The engraving on the back plate denotes: A, 'Avant', and 'R', 'Retard': for the purpose of altering the movement of the mechanisms.
Existing examples this type of snuff bottles made for the Chinese market are extremely rare. Compare with three very similar snuff bottles, the first two examples are both decorated with quatrelobed panels, instead of the scalloped-form panels as with the present bottle, and enamelled on blue-ground, included in the exhibition, Snuff Bottles in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1991, nos. 23 (see fig. 1) and 24. The third on a green-enamel ground and with oval panels, from the Sandberg Watch Collection, sold at Antiquorum, Geneva, 31 March 2001, lot 50.
All three cited examples and the present bottle are likely to be from the same workshop in Geneva, Switzerland, and were exported to China where they were likely to be presented to the Qing court. Compare the enamelling of the flowers with those painted on a pocket watch in the Beijing Palace Museum, which was produced in 1820 and identified as a timepiece that was made in the factory established by Edouard Bovet, included in the exhibition, Moments of Eternity, Macau, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 78 (see fig. 2).
It is interesting to note the basse-taille, 'low cut', design used to decorate the body of the snuff bottle. This enamelling technique was first developed in 13th century Italy; the method involves a design being engraved or carved in low relief onto a metal body after which a transparent vitreous enamel is applied over the surface resulting in an impressive and effective play of light on the design. The basse-taille technique was adopted by artisans in Guangzhou in the 18th century, and a number of this type of enamelled wares were sent as tributes to the Palace, cf. a blue-enamelled basin, illustrated by Yang Boda, Tributes from Guangdong to the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1987, p. 89, no. 56 (see fig. 3).