Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces

Geneva, May 11, 2019

LOT 35

Jaquet-Droz & Leschot; Jean-Georges Rémond & Co.

Magnificent and probably unique form-watch in the shape of a scent-bottle or a Neo-classical vase, with centre-seconds and concealed singing-bird; 18K yellow gold, enamel and pearls. “L’Oiseau privé” (The Tamed Bird), after an engraving of Jean-Jacques Flipart (1719-1782) and a drawing of François Boucher (1703-1770).

Brand Jaquet-Droz & Leschot

Year Circa 1795

Calibre  Shaped, gilded brass, full plate, cylindrical pillars, with going barrel, cylinder escapement (brass wheel), monometallic balance (gilded brass), pierced and engraved gilded English cock with diamond end-stone; on the reverse, the singing bird mechanism with fusee and chain (wound by means of a slide in the band), a large bellow and eight cams (of which two drives the bird’s movements of the beak and the tail, and, the others modulate the song of the bird by a piston controlled whistle)

Material 18K yellow gold, enamel and pearls

Dimensions 194 x 61.3 x 47.7 mm

Signature  Movement and Case (“G R / G” under a crown; 1796 / 1797-c.1800)

Accessories Modern fitted box (late-1960’s by a London antiquarian)

CHF 1,000,000 - 2,000,000

HKD 8,000,000 - 16,000,000 / USD 1,000,000 - 2,000,000

Sold: CHF 1,025,000

Grading System


Case: 3


Movement: 3*


Overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense

Dial: 3-01


HANDS Original


 18K yellow gold, enamel and pearls, double-face, form-watch in the shape of a scent-bottle or a Neo-classical vase, with centre-seconds and concealed singing-bird, made for the Chinese market. Body of the object in the shape of a flattened pear, adorned with azure blue and royal blue enamel panels decorated with motifs and garland of gold paillons; the winding and setting key screwed in the top of the object. When the bird’s mechanism is engaged, the rear door opens automatically and the bird begins to sing, opening and closing its beak realistically, rotating its body while its tail goes up and down; at the end of the melody, the door closes automatically  A similar form-watch in the shape of a scent-bottle or a Neo-classical vase incorporating a singing-bird is illustrated in Le Monde des Automates (1928). This object was formerly in the collection of Sir David Lionel Salomons (1851-1925) and is today kept in the L. A. Mayer Collection in Jerusalem (Israel) and illustrated in their catalogues (1980 and 2009). These objects are, at the time of their creation, mainly manufactured for the Chinese market, as evidenced by the correspondence of Jean-Frédéric Leschot (1746-1824), who is, in the years 1790-1810, the head of workshop of the house Jaquet-Droz; house founded in the Neuchâtel mountains by Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790) and his son, Henry-Louis Jaquet-Droz (1752-1791). These period letters found and today published by various authors give us some information on the chronology and realisation of these little mechanical wonders, that Jaquet Droz and Leschot develop in the years 1780-1790. Since the middle of the century, these watchmakers and mechanicians have built clocks, mechanical music, automatons and singing birds. Circa 1780, their know-how allowed them to reduce to an extreme their timepieces, music and birds, in order to incorporate them into small objects and watches. Their feat is at this time to reduce the serinette (traditional mechanical organ with flutes or pipes) and all the mechanism of the singing bird in such small dimensions. Always on the lookout for technical solutions, they (most likely Leschot) will invent the “piston coulissant” (sliding piston) that will revolutionise the field of singing birds. With this invention, they can further reduce  the size of their mechanics and especially improve the musical quality and reliability! This is one of the great innovations that contributes to the commercial development of this kind of objects, with a little later – most probably invented by Jacob Frisard (1753-1810) – the development of a mechanism to automatically raise the singing bird. Thanks to this latest invention, we see the advent of snuffboxes that replace very quickly vertical objects with singing birds (vases, flasks, scent-bottles, watches, etc.). In the present object, the door that opens automatically when the mechanism of the bird is engaged is already