With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with cream enamel dial, Breguet numerals and "Heracles and Omphale" in oxidized repoussé work on the back in 1899 and its subsequent sale on 7 November 1899.
Preserved in very good, original overall condition, the watch offered here for sale is a fine example of one of Patek Philippe's watches fitted with a repoussé case, decoration particularly popular in the 18th century, oxidized to render an antique appearance. These cases were often designed by Georges Hantz, director of the Decorative Arts Museum in Geneva and renowned for his chased and engraved watch cases and moulds for embossing cases and stamping coins or medals. The scene on the back depicts Hercules spinning wool, spindle and distaff in hand, watched by Omphale and a cupid.
Made by special order for Mary B. Russell, it is furthermore distinguished by the unusual small size for such repoussé case watch. As a matter of fact, only around a dozen such watches are known, but they are all 32 or 33 mm. in size. This is the only known example with this case diameter.
Hercules and Omphale
Wishing to expiate the murder of one of his friends, Hercules consulted the oracle of Apollo, who advised him to enter the service of Omphale, Queen of Lydia. Although Hercules was the son of Zeus and was famed for his invincible strength, he submitted to the tasks the queen devised for him to expiate his crime, including feminine tasks such as spinning.
Omphale fell in love with Hercules for his strength and physical beauty, and the couple married. This tale, found in both Greek and Roman mythology, is told with a number of variations. It proved a great source of inspiration for painters and composers.