• Important Watches, including A auction at Christies

    Sale 1391

    Important Watches, including A Gentleman's Pursuit for Excellence, Part I

    12 November 2012, Geneva

  • Lot 84

    Agassiz. A very rare and fine and large 14K gold openface World Time keyless lever watch with original fitted box


    Price Realised  


    Agassiz. A very rare and fine and large 14K gold openface World Time keyless lever watch with original fitted box
    Signed Agassiz Watch Co, Swiss, movement no. 4'554'012, case no. 4'554'018, circa 1945
    Cal. 17''' mechanical movement, 17 jewels, silvered matte dial, three color gold and engine turned wind rose, applied gold dot and Roman numerals, stylised gold hands, outer ring with black enamel names of 39 world locations, all centred by a revolving black and silvered ring calibrated for the Arabic diurnal and nocturnal 24 hours, circular plain case, snap on back, case and movement signed
    45.8 mm. diam.

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    With Agassiz original fitted wooden presentation box.

    The present World Time watch stands out by virtue of its excellent overall condition and its beautiful and very rare hand-engraved dial, featuring a three-coloured rosette-style star. The stylized hour hand is also quite unusual in design, resembling a bird in flight to various world destinations.

    It may also be noted that the movement is engraved AXA, which means it was meant for export. The case of this World Time watch was made by the famed Geneva company Wenger, one of Patek Philippe's premier case makers. The case is also marked with the number 1 on the inside, which signifies that it is the first such watch of a series.

    Louis Cottier
    Born in 1894 in Carouge, Geneva, Cottier had inherited the talents of his father Emmanuel, a renowned maker of watches and automata. Emmanuel had invented a World Time system in 1885 which he presented to the Socit des Arts and which, some forty years later, served as inspiration to his son.

    Louis studied watchmaking at Geneva's horological school and distinguished himself as a highly talented student, who, at a very young age already, received several prizes, including two from Patek Philippe. Following his studies, he worked as a watchmaker for Jaeger's Geneva branch before opening his own business. Louis Cartier's career started in the back room of his wife's book and stationary shop at Carouge's 45 rue Vautier where, during 13 years, he manufactured fine desk clocks, pocket watches, wristwatches and prototypes. In 1931 he introduced his highly practical and elegant invention of the "heures universelles", featuring a central local time with hour and minute hands, linked to a rotating 24 hour ring, and bordered by either an independently revolving time zone bezel or outer dial ring (both manually adjusted). By aligning the local time zone with the 12 o'clock point of the local time dial, the watch would display the correct time in both hours and minutes, night and day, for every time zone in the world simultaneously, all on a single dial and while allowing easy accurate reading of local time.

    Following the success of this ingenious system, Cottier specialized in complicated world time watches and invented models of remarkably pure design for the most prestigious Geneva brands, notably Patek Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Agassiz, such as the present watch.

    Already in the early 1940s, Cottier was commissioned by Rolex to produce a small series of World Time pocket watches, reference 4262.

    In 1950 he invented the World Time system with two crowns, regarded by many one of the most practical innovations of 20th century watchmaking. In addition to a greater security and precision in the choice and maintenance of the city of reference, it offered greater protection against shocks and wear on the bezel bearing the city names. The possibility of printing the city names rather than incising them, thanks to the protective glass, resulted in greater legibility.

    Patek Philippe entrusted him with the development and fabrication of the greatest number of complicated watches, resulting in the invention and production the celebrated "dual time" wristwatch in 1954 featuring a single movement. This solved the problem of synchronizing the minute hand, a problem which existed in twin movement watches by other manufacturers. This Two Time Zone movement with two or three hands, developed in collaboration with Patek Philippe's specialists, is amongst his most successful inventions. Finished in 1957, the prototype was patented by the firm in 1959 (no. 340191).

    Louis Cottier was one of the organizers of the famous annual exhibition "Montres & Bijoux", which each year presented new creations. Even though he was considered a living legend and despite his incredible reputation he had earned in the world of horology, the ever active and brilliant Louis Cottier remained a modest and humble man.

    He would certainly have been surprised to know that, after his death in 1966, his workshop was given to the Muse d'Horlogerie et d'Emaillerie where it can still be seen today. A similar tribute was made after his death when his fellow citizens of Carouge, as homage to the man and his contributions, named a square after him.

    Louis Cottier's timeless design is still today the standard used for mechanical world time watches.