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    Sale 1357

    Important Watches

    17 November 2008, Geneva

  • Lot 189

    Swiss, attributed to Jaquet Droz. A fine and rare 18K gold, enamel and pearl-set musical snuff box with watch, made for the Chinese market


    Price Realised  


    Swiss, attributed to Jaquet Droz. A fine and rare 18K gold, enamel and pearl-set musical snuff box with watch, made for the Chinese market
    Unsigned, circa 1790
    The watch with keywound movement, the finely engraved and partially skeletonized gilt and polished steel musical movement with chain fusée, musical pin barrel, playing on a nest of five bells via five polished steel hammers, activated by depressing a button in the band to the back, one of the two tunes selected by a sliding lever to the front, the box of oval form, the pearl-set hinged cover with a finely painted scene depicting a couple in a classical landscape, centred by the white enamel dial, Roman numerals, pearl-set bezel, the translucent royal blue enamel and polychrome floral and foliage decorated band interspersed with stylised urns, the hinged base of similar design and centred by a painted oval miniature depicting a boy feeding birds, opening to reveal a compartment, unsigned, the inside compartment stamped with only partially visible casemaker's initials, the later backplate of the watch engraved with Chinese maker's marks
    89 mm. wide

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    The first "Chinese Market" watches were made by Jesuit missionaries during the Ming Dynasty in the late 16th century. The Emperors had an avid interest in horological and astronomical instruments, which allowed the missionaries to enter China.

    By the late 18th century, Chinese patrons requested only the finest watches, featuring complicated movements such as repeating, music or automatons. To satisfy their desire for aesthetics, the cases had to be highly enamelled with motifs representing nature or classical scenes, set with pearls and precious stones. Many of these marvels were made for the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

    The present watch and its attractive combination of a lavishly decorated case, a watch and a musical movement is perfect example for such a timepiece made by special order for a Chinese dignitary.

    Although not signed, its style and the quality of the case are typical to the work of the celebrated firm Jaquet-Droz.

    Pierre Jaquet-Droz was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1721 and died in Bienne in 1790. He was one of the most brilliant and innovative clockmakers of his era, specializing in musical and automaton watches and clocks, boxes, fans, singing birds and other ingenious playing-toys. His astonishing creations fascinated nobility, kings and emperors of the world, notably China. Pierre Jaquet-Droz travelled widely, notably in England, France and Spain. In Madrid he was condemned to death by the Inquisition for allegedly practicing black magic but was saved by the Bishop of Toledo. During the latter part of his life he took his adopted son, J.F. Leschot into business and the company continued to prosper until after his death.

    Relaunched in the 1990s, the Jaquet Droz watch company is part of the Swatch Group of Switzerland since 2000.

    The later added backplate of the watch is stamped with the Chinese signature "HANTALI", meaning "the one who gives receives", the famous hallmark owned by Vrard for decades.

    Vrard & Co. were amongst the most eminent watchmakers specialized in watches for the Chinese Market, founded in 1860 under the name Laidrich & Vrard. As of 1862, the firm started its operations in Tsientsin, followed by a branch in Shanghai which also represented Bovet. Timepieces made by Vrard ranged from simple to highly complicated pieces, the cases often made and enamelled by renowned Genevan makers, notably Louis Rosselet, Marc Dufaux, Louis Millenet, Louis Pauthex, or P.A. Champod.

    One of Vrard's most important creations was made for the Empress Cixi, resulting in the title "by appointment to the imperial family of China"
    For an illustration of Vrard's Chinese Trademark "Hantali" and history of the firm see La Montre Chinoise by Alfred Chapuis, pp. 159-160.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the musical barrel plays only two melodies and not five as stated in the printed version of the catalogue.
    Veuillez noter que cette boite joue seulement deux melodies differentes et non pas cinq comme stipule dans la version imprimee du catalogue.