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, which between around 1788 and 1790 he fitted with a wolf's tooth wheel train wound through the cuvette. The cases featured a hidden hinge and fixed bezel. The most obvious characteristic of this particular period were however the dials respectively their highly unusual numbering system using a combination of Roman and Arabic numerals, all surrounded by a thin decorative line. Together with the interlaced hands these three characteristics marked Jean-Antoine Lépine's ultimate style development.
Adolphe Chapiro states in Jean-Antoine Lépine Horloger (1720-1814), p. 171, that Lépine used the combination of Roman and Arabic numerals only on dials of watches numbered between 5400 and 5700. These watches were produced during a very short period, roughly between 1788 and 1790. Besides the combination of different numerals it is interesting to note that the 1 numeral is framed in an oval, and number 4, is marked "IV" as opposed to the more common "IIII" used by the majority of other makers. The most unusual numbering however is found on 7, 8 and 12, numbered V2, V3 and X2, corresponding to five plus 2 respectively five plus 3 and ten plus 2.
For a illustrations of comparable enamel dials and interlaced hands see op.cit., pp. 170 & 171.