Henry-Daniel Capt. An Exceptionally Rare 18k Gold and Enamel Keywound Openface Two-Train Musical Repeating Pocket Watch with Concealed Erotic D’amour Automaton
THE MEL AND NOEL BLANC COLLECTION Known as ‘The Man of 1000 Voices’, Mel Blanc possessed a talent that can only be described as a natural gift, magical, extraordinary and everlasting. Giving our favorite cartoon characters their "character", it's estimated that over 250 million people around the world hear and recognize his voice magic each and every day. From Bugs Bunny's "What's up Doc?", Daffy Duck's "You're Despicable" or Tweety Pie's "Oooh I taut I taw a Puddy Tat" you're hearing Mel Blanc. In fact, virtually every Looney Tunes character in every Warner Bros. cartoon has spoken to you thanks to Mel. From Taz, Sylvester, Marvin the Martian, Porky or Pepe to Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn and Speedy Gonzalez... all the voices you know and love were created by him. Even Woody Woodpecker and Barney Rubble and Dino of the Flintstones were Mel when he ventured out to other Animations Studios. For Noel, his childhood was special, entertained by his father’s vast menagerie every day. A little less well known than his characters was his extensive watch collection, which included over 500 watches and clocks. Reserved for his friends who would often visit him at home, he would proudly display his collection in glass cabinets, preserving them as delicate trophies to be admired. Collecting since the early 1940s, Mel had a museum of his own including perpetual calendars, repeaters, automatons and more, some he acquired directly from the watch factories he frequented several times a year in Switzerland, in watch havens such as Chaux de Fonds and Le Locle. It was Mel’s wife Estelle who first recognized his preoccupation with time. She was always waiting for Mel to study every watch on exhibition in every jewelry store, antique shop or museum they passed by so, finally she decided to purchase one as a gift for him. On his birthday in 1946, Estelle chose a Patek Philippe minute repeating pocket watch at a Venice, California, antique store. Mel of course knew the name and reputation of Patek, but was absolutely beside himself when he found out that his wife had spent $375.00 for the watch. Later he was a lot happier when he saw the same watch at Tiffany's in New York at a substantially higher price. It was certainly Patek Philippe that captivated Mel, he is frequently pictured wearing his beloved perpetual calendars, namely the reference 2499, (please see Lot 20 in this sale). However, Mel pursued many brands and enjoyed timepieces that carried interesting provenance, for example, a rose gold oversized Zenith chronograph which once belonged to actor Mario Lanza whose family were friends and neighbors to the Blancs, (please see Lot 22 in this sale).Mel has been said to have "a built-in clock of his own." His fascination with accuracy, the fact that he could master almost any pitch with absolute perfection was a catalyst for his love of both watches as well as cars and may help to account for his fellowship with mechanical counterparts. His many years as a musician, conductor, host performer and voice person in radio, television, movies and cartoons demanded split-second timing and Mel was always impeccable. The master of timing, Jack Benny, was Mel's "boss" and one of his closest friends. Mel even got Jack interested in collecting watches, including a pair of 1951 Jaeger LeCoultre cufflinks, (please see Lot 25 in this sale), which Jack gave to Noel on his 13th birthday. It only took a few years before Noel was as interested as his father in timepieces. He loved learning the history of the great watchmakers as told through the skills and voices of his father. "Our collection is evolutionary" he would say. Noel and his father would visit museums together, marveling in the history behind many of the brands and becoming friends with designers and experts such as Gerald Genta and Dr. Helmut Crott. Owning a vast array of Patek Philippe pocket watches, some are archived in the first Alan Banbery publishing, where Noel is given credit for his collection. In accordance, Mel's scholarship in the field of Horology was recognized when he was made a "Fellow" of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors in the 1970's. We thank Noel Blanc for his contribution to this collection for sale.
Henry-Daniel Capt. An Exceptionally Rare 18k Gold and Enamel Keywound Openface Two-Train Musical Repeating Pocket Watch with Concealed Erotic D’amour Automaton


Henry-Daniel Capt. An Exceptionally Rare 18k Gold and Enamel Keywound Openface Two-Train Musical Repeating Pocket Watch with Concealed Erotic D’amour Automaton
Signed Henry Capt, Genève, No. 879, Circa 1815
Movement: Manual, fire-gilded double train movement with cylinder escapement controlled by a gold balance, small gilt cock, barrel-type musical mechanism activating eight tuned sound blades
Dial: Gold, Breguet numerals
Case: 18k gold, enameled animated d’amour scene concealed under the hinged cover activated by a pin at 6 o’clock, 58mm diam.
Signed: Signed in typical for Capt manner, on the movement ring and on the reverse of the dial

Sale room notice
Please note that this pocket watch is accompanied by a winding key.

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Lot Essay

Henry-Daniel Capt (1773-ca 1840)

One of the most famous Swiss automata makers, Henry-Daniel Capt came from a wealthy family, his father was a member of the Grand Conseil of the Canton de Vaud. In his youth, he worked for a legendary maker of large automata, Jaquet Droz. When settled on his own and established, in 1802, a partnership with his brother in law, Isaac Daniel Piguet, his watches showed a clear Droz’ influence. After 1811, when Piguet joined Philippe Meylan, Capt worked on his own, creating his most spectacular pieces. He sometimes also would supply the new firm of his brother in law, Piguet & Meylan, as well as some others, which is the reason why his watches are rarely signed. This watch is one of only four known from Capt’s musical erotic automata collection that was signed by him. Another one, although not so splendid, No. 422, is in the Swiss National Museum (Inv. LM 74729).

In 1815 he was listed in Geneva as a horloger-mécanicien, établisseur, with many workmen. This watch is from that period, with a modern (at the time) form of the cock, the enamel painted by the same artist who enameled many cases for Piguet & Meylan and the musical mechanism driving the automaton whose figures “dance” to the music. According to research, the most recent Christie's sale of a similar Capt pocket watch realized 146,500 Swiss francs, in 2013.

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