The present watch and its exceptionally rare double virgule escapement is described and illustrated in Cecil Clutton's A Rare Lepine Watch, Antiquarian Horology, June 1967, pp. 242 & 243. Copies of this article will be delivered with the watch. According to Mr. Clutton, only three examples of watches fitted with the double virgule escapement are known to exist to date, the present watch, a small crystal-cased watch in the Ilbert collection and an eight-day skeleton watch in the collection of Dr. Sobek in Vienna.
The double virgule, an exceedingly rare variation of the virgule escapement, was invented around 1752 by Pierre Augustin Caron (1732-1799), a French watch and clockmaker and the brother-in-law of Jean Antoine Lépine. Caron was also an accomplished musician and playwriter, better known under the name of Beaumarchais, the author of "The Barber of Sevilla" and "Le Mariage de Figaro".
The virgule escapement, first devised by Lepaute but largely used by Lépine, is a variety of the cylinder escapement. Caron introduced a further set of pins to the opposite side of the escape wheel and an additional impulse curve to the staff. As this feature was extremely difficult to construct, the double virgule escapement was made in very few examples only.
The watch also features Lépine's repeating mechanism: by depressing the pendant the repeating spring is wound and the hour and quarter racks, mounted on the repeating spring barrel arbor, engage the two hammers that strike hours and quarter hours on blocks inside the case band.
Its cuvette bears the inscription Lépine Horloger de l'Impératrice et Reine à Paris, based on its date referring to Josephine de Beauharnais, Empress of France and first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte (see lot 233 in this auction).
For a note on the casemaker Pierre Benjamin Tavernier see the previous lot.