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    Sale 1357

    Important Watches

    17 November 2008, Geneva

  • Lot 376

    Lepine. A very fine and rare 18K gold and enamel openface à toc quarter repeating watch with date and virgule escapement


    Price Realised  


    Lepine. A very fine and rare 18K gold and enamel openface à toc quarter repeating watch with date and virgule escapement
    Signed Lépine, Invenit et Fecit, Horloger du Roi à Paris, No. 5150, circa 1780
    Lépine calibre gilt-finished movement with free standing barrel, virgule escapement, wolf's tooth winding, plain three arm brass balance, à toc quarter repeating on one hammer onto the case, gilt cuvette, white enamel dial, Breguet numerals, outer Arabic date ring, central date hand, circular case, white and dark blue translucent champlevé enamel foliage decorated bezel and rim, translucent purple enamel on guilloché enamel back decorated with small gold stars, opened with Lépine's secret opening mechanism by twisting the pendant, inside back with engraved inscription The heart that loves never grows old. N. to E.J. on her marriage, repeating through the pendant, case stamped GM, cuvette signed Lépine and numbered 5150, dial signed Lépine
    52 mm. diam.

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    The present lot is a very fine example for a watch made by the celebrated French clock and watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814), associated with Voltaire and favoured successively by the Bourbons and Napoleon, best known for the invention of a revolutionary movement construction called the "Lépine calibre" or "calibre à pont". With the aim of developing thinner movements, he exchanged the volume and complexity of the fusée against a going barrel to power the gear train directly. He also invented the floating mainspring barrel and replaced the top plate and pillars with bridges. This made room for the balance at the side rather than on top of the movement.

    Lépine's work profoundly influenced all subsequent watchmaking, notably by Abraham Louis Breguet who used a modified version of the "calibre ponts" for his ultra slim watches.

    The inscription "Invenit et Fecit" on the present watch refers to its movement, the famous Lépine calibre. It is furthermore fitted with a "virgule" escapement which Lépine claimed to be the inventor around 1750. It derived its name from the shape of the moving part of the balance staff, resembling a "comma" or "virgule" in French.

    In addition to its Lépine calibre movement, the present watch features also 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 hammer that strike hours and quarter hours onto the inside of the case band. It is furthermore fitted with his "secret" opening mechanism, releasing the back cover by twisting the pendant, hidden hinges and the distinctive dial design found only on his watches made towards the end of the 18th century.