• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1417

    Rare Watches Including Nautilus 40 Part II

    14 November 2016, Geneva

  • Lot 196

    Henry Capt. A very fine, rare and attractive 18K gold and enamel openface two-train quarter repeating musical automaton watch with four actions



    Henry Capt. A very fine, rare and attractive 18K gold and enamel openface two-train quarter repeating musical automaton watch with four actions
    Signed Hy. Capt à Genève, no. 450, circa 1810
    MOVEMENT: manual, two-train, cylinder escapement, pierced and engraved single-footed cock, diamond endstone, quarter repeating with two hammers on two gongs, musical pin barrel with 6 vibrating steel blades, a steel cam fixed on top of the pin barrel driving the four automatons, music and automaton activated by a button in the band
    DIAL: eccentric engine-turned gold, Breguet numerals, finely painted polychrome enamel classical landscape view, applied vari-coloured gold automaton scene depicting a gentleman playing a lyre while cupid to the right plays the kettle drums, to the left a bird in an arbour woos its companion, all in unison with the music
    CASE: 18K gold, ribbed band, repeating through the pendant, hinged gilt metal cuvette, 58 mm. diam.
    SIGNED: on the movement ring, case and movement ring numbered 450

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    This watch is the work of the exceptional Genevan watchmaker Henry Capt and is one of the few known watches by him to be fully signed. It exhibits several unusual features; the musical movement is enclosed between the plates with a pinned barrel instead of the more usual sur-plateau type. This technically challenging arrangement allows the automaton to operate unhindered and gives a more pleasing musical sound. The automaton is of higher specification than most with four animations on the dial. The arm of the musician moves to play the lyre and most unusually both the cherubs arms move to play the drums, a charming scene of two billing doves in an arbor, one dove appears when the music starts and disappears at the end of the tune. The vari-coloured gold scene impresses by the delicately chased details, enhanced by the finely painted enamel background landscape view, demonstrating the celebrated art of enamel miniatures originating from Geneva in the early 19th century.

    Henry-Daniel Capt (1773 - ?)
    Henry-Daniel or Henri Capt, together with Isaac Piguet and Philippe Meylan, was one of the leading manufacturers of musical automata at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Most of his work is not signed, although he sometimes scratched his name on his movements they are rarely fully signed. He specialized in the production of complicated watches, musical and automaton timepieces also for the Chinese market. Around 1789 Capt settled in Geneva and worked for several renowned companies such as Jaquet-Droz, Godet, Leschot and his brother-in-law Isaac Daniel Piguet. When Piguet left to enter a partnership with Philippe-Samuel Meylan in 1811, Henry Capt continued to work first on his own, later with his son Charles Henry, until around 1830, when he joined forces with Aubert and son, Place Bel-Air in Geneva.