a clear improvement compared to previously made objects where the birds are visible. Here, for the user the effect of surprise is total, even accentuated for a person already familiar with this kind of mechanical wonders. On February 16, 1787, Leschot sent from Geneva to London two identical scent flacons, each with serinette, singing bird and watch. The bottles had been ordered by James Cox and were described and listed in the account ledger as No. 1-2 “scent flacons enamelled in blue with applied rings and flowers in pearls and rubies with sapphires, watch with the balance set with diamonds, a serinette with bird placed on a tree trunk (in a medallion), which moves its beak and tail”. The cost for the two pieces was listed as £ 235.18 (pounds sterling). The Jaquet-Droz and Leschot account books record a second similarly designed set of scent bottles sold also to James Cox, for £ 226.8 (pounds sterling); sent in England on April 26-27 of the same year. 
In 1792, Leschot writes to Duval in London: “Two pairs of mechanism for bottles with a watch, the same as those sent to you recently. I hope to succeed in adding something different, whereby the medallion, which in the previous ones remained open after the bird’s song, will close itself” … and … “these various pieces with mechanical birds embodied many trade secrets.” The letters mentioned here are part of a large body of Leschot’s correspondence preserved today. Through these letters, much insight into his business and its practices has been gained; the letters cover a range of topics from the difficulties Leschot suffered with certain personalities he encountered, to his fear of trade secrets being shared with the wrong parties. In a letter dated November 2, 1793, from Leschot to his associate Henri Maillardet in London: “My friend M. Frisard like myself thoroughly agrees with you that the smallest number of people possible should be told how these things work, apart from relatives who are close by one in the workshop and whom we can trust not to turn their knowledge to our disadvantage.” In another letter, dated February 1793, Leschot informs Louis George in Berlin: “As for the singing bird snuffbox which you have seen, this mechanical piece certainly comes from our workshop. I had the honour to inform you a few years ago that we do this sort of work putting a mechanical bird into a jewelled object such as a snuff box or scent bottle.” As can be seen from the reading of these ancient documents, the workshop Jaquet-Droz & Leschot has made a specialty of producing these singing birds in various forms, notably incorporated into watches or vertical objects (vase, flasks, etc.). Very few of these wonders have reached us. Our form-watch is probably the most impressive piece with the one from the Salomons Collection (Jerusalem, L. A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art), by its size and the use of the sliding piston for the melody of the singing bird. The objects that technically precede these two remain nevertheless technical prowess if only by the extraordinary miniaturization of the serinette; two of them are now known. · Pully (canton de Vaud), Fondation Edouard et Maurice Sandoz. · Private Collection; Sotheby’s, New York, auction, June 11, 2015, lot 104, sold for the amount of US$ 2,530,000.- (in 1942, with A La Vielle Russie, New York; 1942-1957, with Maurice Sandoz, Switzerland (purchased from the previous for US$ 2 997.-); 1958-2015, Private American Collection). Bibliography For illustrations of the first type of the singing-bird form-watch with serinette (the one from the Sandoz collection and the one from the Sotheby’s sale): Harcourt-Smith, Simon, A catalogue of various clocks, watches, automata, and other miscellaneous objects of European workmanship dating from the XVIIIth and the early XIXth centuries, in the Palace Museum and the Wu Ying Tien, Peiping, 1933, W.Y.T, No. 653, p. 6, pl. II. Antique Automatons, New York, A La Vielle Russie, 1950, No. 162, pp. 62-64, fig. 44 (exhibition cat.). Chapuis, Alfred, & Droz, Edmond, Automata, A Historical and Technology Study, Neuchâtel, Editions du Griffon, 1958, pp. 199-200, fig. 242-243. Collection de montres et automates Maurice et Edouard M. Sandoz, Le Locle, Edition du Château des Monts, 1976. Patrizzi, Osvaldo, “The Watch Market in China”, in Arts of Asia, March-April 1980, p. 71. Pin, Bernard, Montres & Automates, La