The first "Chinese Market" watches were made by Jesuit missionaries during the Ming Dynasty in the late 16th century. The Emperors had an avid interest in horological and astronomical instruments, which allowed the missionaries to enter China.
By the late 18th century, Chinese patrons requested only the finest watches, featuring complicated movements such as repeating, music or automatons. To satisfy their desire for aesthetics, the cases had to be highly enamelled with motifs representing nature or classical scenes, set with pearls and precious stones. Many of these marvels were made for the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
The present watch and its combination of a lavishly decorated case and complicated movement featuring repeating and music is the perfect example for such a timepiece made by special order for a Chinese dignitary.
The movement is signed Piguet & Meylan who made musical items of extraordinary quality. The majority of the pieces were marked with the initials PM in a lozenge and a serial number.
Isaac-Daniel Piguet was born in Le Chenit in the Valley of Joux in 1775. At an early age, he specialized in the manufacturing of expensive and complicated pieces such as watches with carillons and en passant hour and quarter striking clock watches. He finally settled in Geneva where, in 1811, he formed a partnership with Philippe-Samuel Meylan.
Philippe-Samuel Meylan (1772-1845), a member of a family of renowned watchmakers, was born in Le Brassus. He specialized in the production of very thin watches and became an eminent maker of watches with musical automata.