-set verge watch, circa 1650 - an early masterpiece of enamel work - just fetched $2.7m in our London Treasures sale #SothebysWatches pic.twitter.com/I2S0lH04VI— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 3, 2019
1715 Boulle Clock
2011 SOLD for $ 1.26M including premium by Sotheby's
1766 A Flat Desk with its Clock of Cartonnier
2015 SOLD for € 2.22M including premium
All accessories are designed for writing: drawers and pull in the desk, black leathered top and the very tall serre papier now named cartonnier or filing cabinet which is surmounted by a clock.
The desks stamped by Montigny are rare. One of them is estimated € 2M for sale by Christie's in Paris on November 4, lot 510. It retained its matching cartonnier with its original clock as they were described in the inventory of the estate of a former intendant of Louis XVI in 1795. Two period écritoires are joined to complete the equipment.
The desk is adorned with a leafy garland in antiquisant style 'à la grecque' which was fashionable in the early 1760s. It certainly dates from the very beginning of the accession to the maîtrise by Montigny in 1766. The sets of furniture of this period in which desk, cabinet and clock were never separated are of extreme rarity.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's.
ca 1774 Régulateur de Parquet by Berthoud
1999 SOLD for £ 1.93M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The marquis de Choiseul, raised to duc de Praslin in 1762, swapped in 1766 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Ministry of Marine, just as strategic. To cancel the French backwardness, he commissions the two most skilful watchmakers established in Paris, Pierre Le Roy and the Swiss born Ferdinand Berthoud. It is Praslin who conceives the first official French circumnavigation, whose captain is Bougainville.
In 1764 and 1765, Praslin acquires Fouquet's castle in Vaux and a residence in Paris, built on the banks of the Seine for Fouquet's grandson, which becomes the hôtel de Choiseul-Praslin. The luxury of its decoration, including some furniture by Boulle, is worthy of the minister disgraced by Louis XIV.
The régulateur de parquet (longcase clock) from the hôtel's grand salon is a work by Berthoud, with a case stamped by Lieutaud and gilded bronzes by Caffiéri's son. This is of course the best in Paris for that sort of piece. It includes the calendar, complications related to Sun and Moon, a needle barometer, as well as the équation de Berthoud revealed to the Académie des Sciences in 1752 to differentiate between apparent and mean solar times.
This sumptuous 2.66 m high piece of time and furnishing was sold for £ 1.93M including premium by Christie's on July 8, 1999, lot 207. For the date, the only reference is a spring marked 1774.
1784 The Eyes of the Negresse
2019 SOLD for € 1.45M including premium
In 1784 in Paris, the baron de Ville d'Avray buys the office of Intendant du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne. In the shop of the clockmaker Furet in rue Saint-Honoré, a black head wearing a Nubian princess turban amuses the public. Ville d'Avray buys this piece for 4,000 livres.
This bronze bust conceals an ingenious clock, and its base contains a mechanical organ. The piece is 72 cm high overall. The woman is wearing a pair of hanging earrings. One of them triggers the appearance of the figure of the minutes in place of the iris of the right eye and similarly the figure of hours in the left eye. The other earring triggers the music.
Ville d'Avray is waiting for a good opportunity to place this clock. It clogs up very quickly by the coagulating oils, and he has it twice revised. He also acts to diversify the music. The clock is finally offered to the royal family among the 1792 new year gifts. Queen Marie-Antoinette decides not to leave this fragile piece in the hands of the Dauphin.
The Négresse was not a unique piece. The royal copy was authenticated in 1956 on the occasion of an exhibition at the Orangerie by Pierre Verlet, curator of the objects of art of the Louvre Museum. It wears two plaques in the name of Furet et Godon, who were associated from 1784 until Furet's bankruptcy in 1786.
Belonging since 1937 to the collection of the comtes de Ribes, the "Négresse de Marie-Antoinette" is estimated € 1M for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on December 11, lot 10.
Dated 1817 by a former supplier of Godon, probably after a repair, an incomplete copy of the same model was sold for € 810K including premium by Delorme Collin du Bocage on November 23, 2007. Three other examples are known.
1800 Breguet at the Time of the Marie-Antoinette
2016 SOLD for CHF 3.25M including premium
This enthusiast who played for Breguet a similar role as Graves with Patek Philippe 150 years later was probably the Count Fersen known as a fervent admirer of the Queen of France and the watch was named the Marie-Antoinette. It was completed in 1827, four years after the death of Abraham-Louis Breguet.
