Geneva, Nov 05, 2023

LOT 357


CHF 40,000 - 60,000

EUR 42,100 - 64,000 / USD 44,300 - 67,000 / HKD 348,000 - 520,000

Sold: CHF 47,500

A very fine and rare, 18k gold, pearl and painted on enamel, manual wind pocket watch with duplex escapement. The enamel attributed to Hess, Geneva. "Empire" case, the bezel, stem and bow set with split- pearls, hinged and sprung back cover with split-pearl border, dark blue guilloche enamel and engraved gold border, the shield-shaped central panel finely painted with a scene of Abelard and Heloise, he with a bow and hunting horn. Hinged and sprung gold cuvette. White enamel with radial Roman numerals and outer minute track, fleur-de-lys quarter hour markers, large subsidiary seconds. Gold concave hands.

Grading System
Case: 3-8


Slightly scratched

Movement: 3*


Overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense

Dial: 2-01

Very good

HANDS Original

Brand Ilbery London, Switzerland


Year Circa 1820

Movement No. 6664

Diameter 60 mm.

Caliber Gilt "Chinese" caliber, foliate chased and engraved, hanging barrel, duplex escapement, polished steel five-arm balance, blued steel flat balance spring, diamond endstone, index regulator.

Signature Movement


William Ilbery (ca. 1760-1839).
Active in London from 1780 in Goswell Street, he moved to Duncan Terrace towards the end of the 18th century. Following James Cox in London and Jaquet Droz in Switzerland, he also specialised in the production of luxury watches for the Chinese Market. His early production was very much in the English style, featuring a full plate movement and an English type single wheel duplex escapement. However, for his highest quality watches, he incorporated a spring detent escapement. Later, the watch movements he produced were much inspired by the Lepine caliber with free-standing barrel, as were Jaquet Droz's Swiss production signed in London and that of William Anthony, who worked in London. The cases of his watches were sumptuously decorated by the best Genevan enamelers, such as Jean-Francois-Victor Dupont, who usually signed his work, and Jean-Louis Richter, who signed rarely. He organized the production in Switzerland, mainly in Fleurier, of profusely engraved movements for the Asian market. He was followed in this by makers such as Bovet and Juvet who also worked in Fleurier (Val de Travers). Ilbery can therefore be considered one of the most representative makers of ''Chinese'' watches. He seems to have maintained close contacts with the continental trade since a watch signed ''Ilbery Paris'' is known and Ilbery & Son are recorded in London and Fleurier, as well as in Canton.

Timepieces have long been gifts of predilection. Symbols of power, of knowledge, messengers of culture, tokens of friendship, and guages of peace, they never failed to astonish and to please. When the first diplomatic relations with China were established, during the reign of King Louis IX of France (1214-1270), animated pieces had their role to play. In 1253 Louis dispatched an ambassador to Manghu Khan, the Grand Khan of Tartary. This was the epoch of the great Mongol incursions which swept over Russia as far as Kiev, and southward as far as Poland and Hungary. An account of the voyage by the King's ambassador, Guillaume de Rubruquis, a Flemish priest and traveler, is conserved in the British Museum. Originally in Latin, it was translated into English in 1629 and into French in 1839. This document states that among the prisoners of the Tartars at Karakarum was a certain Guillaume Boucher, a skilled goldsmith from Lyon who won the favor of the emperor of Tartary by constructing for him a monumental and marvelous automaton. Four silver lions lay at the foot of a great tree with boughs bearing silver leaves and fruits, and mare's milk flowing from their half-opened jaws. On the inside, four conduits rose to the top of the tree and descended in the form of gilded serpents. Out of their mouths ran precious liqueurs to fill silver vessels. At the top, an angel sounded a trumpet when the cupbearer gave the order to pour out the draught. The apparatus was activated by means of a bellows worked by a man hidden in the base of the tree. Servants replenished nearby reservoirs with the liqueurs for the respective conduits.

Little is known about the enamel painter HESS who is recorded at 42, Allemands - Dessous, Geneva, in 1828. His work is of extremely high quality and it is likely that his unsigned work has often been mistaken for the work of JEAN-LOUIS RICHTER. The large almond shaped eyes of the subjects seem to be an identifying feature of his work. A fine watch for the Chinese market, the enamel signed by Hess was sold by ANTIQUORUM, Hong Kong, 9th & 10th July 2005, Lot 366. The present lot was previously sold by Antiquorum Geneva, on June 10, 1997, lot 417.