Geneva, May 15, 2023

LOT 338


CHF 60,000 - 100,000

EUR 62,000 - 102,000 / USD 68,000 - 114,000 / HKD 540,000 - 890,000

Made for the Chinese market.
Fine and very rare, 18K gold, painted on enamel and pearl-set pocket watch with duplex escapement.
The enamel attributed to Jean-Louis Richter.
"Empire" style case, the hinged back decorated with a finely painted view in the manner of Claude Vernet of people washing their clothes from a boat in a calm harbor landscape with mountains and a small village in the distance. Hinged and sprung gold cuvette attached to the movement ring.

Grading System
Case: 3


Movement: 3*


Overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense

Dial: 2-70-01

Very good


HANDS Original

Brand Ilbery London, Switzerland

Year 1820

Material 18K yellow gold

Diameter 60 mm.

Caliber 21''', frosted gilt, foliate engraved, standing barrel, duplex escapement, flat-rim five-arm polished steel balance, diamond endstone, index regulator.

Signature Movement


Jean-Louis Richter (1766-1841)
Learned his art under David-Etienne-Roux and Philippe-Samuel-Théodore Roux, becoming a most renowned enamel painter. His specialty was the painting of landscapes and particularly lake-side scenes and marine-scapes, often representing ships in a harbour or battles with fighting Men-of-War, but, on occasion, also portraits and hunting scenes. He did not often sign his work, but it is clearly recognised as being in his hand from the style and quality of the painting. He applied his art principally to watch cases and snuff boxes and these were largely destined for the Chinese, Turkish, British and Italian markets. In 1828 he was in partnership with Aimé-Julien Troll (1781-1852) and one can find work signed "Richter et Troll". Richter, like other great enamel painters of the time, often found inspiration for his work from paintings or engravings by the artists then in fashion particularly Claude Vernet.

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.