Breguet was the most skilful watchmaker of his time and the Marie-Antoinette could be used as a kind of prototype. On May 16 in Geneva, Christie's offers a high complication watch sold new in 1800 of our calendar (An VIII of the Republican calendar) to General Moreau. It is estimated CHF 600K, lot 123.
This pocket watch 55 mm in diameter has the serial number No. 217 of the brand. It is the only example beside the Marie-Antoinette to offer in the same case the perpetual motion and the equation of time.
The perpétuelle is a self winding mechanism with an oscillating weight offering 60 hours of autonomy from the effect of moderate movements of the user, with a protection against shocks on horseback. The equation of time is a correction of the difference between standard and solar times which can reach up to 16 minutes.
This piece does not include the technique of the tourbillon invented by Breguet in 1801. The steadiness is ensured by the échappement libre à ancre (lever escapement), another difficulty that only Breguet knew to overcome.
General Moreau died in the battle of Dresden in 1813. Breguet reacquired the 217 and modernized the dial before selling it in 1817 to Charles-Louis Havas, the financier who became famous for opening in Paris in 1832 the first ever newspaper translation business which became in 1835 his Havas Agency.
1807 In Search of Perfect Time
2014 SOLD 820 KCHF including premium
He executes in 1800 the prototype of the tourbillon (French word for whirlwind), also known as cage tournante (revolving carriage), in which a mechanism generates a rotation of the escapement. Of course, such a realization is a feat of micro-mechanics, for which the brilliant inventor was also experimenting with new solutions for the escapement.
In 1806 and 1807, Breguet is developing a long revolving tourbillon of four minutes. Stability is increased by a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour, 20% higher than the best mechanisms of that period.
This tourbillon was fitted into a luxurious gold watch 65 mm in diameter sold for 4,600 francs in 1809 to the Polish statesman Stanislas Potocki. It was the first montre garde-temps à tourbillon that had been commercialized.
This exceptional watch is estimated CHF 600K, for sale by Christie 's in Geneva on May 12, lot 294.
POST SALE COMMENT
This very interesting watch was sold for CHF 820K including premium.
1808 Tourbillon for a King
2020 SOLD for £ 1.58M including premium
Breguet develops after 1806 the applications for its tourbillon. The four-minute rotation, replacing the one-minute rotation, decisively improves the stability.
The most enthusiastic horology lovers are alerted about this progress. France is at war with England. King George III discreetly uses the services of an intermediary named Recordon to obtain one of these watches.
Breguet retrieved the reference of this piece in their archives. Sold on June 29, 1808 to Recordon for the King of England, it appears to be the very first tourbillon to have been marketed. It includes a thermometer, which is certainly a specific requirement of the king, and a Robin escapement that Breguet rarely used. To mitigate the risk of interception by customs, the Breguet brand does not appear on the outside and the dial is signed by Recordon. The payment of the 4,800 francs was completed in 1813 by the Prince Regent.
Remained in its original configuration, the Breguet watch of George III was sold for £ 550K including premium by Sotheby's on November 9, 1999. It is estimated £ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 14, lot 28.
A watch from the same period, with a Breguet escapement and without a thermometer, is certainly the very first to have incorporated the four minute tourbillon. Sold for 4,600 francs on February 12, 1809 for Count Potocki, it was sold for CHF 820K including premium by Christie's on May 12, 2014.
Fit for a King: King George III's Tourbillon Watch - an horological treasure discreetly sold by French watchmaking genius Breguet to the King of England in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars - will be auctioned in London in July. Click here for more details:https://t.co/Oal8BTVNgx pic.twitter.com/nfqYozr1fi— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) June 18, 2020
1814 Breguet, the Physicist of Time
2012 SOLD 4.3 MCHF including premium
The eighteenth century had highly important mechanics. Abraham-Louis Breguet, micro-mechanical genius, settled into pocket watches the most extraordinary complications of the clocks, and was the inventor of basic concepts such as the tourbillon and the wristwatch.
On May 14 in Geneva, Christie's sells two Breguet watches, each estimated CHF 800K. Both have two main dials, but for quite different reasons.
The earliest, sold in 1814, has two similar and symmetrical complete mechanisms. The idea of the inventor was to compensate the mechanical resonance, a source of error that was a challenge for the watchmakers. This is the first of three watches made by Breguet on this principle. The other two will be provided to the kings of England and France. Here is the link to the catalog.
The complication of the other is even more spectacular. One mechanism provides the official time calculated according to a regular day of 24 hours, and the other mechanism provides real solar time as it was read from sundials at the ground. The motion drift of earth and sun can reach a quarter of an hour, almost repetitively from year to year.
