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    Sale 1348

    Important Pocket Watches and Wristwatches

    12 November 2007, Geneva

  • Lot 120

    Bovet. A very fine 18K gold and enamel openface centre seconds cylinder watch, made for the Chinese Market

    SIGNED BOVET, NO. 210, CIRCA 1820

    Price Realised  


    Bovet. A very fine 18K gold and enamel openface centre seconds cylinder watch, made for the Chinese Market
    Signed Bovet, No. 210, circa 1820
    With finely chased and engraved floral and scroll decorated gilt-finished cylinder movement, gold cuvette, the white enamel dial with Roman numerals, outer Arabic five minute divisions, sweep centre seconds, the case with translucent polychrome champlevé enamel floral decorated bezel, rim, pendant and bow, the reverse centred by a painted polychrome enamel scene depicting Titus and Berenice, cuvette stamped with Bovet's Chinese hallmark, movement signed and numbered
    57 mm. diam.

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    Accompanied by the photocopy of Parmigiani Fleurier invoice for the restoration of the present watch in 2002 for the amount of CHF 15,150.
    The history of the celebrated Chinese market watches signed Bovet Fleurier began with the Swiss master watchmaker Edouard Bovet (1797-1849). Born in Fleurier, the 21 year old Edouard arrived in Canton in 1818 and almost immediately sold four watches for 10,000 francs, about one million US$ dollars today.

    He consequently decided to stay in Canton where he established in 1822 a trading company in partnership with his brothers, the firm founded by charter in London the same year.

    Very soon, the name "Bo Wei" or "Bo-vay" became synonymous for "watch" and in the turmoil of late Manchu China, Bovet watches spread throughout the country as a medium of exchange. In the meantime, their hometown Fleurier in the Val-de-Travers had become the European centre for the manufacture of Chinese watches, with several brands dedicated only to that flourishing market.

    Bovet's production of high quality watches made in Switzerland for the Imperial Chinese market was a resounding success. "Chinese watches" as they were soon called were elaborately decorated pocket watches, generally sold in symmetrically opposed pairs. Their gold cases often featured enamel miniatures painted by the most celebrated artists of the time, cloisonné and champlevé decorations pearl-set borders. Bovet further specialized in the art of engraving and skeletonizing movements, hence enhancing the appeal of his high-end Chinese watches with its Mandarin customers. Most manufactures making Chinese watches also produced affordable pocket watches for the Cantonese general public, often cased in silver (see the previous lot).

    Since their first appearance nearly 200 years ago, these extremely attractive watches have not lost their fascination and are still today highly appreciated collector's watches.

    Titus and Berenice
    The enamel scene on the present watch depicts Berenice parting from Titus, a story which has inspired plays, poems and even operas throughout history.

    Titus, the elder son of Emperor Vespasian, was born in AD 39. While on campaign in Judea, he fell in love with Berenice, the daughter of Herod Agrippa. When she and her brother Agrippa II visited Rome circa AD 75, Titus lived openly with her. In AD 79, however, at the death of his father Vespasian, Titus succeeded to the throne and was obliged to give Berenice up, "which," says Suetonius, "was painful for both of them." Berenice and Agrippa had tried to dissuade the Jews from rebelling, and it is before them that Paul pleaded his defence of Christianity in Acts 25-26.