For an illustration of Bovet's mirror-polished and blued steel "Chinese" calibre see The Mirror of Seduction - Prestigious pairs of "Chinese" Watches, Patek Philippe Museum, p. 182.
Manufactured by the eminent house of Bovet and featuring such an uncommon yet highly symbolic enamel decoration, the present watch is a particularly fine and rare example of a timepiece made for the Chinese market.
Symbolism has always played an important part in Chinese culture, used to relay a message via a work of art, telling historical and legendary stories, indicating social status or communicating a moral message. The Mandarin duck, 'Yuan-yang' in Chinese, has been used for centuries as the most traditional symbol of love in Feng Shui practice. It signifies love, romance, devotion, fidelity, affection and long-lasting relationship.
For an example of a watch decorated with a Nightingale, signed Bovet, London, No. 452, see Bovet 1822 - The Imperial Art of Watchmaking - Bovet Private Collection, pp. 46 - 48.
The history of the celebrated Chinese market watches signed Bovet Fleurier began with the Swiss master watchmaker Edouard Bovet (1797-1849). Born in Fleurier, the 21 year old Edouard arrived in Canton in 1818 and almost immediately sold four watches for 10,000 francs, over one million US dollars today. He consequently decided to stay in Canton where he established in 1822 a trading company in partnership with his brothers, the firm founded by charter in London the same year.
Very soon, the name "Bo Wei" or "Bo-vay" became synonymous for "watch" and in the turmoil of late Manchu China, Bovet watches spread throughout the country as a medium of exchange. In the meantime, their hometown Fleurier in the Val-de-Travers had become the European centre for the manufacture of Chinese watches, with several brands dedicated only to that flourishing market.
Bovet's production of high quality watches made in Switzerland for the Imperial Chinese market was a resounding success. "Chinese watches" as they were soon called were elaborately decorated pocket watches, generally sold in symmetrically opposed pairs. Their gold cases often featured enamel miniatures painted by the most celebrated artists of the time, cloisonné and champlevé decorations and pearl-set borders. Bovet further specialized in the art of engraving and skeletonizing movements, hence enhancing the appeal of his high-end Chinese watches with its Mandarin customers.
Since their first appearance nearly 200 years ago, these extremely attractive watches have not lost their fascination and are still today highly appreciated collector's timepieces.