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ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT. A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND MAGNIFICENT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL, PEARL-SET MUSICAL, PERFUME FLASK AND AUTOMATON AMPHORA-FORM WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT. A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND MAGNIFICENT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL, PEARL-SET MUSICAL, PERFUME FLASK AND AUTOMATON AMPHORA-FORM WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT. A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND MAGNIFICENT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL, PEARL-SET MUSICAL, PERFUME FLASK AND AUTOMATON AMPHORA-FORM WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
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ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT. A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND MAGNIFICENT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL, PEARL-SET MUSICAL, PERFUME FLASK AND AUTOMATON AMPHORA-FORM WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
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ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT. A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND MAGNIFICENT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL, PEARL-SET MUSICAL, PERFUME FLASK AND AUTOMATON AMPHORA-FORM WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET

SWISS, THE ENAMEL ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN-FRANCOIS-ADAM HESS, GENEVA, CIRCA 1805

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ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT. A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND MAGNIFICENT 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL, PEARL-SET MUSICAL, PERFUME FLASK AND AUTOMATON AMPHORA-FORM WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
SWISS, THE ENAMEL ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN-FRANCOIS-ADAM HESS, GENEVA, CIRCA 1805
Movement: Manual, oval full plate, fixed barrel, cylinder escapement, steel escapement wheel, silver four-arm balance. Music and automaton with five-wheel train, small two-wing fly governor, pinned barrel with six stacked tuned teeth, automaton animated by two cams driven by the musical train
Dial: White enamel, Breguet numerals within an oval blue enamelled plate with aperture for the visible polished steel diamond-set balance, white enamel subsidiary seconds above
Case: Painted enamel panel below the watch decorated with a scene of a mother and her child holding grapes, opening to reveal the varicoloured gold automaton scene which depicts a boy to the left raising and lowering a stick, trying to encourage a dog to jump over it, to the right, a young lady plays a guitar, finely painted background with a classical urn upon a plinth within a wooded landscape, the body of the case richly set with graduated pearls and inlaid with polychrome champlevé enamel, sides with foliate engraving, set with pearls and polychrome champlevé enamel, the handles set with graduated pearls, the oval painted enamel panel over the watch movement decorated with a pair of nesting doves within a garland of flowers, panel below decorated with a finely painted pastoral scene of a herdsman driving his cattle to water beside a bridge, a village and castle beyond, 102 mm. high, 58 mm. wide

Brought to you by

Alexandre Bigler
Alexandre Bigler Vice President, Head of Watches, Asia Pacific

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Lot Essay

Made in Geneva for the Chinese export market, this extraordinarily beautiful and precious ‘montre de fantasie’ with music and automaton is regarded as one of the great mechanical and artistic masterpieces to have been made in early 19th century Geneva. A wondrous object, it still possesses the power to enchant more than 200 years after it was made, a superb jewel and mechanical marvel that would make a world-class addition to even the most exalted collection.

Originally one half of a mirror image pair of amphoras, its long-separated twin had for many years resided in one of the world’s best collections of watches, owned by Lord Sandberg CBE (1927-2017), former chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. His collection was sold in a landmark auction in Geneva in 2001. At the auction, the mirror image pair to the present amphora was acquired by the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva where it is now displayed along with other exceptional enamels, automata and watches in the museum’s matchless collection. Remarkably, the present amphora had remained completely unknown and presumed lost. In fact, it had been in the ownership of a private Japanese family in whose possession it had been for generations. Its rediscovery in 2001 was as a direct result of the then owner recognizing Lord Sandberg’s amphora as its long lost mirror image pair. When the family sold the present amphora in 2002, it realized over 4 million Swiss Francs – a world record for any enamelled watch.
It had long been a tradition to send objects to China in pairs, According to Alfred Chapuis, ‘Le Miroir de la Séduction’, Musée Patek Philippe, Geneva, 2010, p. 28, "the Chinese love symmetry; all gifts to a superior, and above all the Emperor, were given in pairs." It seems certain that many pairs of Chinese Market watches and boxes were split up as a result of looting by the British and French during the raid on the Summer palace in Peking in 1860.

Attributable stylistically to Piguet and Capt, the most important Geneva makers of complicated small automata and watches in the early 19th century, the making of the present musical automaton amphora watch was a feat that required quite exceptional skill to achieve.