collection Maurice Sandoz – Watches & Automata, The Maurice Sandoz Collection, Pully, Fondation Edouard et Maurice Sandoz, 2010, vol. III, pp. 204-205. Guo Fu Xiang & Guan Xue Ling (transl., Mrs Xia Shen Hong), “Les collections de Jaquet-Droz au musée de la Cité interdite”, in Automates & Merveilles, Merveilleux mouvements… Surprenantes mécaniques, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Musée international d’horlogerie, Neuchâtel, Editions Alphil, 2012, pp. 45-49 (exhibition cat., April 29 – September 30). For illustrations of the second type of singing-bird form-watch with sliding piston (the one from the Salomons collection): Chapuis, Alfred, & Gélis, Edouard, Le Monde des automates. Etude historique et technique, Paris et Neuchâtel, 1928, vol. II, pp. 120-121, ill. 397 (photos communicated by Gustave Loup, Geneva). Daniels, George, & Markarian, Ohannes, Watches & Clocks in the Sir David Salomons Collection, including scientific instruments, boxes and automata, Tel Aviv – London, Sotheby Publications, Jerusalem, L. A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, 1980, p. 144-146, ill. 84-84a (Inv. WA 9-70). The Art of Time, The Sir David Salomons Collection of Watches and Clocks, Jerusalem, L. A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, 2009, pp. 68-69. Canary and mechanical birds The birds were fashioned to imitate the live canary, which had become popular in 18th century European society. The canary, beloved for its melodic sounds, became an obsession to train the canaries to sing. In this process, the serinette was a useful tool. Canaries were introduced by the Spanish (who conquered the Canary Islands in the late 15th century) to Europe. Canaries were so enthusiastically bred that 29 distinct varieties existed by the beginning of the 18th century. The process of education was described by Professor Hervieux de Chanteloup, author of the 18th century book “New Treatise of Canary Birds” and an authority on training Canaries in the 1740s. He stated, “As to the manner of proceeding, at each lesson one must repeat nine or ten times the tunes one wants to teach them; & those tunes must be played without repeating the beginning twice.”. Bibliography Kerman-Bailly, Sharon, & Bailly, Christian, Oiseaux de bonheurs, Tabatières et automates – Flights of Fancy, Mechanical Singing Birds, Geneva, Antiquorum Editions, 2001 (376 pp.), pp. 32-53 
Iconography “L’Oiseau privé” (The Tamed Bird), an etching and engraving (circa 1769) of Jean-Jacques Flipart (1719-1782), is made after a drawing of François Boucher (1703-1770), “La Jeune Fille à la colombe” (The Girl with the Dove) – or “Jeune femme à mi-corps, tenant un oiseau qui becquette sa bouche” (Young Woman, half-length, holding a bird that beaks her mouth) – of which there are several engraved variants, which are very different: “La Fille à l’oiseau” (The Girl with the Bird) of JacquesGabriel Huquier (1725-1805) and “L’Oiseau chéri” (1758; The Beloved Bird) of Jean Daullé (1703-1763). A snuffbox, of which the lid is decorated with the same subject, also painted on enamel, is kept in Paris, the Louvre Museum, Department of the Objects of Art (Inv. OA 6770). Bibliography Jean-Richard, Pierrette, Inventaire général des gravures de l’Ecole française, L’œuvre gravé de François Boucher dans la Collection Edmond de Rothschild, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins, 1978, vol. I, p. 252, No. 1011. Jaquet-Droz & Leschot Pierre Jaquet-Droz was born on July 28, 1721, in La Chaux-deFonds (Neuchâtel mountains). He was the son of a farmer who was an occasional clockmaker as well. He studied humanities and philosophy in Basel from 1738 to 1739 and then became interested in horology. We know little of him as a person, only that he was sober, serious, taciturn, and very careful in his work. On October 25, 1750, Pierre Jaquet-Droz married Marianne Sandoz, the daughter of Civil Lieutenant Abraham-Louis Sandoz, who was later to accompany Pierre on his trip to Spain. At the age of thirty-four, Pierre Jaquet-Droz was left a widower. He never remarried, and seems to have devoted himself to his work as a watchmaker with all the more intensity. The second child of Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his wife Marianne, Henry-Louis, was born on October 13, 1752. Recognizing that he was a gifted child, his father sent him to Nancy to study music, science, mathematics, physics