Lepine. A very fine and rare 18K gold, enamel and diamond-set openface à toc quarter repeating watch with date and virgule escapement


Lepine. A very fine and rare 18K gold, enamel and diamond-set openface à toc quarter repeating watch with date and virgule escapement
Signed Lépine, Invenit et Fecit, Horloger du Roi à Paris, No. 2176, circa 1775
Lépine calibre gilt-finished movement with free standing barrel, virgule escapement, wolf's tooth winding, plain three arm brass balance, à toc quarter repeating on two hammers onto the case, gilt cuvette, white enamel dial, Arabic numerals, diamond-set Louis XVI hands, circular case, diamond-set and white and dark blue translucent champlevé enamel foliage decorated bezel and rim, diamond-set crown and bow, translucent royal blue enamel on guilloché enamel back, opened with Lépine's secret opening mechanism by twisting the pendant, hidden hinges, repeating through the pendant, case stamped with casemaker's initials GM for Guillaume Mermillod, cuvette signed Lépine and numbered 2176, dial signed Lépine
35 mm. diam.

Brought to you by

Dr. Nathalie Monbaron
Dr. Nathalie Monbaron

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Lot Essay

The present lot is a very fine example of a watch made by the celebrated French clock and watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814), associated with Voltaire and favoured successively by the Bourbons and Napoleon, best known for the invention of a revolutionary movement construction called the "Lépine calibre" or "calibre à pont". With the aim of developing thinner movements, he exchanged the volume and complexity of the fusée against a going barrel to power the gear train directly. He also invented the floating mainspring barrel and replaced the top plate and pillars with bridges. This made room for the balance at the side rather than on top of the movement.

Lépine's work profoundly influenced all subsequent watchmaking, notably by Abraham Louis Breguet who used a modified version of the "calibre à ponts" for his ultra slim watches.

The inscription "Invenit et Fecit" on the present watch refers to its movement, the famous Lépine calibre. It is furthermore fitted with a "virgule" escapement which Lépine claimed to be the inventor around 1750. It derived its name from the shape of the moving part of the balance staff, resembling a "comma" or "virgule" in French.

In addition to its Lépine calibre movement, the present watch features also Lépine's repeating mechanism: by depressing the pendant the repeating spring is wound and the hour and quarter racks, mounted on the repeating spring barrel arbor, engage the hammers that strike hours and quarter hours onto the inside of the case band. It is furthermore fitted with his "secret" opening mechanism, releasing the back cover by twisting the pendant, and hidden hinges.

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