Recent in-depth research and study suggest that the Charming painted enamel rural scenes can now be attributed to Jean-François-Adam Hess (1740 ca.-1814).
Very often, watches and precious objects made in Geneva at the beginning of the 19th century are not signed. This was most likely due to customs restrictions and the continental blockade imposed by the British to counteract continental trade under Napoleon’s reign, Geneva having been annexed to France since 1798.
Although signatures or trademarks are sometimes found inside the movements or cases, the enamels often remain anonymous. It is only by comparison with the rare signed pieces that have survived that we can today attribute the achievements of the Geneva enamel painters to a particular workshop. The enamel paintings of the the two Amphoras (the present example and its pair in the Patek Philippe Museum) have historically been attributed to Jean-Louis Richter (1766-1841), or even to Jean-Abraham Lissignol (1749-1819). However, in comparing the enamel scene of a pocket watch with enamel signed ‘Hess’, acquired by the Patek Philippe Museum in 2005, it is now possible to suggest a new attribution for the amphora enamels to the artist named ‘Hess’.

Very little information is known to date about this artist who was active in Geneva in the first half of the 19th century. There are even several enamel painters with this surname, which further complicates any attribution (the last two being naturally too young to have made these enamels):

• Jean-François-Adam Hess (c.1740-1814);
• F.-Léonard Hess (1772-1875);
• François-Jacob (1773-1846);
• Moyse Ludwig Hess (1778-1851);
• Pierre-Marc Hess (1800-1841);
• Jules-Marc Hess (1802-1841).

The scene depicted on the Amphoras – L’Amour maternel (Maternal Love), is perhaps painted after a composition by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842), and is seen several times on watches or objects of the
same period. However, such idealized images were largely influenced by English genre paintings by artists from the Royal Academy such as Joshua Reynolds, Francis Wheatley, William Hamilton and William Redmore Bigg, who specialized in depictions 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.

Piguet & Capt (active between 1802 and 1810-1811)
Henry-Daniel Capt (1773-1841) and Isaac-Daniel Piguet (1775-1841), two young watchmakers from Le Chenit, a small village in the Vallée de Joux (Canton of Vaud), came to Geneva to work at the beginning of the 19th century. They joined forces on 16 Ventôse of the year X of the Republic (March 7, 1802), under the name of Piguet & Capt, and specialised in the production of prestige timepieces (watches, snuffboxes, bonbonnières, jewellery, etc.), incorporating horological complications ( quarter-repeater), and scenes with automata, with or without music. They were among the first in Geneva to use the musical mechanism with pinned cylinder (or planted pins) and tuned vibrating blades.
This mechanism was invented in 1796 by Antoine Favre-Salomon (1734-1824), a Genevan clockmaker and mechanician, who presented it to the Société des Arts (created in 1776) for use by all. This new mechanism plays music by making steel blades of different lengths vibrate by means of a cylinder fitted with “goupilles piquées” (pinned pins) or “picots plantés” (planted pimples) according to the expressions of the time. This cylinder is either driven by a gear and motor barrel, or is directly the barrel containing the mainspring. The blades, tuned to the tones of the musical scale, are arranged like a keyboard – hence the early term “musique à peigne” (comb music). In its early days, this original mechanism was incorporated into small precious objects; only later was it put into boxes made of wood or other materials, more or less richly decorated, in an autonomous way.
The partnership between Capt and Piguet was dissolved at the end of 1810 or the very beginning of 1811. While Henry-Daniel Capt continued to work alone for a few years, Isaac-Daniel Piguet joined Philippe-Samuel Meylan (1772-1845) in a new partnership.
Henry-Daniel Capt, Isaac-Daniel Piguet and Philippe-Samuel Meylan were the main Genevan manufacturers of miniature automata and music pieces in the first third of the 19th century. Although most of their works are unsigned, they sometimes engraved their names or stamped their trademarks on their movements.

Provenance:
Private collection in Japan.
Private collection until sold: Antiquorum Geneva, 13 April 2002, lot 607, CHF 4,018,500.
An important private collection.

The mirror-image pair to the present watch was sold: Antiquorum Geneva, ‘The Sandberg Watch Collection’, March 31-April 1, 2001, lot 47. Now in the Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva.


We are grateful to Eric Tortella for his assistance and study in researching this watch.

Literature:
Camerer Cuss, Terence, ‘The Sandberg Watch Collection’,
Geneva, Antiquorum Editions, 1998, no. 309, pp. 402-403.

Friess, Peter, ‘Patek Philippe Museum, The Emergence
of the Portable Watch’, Geneva, Patek Philippe Museum
Editions, 2015, vol. III, pp. 500-501.

For further reading on watches for the Chinese market see: ‘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.

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