• Lot 256

    Jules Jürgensen. An important and possibly unique silver openface keywound lever watch with Revolutionary or decimal time and seconds indication, made for the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris


    Price Realised  


    Jules Jürgensen. An important and possibly unique silver openface keywound lever watch with Revolutionary or decimal time and seconds indication, made for the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris
    Signed Jules Jürgensen, movement no. 10'293, case numbered 10'293 and 69'415, manufactured in 1865
    Cal. 21''' gilt-finished Jürgensen club tooth lever escapement, 15 jewels, bimetallic compensation balance with gold screws, stainless steel crown wheel with 25 teeth, silver cuvette, white enamel dial, Roman numerals 1-0 for the decimal hours, outer Arabic decimal five divisions 1-100, constant seconds with decimal 1-100 indication, circular plain case, gold hinges, case, cuvette, dial and movement numbered and signed Jules Jürgensen
    55 mm. diam.

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    The present lot is a highly unusual and most probably unique example of a watch made by Jules Jürgensen featuring the decimal time system, using the numbers 1 to 0 (instead of X) for the 10 hours and 1 to 100 for the 100 seconds. As confirmed by the copy of the worksheet, it was made for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1867 where it was most certainly exhibited with other masterpieces from Jürgensen's workshop.

    Decimal time was introduced during the French Revolution in the decree of 5 October 1793. Like the metric system, the new time measuring system was one of the many reforms undertaken by the National Convention. Although many clocks and watches were produced indicating both standard time with numbers 1-24 and decimal time with numbers 1-10, decimal time never caught on. It was not officially used until the beginning of the Republican year III, 22 September 1794, and was officially suspended on 7 April 1795. The French Republican Calendar, which was introduced at the same time and divided the month into three décades of 10 days each, eventually also fell out of use, and was abolished at the end of 1805.

    In 1897 another attempt at the decimalization of time was made when the Bureau des Longitudes created the Commission de décimalisation du temps with the mathematician Henri Poincaré as secretary. The commission proposed a compromise of retaining the 24-hour day, but dividing each hour into 100 decimal minutes, and each minute into 100 seconds. The plan did not gain acceptance and was abandoned in 1900.

    The decimal time system never proved popular, only a small quantity of such watches was ever made and even fewer have survived to date, making those reappearing in public particularly rare finds.

    Exposition Universelle Paris 1867
    In 1864, Emperor Napoleon III decreed that an international exposition should be held in Paris in 1867. A commission was appointed with Prince Jérôme Napoléon as president, under whose direction the preliminary work began. The site chosen for the Exposition Universelle was the Champ de Mars, the great military parade ground of Paris, which covered an area of 119 acres (48 ha) and to which was added the island of Billancourt, of 52 acres (21 ha).

    The exposition took place from 1 April to 31 October 1867 with 50,226 exhibitors and was attended by 9,238,967 persons (including exhibitors and employees). At the time, the Exposition Universelle was the largest international exhibition ever held.

    These world expositions were especially focused on trade and famous for the display of technological inventions and advancements, bringing together state of the art science and technology from around the world.


    Acquired by Gerd Ahrens on 14 November 1974 at Auktion Koller, Zürich, Lot 3364
    Until 23 November 2007: Gerd Ahrens Collection
    Sold on 23 November 2007 at Auktionen Dr. Crott, "Sammlung Gerd Ahrens - Luzern. 400 Jahre Entwicklung der Uhrenhemmung", lot 456
    Since 23 November 2007: private collection

    The pocket watch collection of Gerd Ahrens
    The collection of the famous German collector Gerd Ahrens who passed away in Switzerland in 2005, was one of the most significant private collections ever assembled, impressively documenting the technical history of the pocket watch. Following his motto "rare escapements in pocket watches", Mr. Ahrens systematically choose watches with unusual escapements, striking mechanisms or winding systems, covering many technical achievements ranging from the 16th to the early 20th century. Over a period of more than 60 years, he acquired over 700 significant watches, many of them unique pieces. More than 500 of these watches, including the present lot, are extensively described and illustrated in Die Taschenuhrensammlung von Gerd Ahrens by Christian Pfeiffer-Belli, Peter Friess, Josef M. Stadl, Wolf Brüggemann, Norbert Enders.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Prominently illustrated and described in Die Taschenuhrensammlung von Gerd Ahrens, by Christian Pfeiffer-Belli (editor), p. 456, vol. 2, Urban Jürgensen Sønner. Urmagerfamilien Jürgensen I fire generationer og deres efterfoolgere by John M. R. Knudsen.

    For a short biography of Jules Jürgensen and his work in the field of chronometry see La Mesure du Temps en Mer et les Horlogers Suisses by Estelle Fallet, pp. 79-81.