Ilbery. An extremely fine and important 18K gold and enamel openface pocket chronometer with Peto cross detent escapement, the enamel attributed to Jean-Louis Richter, made for the Chinese market
Ilbery. An extremely fine and important 18K gold and enamel openface pocket chronometer with Peto cross detent escapement, the enamel attributed to Jean-Louis Richter, made for the Chinese market
Ilbery. An extremely fine and important 18K gold and enamel openface pocket chronometer with Peto cross detent escapement, the enamel attributed to Jean-Louis Richter, made for the Chinese market
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On lots marked with an + in the catalogue, VAT wil… Read more ILBERYExceptional Chronometer for the Chinese Market
ILBERY. AN EXTREMELY FINE AND IMPORTANT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL OPENFACE POCKET CHRONOMETER WITH PETO CROSS DETENT ESCAPEMENT, THE ENAMEL ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN-LOUIS RICHTER, MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET

SIGNED ILBERY, LONDON, NO. 5995, LONDON HALLMARKS FOR 1801-02

Details
ILBERY. AN EXTREMELY FINE AND IMPORTANT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL OPENFACE POCKET CHRONOMETER WITH PETO CROSS DETENT ESCAPEMENT, THE ENAMEL ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN-LOUIS RICHTER, MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
Signed Ilbery, London, No. 5995, London hallmarks for 1801-02
Movement: Manual, gilt brass full plate, fusée and chain, Peto cross detent escapement with steel escape wheel, bimetallic compensation balance with three wedged temperature compensation weights, meantime adjustment screws, free-sprung helical balance spring, pivoted detent, engraved English style cock, signed
Dial: White enamel, subsidiary seconds
Case: Three-body, scallop-edged, back cover very finely painted with three children feeding chicks, background of an Alpine scene, the bezels, pendant and bow decorated with dark blue, white and red champlevé enamel in a repeated pattern, fixed cuvette decorated with multicoloured champlevé enamel, 63 mm. diam.
Literature
Another watch with similar scene entitled ‘Feeding the Ducks’, was sold by Antiquorum Geneva, ‘The Sandberg Watch Collection’, 31 March - 1 April 2001, lot 371.

Several watches made by William Ilbery for the Chinese Market are illustrated and described in: ‘A Voyage Through Time, the Masis Collection of Horological Masterpieces’, Richard Chadwick, 2020, chapter 8, pp. 356-391.

A watch by Ilbery with enameled scene with children playing after a painting by William Hamilton is illustrated and described in: ‘The Majesty of the Chinese Market Watch – The Life and Collection of Gustave Loup of Tientsin and Geneva, Watch Dealer and Collector ( 1876-1961), Ian White, 2019, p.178 and p. 183.
Special notice

On lots marked with an + in the catalogue, VAT will be charged at 7.7% on both the premium as well as the hammer price.

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Lot Essay

This exceptional timepiece made for the Chinese market impressively combines the work of two of the most celebrated artists of their time: the high-precision movement of the watchmaker William Ilbery of London and the lavish gold case distinguished by the magnificence of the finely painted enamel miniature attributed to the Genevan enamellist Jean-Louis Richter (1766-1841).

Highly unusual in being a precision chronometer, watches intended for the Chinese market, although always highly finished, were generally fitted with either duplex or lever escapements, but hardly ever with a chronometer escapement. Furthermore, the present watch also features a rare and unusual form of the spring detent escapement - the ‘Peto cross detent’ invented by James Peto (active c. 1780-1800), who worked for the firm of Brockbanks, around 1783-1784.

The cases Ilbery used for his timepieces were always of the highest quality and decorated by the best Geneva enamellers of the time including Jean-Louis Richter and Jean-François-Victor Dupont. The Charming bucolic painted enamel scenes such as that of the present watch derived from English genre paintings by artists from the Royal Academy such as Joshua Reynolds, Francis Wheatley, William Hamilton and William Redmore Bigg, who specialized in images of romanticized English rural life in the last quarter of the 18th century. Their paintings were engraved and sold as prints which were enormously popular and were used as models for the Genevan enamellers.

William Ilbery (c. 1760-1839)
Active in London from 1780 in Goswell Street, he moved to Duncan Terrace towards the end of the 18th century. Following James Cox in London and Jaquet-Droz in Switzerland, he also specialized in the production of luxury watches for the Chinese market.

In 1836 Ilbery settled in Fleurier, left to Macao in 1839 and then to Canton. There he was known to have become friendly with Bovet and they met regularly, even though they were rivals not only in business but also in their private lives. Both were courting Anna Vaucher, daughter of Charles-Henry Vaucher of Fleurier, one of Bovet's competitors in Canton. Ilbery was in fact engaged to Anna Vaucher and even though he was constantly on travels Anna remained faithful to him and resisted the proposals of Bovet who hoped one day to win her over. Sadly no marriage ever took place since Anna became ill and died in 1845.

Ilbery's early watches were very much in the English style, fitted with full plate movements and duplex escapements. His later movements showed the influence of the free standing barrels of the Lepine calibre as used in Jaquet Droz's Swiss production signed in London and that of William Anthony, who worked in London. William Anthony (1764 - 1844), another celebrated watchmaker of his day, was sixteen years senior to Ilbery. He influenced greatly the latter's work and contributed substantially to the development of Chinese watches, however it is still William Ilbery who is known as the "father" of the Chinese watches.

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