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Swiss. A rare and unusual 18K gold and enamel openface quarter repeating watch with enamel libertine miniature
Swiss. A rare and unusual 18K gold and enamel openface quarter repeating watch with enamel libertine miniature

UNSIGNED, CIRCA 1785

Details
Swiss. A rare and unusual 18K gold and enamel openface quarter repeating watch with enamel libertine miniature
Unsigned, circa 1785
Gilt-finished full plate verge movement, engraved and pierced balance cock, repeating on two hammers onto a bell, brass cuvette with painted polychrome enamel scene depicting a crowd admiring the hydrogen balloon La Caroline in the air while a young lady is helped to climb up a wall by using the shoulders of a gentleman as a ladder, revealing her bare bottom admired by another group of gentlemen, engine-turned sunburst decorated silvered dial, Roman numerals, blued steel hands with skeletonized gilt arrow tips, outer railway minute divisions, circular case, engine-turned band, the back with a painted polychrome enamel scene depicting La Caroline over the Parc de Meudon, greeted by an enthusiastic public, small vignette with the painted date 15 Juillet 1784, unsigned
55 mm. diam.

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Lot Essay

The enamel miniature on the back of the present watch represents Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers' flight in the hydrogen balloon "La Caroline" from Saint-Cloud to Meudon in France on 15 July 1784 together with M. Collin-Hullin and Louis Philippe II, Duke of Chartres. The project of "La Caroline" was to build an elongated, steerable craft that followed Jean Baptiste Meusnier's proposals for a dirigible balloon. The design incorporated Meusnier's internal ballonnet (air cells), a rudder and a method of propulsion.

Jacques Alexandre César Charles (1746 -1823) was a French inventor, scientist, mathematician, and balloonist. Charles and the Robert brothers launched the world's first (unmanned) hydrogen-filled balloon in August 1783, then in December 1783, Charles and his co-pilot Nicolas-Louis Robert ascended to a height of about 1,800 feet (550 m) in a manned balloon. Their pioneering of the use of hydrogen for lift led to this type of balloon being named a Charlière (as opposed to a Montgolfière which used hot air).

Innocently called "conversation piece", watches featuring a libertine scene have been highly popular since the late 16th century. Available with a variety of representations, either painted or automated, hidden or rather blunt as the present, such watches were amusement for the wealthy not only in Europe but also in the Orient, particularly in China.

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