This specimen with the equation of time, sold in 1827, is posthumous. Antoine-Louis Breguet had succeeded his father. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Forget the estimates. The press release was convincing, and the two Breguet watches are masterpieces from one of the most brilliant periods of watchmaking.
Technically very bold, the watch with two movements from 1814 was sold CHF 4.3 million including premium.
The watch with the equation of time was sold CHF 2.55 million including premium.
1831 The Watch of the Arsouille
2013 SOLD 1.02 MCHF including premium
Sold for 7,000 francs, this gold watch was a high-end piece from the best watchmaker of that time. It is now estimated CHF 600K. Here is the link to the catalog.
Only one almost identical specimen is known. In 1827, Breguet had sold it for 7,800 francs to Lord Yarmouth, a brother of Lord Henry. This double commercial act brings us to visit the extravagant world of dandies, the wealthy clients of Breguet.
The father of these two customers was the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, who during the Regency went against a certainly stiff competition to be considered as the greatest depraved in England. In 1802, he took advantage of a truce between France and England to come to Paris that attracted him for the freedom of its pleasures.
The change of regime in France in 1830 did not stop the new anglomania. Around Lord Henry, aristocrats developed a new fashion for horse racing through worldly clubs, without adding the English sporting tradition. Breguet became the supplier of the duc d'Orléans, son of the new king.
Lord Henry became a somewhat mythical character whom the carnival followers nicknamed Milord I'Arsouille, a wording that would have been perfectly suited to his father and does not have the same rough meaning as its equivalent in the English slang.
POST SALE COMMENT
This interesting and ancient watch was sold for CHF 1.02M including premium.
1835 The Clock of the Duc d'Orléans
2012 SOLD 6.8 M$ including premium
In 1795, Abraham-Louis Breguet imagines the combination of a clock and a watch. This outstanding inventor manages later to achieve this stupendous set known as Breguet Sympathique.
After being used during the day, the watch is repositioned in a cradle at the top of the clock. At midnight, the clock triggers a mechanism that enters the watch, measures and rectifies the error. After a few days, the value of the error is integrated into the beat of the watch and its adjustment becomes automatic.
When Breguet died in 1823, five copies have been made. Only kings can afford to own such an expensive mechanism.
Being an extremely remote cousin of Charles X, Louis Philippe I becomes King of France after a revolution. His eldest son, the duc d'Orléans, is a brilliant prince who would like to live again in the luxury of the Ancien Régime. He commissions his sympathique clock to the Breguet workshop. It is completed in 1835.
Luxury adds to technical feat. 58 cm high, the piece is made in the imitation of Boulle style which is so fashionable in that time, in a cabinet by Bellangé and with Denière bronzes on a design by Questel.
The clock and the watch of this set have not been separated. Having been restored to operation by George Daniels, it provides an exceptional demonstration of one of the most advanced ideas of automatism.
POST SALE COMMENT
Again a great and deserved price for this fabulous clock: $ 6.8 million including premium.
1926 On the Desk of Anna Gould
2017 SOLD for € 1.12M including premium
The Palais Rose was built with the best marbles on the model of the Grand Trianon by comte Boni de Castellane who furnished it in an unbelievable luxury. Castellane could spend without sparing : he had obtained the hand and dowry of Anna Gould whose father had accumulated in the railway industry one of the most colossal fortunes in America.
Castellane spends too much and divorce becomes inevitable. Anna Gould remains in the Palais Rose and becomes after her second marriage in 1908 duchesse de Talleyrand and princesse de Sagan.
On March 7 in Paris, Christie's sells furniture and objects from the Palais Rose, destroyed in 1969 on behalf of a real estate developer. Lot 19 estimated € 1M is a very opulent nécessaire de bureau (desk kit) commissioned by Anna Gould to Cartier in 1926.
The Société Cartier is one of the pioneers of the Art Déco style much fashionable in Paris after the specialized exhibition of 1925, promoting functional objects. Cartier also offers various themes of oriental fantasy increasingly enjoyed at that time by the wealthy clients.
Anna Gould's kit is depicting a Japanese pagoda in a garden, decorated with figures of dragons and Fo lions. Mixing coral, aventurine, rock crystal, agate and mother-of-pearl and colored in enamels and lacquers, it measures 28 x 24 x 12 cm overall and weighs 6.7 Kg.
Centered on a pendulette, this piece includes two inkwells and a pen holder without omitting a lighting made of two 110-volt bulbs. In 2017 Cartier added a dip pen in lapis lazuli, quartz, onyx and coral matching the nécessaire.