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SWISS. AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD, ENAMEL AND PEARL-SET KEYWOUND MUSICAL WATCH WITH FOUR FIGURE AUTOMATA, MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
To satisfy the Chinese market, master goldsmiths, enamellers and technicians from England, France and Switzerland respectively, combined their skills and artistry to manufacture increasingly lavish and whimsical timepieces and objects of fantasy in all guises. A stunning marriage of 19th century Swiss automata technology and exquisite craftsmanship, the present watch epitomises the creativity of watch makers in Europe to satisfy the ever-growing demand for clocks and automata by the Imperial court and its courtiers in China, as well as European aristocrats and royal families, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. The frst automata appeared in Geneva in the late 18th century, small technical marvels imitating the movements of living creatures or beings, ranging from simpler 'Bras en l'Air' figures whose arms would indicate the time to incredibly complex works such as pastoral, the present theatre or other scenes. Some of these automata were ftted with repeating or musical mechanisms and were highly appreciated works of art not only in Europe but also by Chinese and Ottoman dignitaries. The 'Theatre' or ballroom automation is perhaps one of the rarest automata creations ever made. It is believed less than 8 pieces were ever manufactured and the present watch can be attributed to the firm of Du Bois et Fils based in Neuchatel, Switzerland from 1738 to 1808. The firm was responsible for other automata masterpieces such as the 'Tightrope Dancer' and 'Moses'. All theatre watches known use similar ebauches leading us to believe that they were all made by the same maker however each watch is decorated slightly different to one another. A very similar watch, however not set with pearls was sold in Geneva in 1996 for 366, 500 Swiss Francs and is now on display in the prestigious Patek Philippe museum in Geneva. A similar watch is described in Les Montres Chinoises, Skatkine, Geneva, p. 84. Further examples are also illustrated and described in Le Monde de Automates, pages 53-56.
SWISS. AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD, ENAMEL AND PEARL-SET KEYWOUND MUSICAL WATCH WITH FOUR FIGURE AUTOMATA, MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET

UNSIGNED, ATTRIBUTED TO DU BOIS ET FILS, "THE THEATRE", CIRCA 1800

Details
SWISS. AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD, ENAMEL AND PEARL-SET KEYWOUND MUSICAL WATCH WITH FOUR FIGURE AUTOMATA, MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
UNSIGNED, ATTRIBUTED TO DU BOIS ET FILS, "THE THEATRE", CIRCA 1800
Keywound full plate gilt finished movement, cylinder escapement, plain three-arm brass balance, white enamel dial, Roman numerals, winding aperture between 8 and 9 o'clock for the time and a second aperture at 4 o'clock for winding the music and automata, large circular case, pearl-set bezels, band finely decorated with rectangular panels of translucent royal blue enamel over engine-turned ground with gold patterned borders, back finely decorated with a polychrome enamel scene of the Jura mountains with a lakeside castle and surrounding village, centred by a pagoda-like theatre of chased vari-coloured gold with statues of neo-classical dressed women painted in grisaille enamel, flanked by vari-coloured gold automated musicians of a lady on the right playing a harp and a gentleman to the left beating time to the music, four further colourfully enamelled figures dancing in time to the music, moving forward towards one another and then apart back to the corners of the stage, on a revolving stage with mirrored walls under a multi-coloured ceiling, music and automata activated by a lever in the band, unsigned
62 mm. diam.

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Lot Essay

US$470,000-650,000

With a fitted enamel form key.

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