and drawing. In 1758, Jaquet-Droz made the long and difficult journey to Spain, to present his works to King Ferdinand VI. When he returned, the sum he brought back enabled him to devote himself to the making of the famous Jaquet-Droz automata, the writer, draughtsman, and musician, and to found the successful Jaquet-Droz firm, in London and Geneva, for the making of extraordinary mechanical and musical pieces. Upon his return in 1769, Henry-Louis took his place in his father’s workshop alongside Jean-Frédéric Leschot (1746-1824), an adoptive son. It was the beginning of a close and fruitful partnership between the three men. Pierre JaquetDroz was the first to make singing-bird boxes and enjoyed an excellent reputation for complicated clocks, Neuchâtel clocks and automaton timepieces. When Pierre Jaquet-Droz grew old, the firm was taken over by his son Henry-Louis and JeanFrédéric Leschot, under the name of Jaquet-Droz & Leschot. Pierre Jaquet-Droz died in Biel in 1790, at the age of 69. Upon his father’s retirement from the family firm, Henry-Louis naturally replaced him, traveling to London to look after business. He also maintained an active interest in the Société des Arts of Geneva, studying questions related to the well-being of the Genevan “Fabrique” and seeking solutions to problems which plagued his colleagues and fellow members. Henry-Louis’ health was poor, however. Despite a journey undertaken to improve his condition, he died in Naples in November 1791, at the early age of 41. Subsequently, Jean-Frédéric Leschot took over the company and continued to work with extraordinary craftsmen, such as Jacob Frisard (1753-1810) or the Maillardets. For a century, a very rich bibliography has allowed us to discover the life and work of these exceptional manufacturers. Bibliography Perregaux, Charles, & Perrot, F.-Louis, Les Jaquet-Droz et Leschot, Neuchâtel, Editions Attinger Frères, 1916 (X-270 pp.). Chapuis, Alfred, Histoire de la Pendulerie neuchâteloise, Paris and Neuchâtel, Editions Attinger Frères, 1917 (XII-490 pp.). Chapuis, Alfred (with the collaboration of Loup, Gustave), La montre chinoise, Relations de l’Horlogerie suisse avec la Chine, Paris and Neuchâtel, Editions Attinger Frères, 1919 (XIII-272  pp.). Chapuis, Alfred, & Gélis, Edouard, Le monde des automates, étude historique et technique, Paris and Neuchâtel, 1928, 2 vol. (XVI-352 pp. ; 358 pp.). Chapuis, Alfred, Pendules neuchâteloises, Documents nouveaux, Zürich, Editions M. S. Metz, Neuchâtel, Imprimerie Paul Attinger, 1930 (274 pp.). Chapuis, Alfred, Montres et émaux de Genève : Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI et Empire. Collection H. Wilsdorf, Lausanne, Edition du Journal d’horlogerie et de bijouterie, 1944 (238 pp.). Jaquet, Eugène, & Chapuis, Alfred (with the collaboration of Berner, G. Albert), Histoire et technique de la montre suisse de ses origines à nos jours, Basel and Olten, Editions Urs Graf, 1946 (272 pp.). Chapuis, Alfred (under the direction of), L’horlogerie, une tradition Helvétique, Neuchâtel, Les Editions de la Bourgade, 1947 (328 pp.). Chapuis, Alfred, & Droz, Edmond, Les automates, figures artificielles d’hommes et d’animaux, Histoire et technique, Neuchâtel, Editions du Griffon, Imprimerie Paul Attinger, 1949 (434 pp.). Chapuis, Alfred, Histoire de la boite à musique et de la musique mécanique, Lausanne, Edition du Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie et de Bijouterie, Scriptar S.A., 1955 (320 pp.). Saluz, Eduard C., KlangKunst, 200 Jahre Musikdosen, Solothurn / Soleure, Editions Schweizerischen Museums, 1996 (246 pp.). Kerman-Bailly, Sharon, & Bailly, Christian, Oiseaux de bonheurs, Tabatières et automates – Flights of Fancy, Mechanical Singing Birds, Geneva, Antiquorum Editions, 2001 (376 pp.). Mayson, Geoffrey T., Mechanical Singing-bird Tabatières, London, Robert Hale Editions, 2000 (256 pp.). Tellier, Arnaud, & Didier, Mélanie, Le Miroir de la séduction, Prestigieuses paires de montres « chinoises » – The Mirror of Seduction, Prestigious pairs of “Chinese” Watches, Geneva, Patek Philippe Museum Editions, 2010 (172 pp.). Automates & Merveilles, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Musée international d’horlogerie – Le Locle, Musée d’horlogerie du Château des Monts – Neuchâtel, Musée d’art et d’histoire – Neuchâtel, Editions Alphil, 2012 (exhibition cat., April 29 – September 30), 3 vol. Jean-Georges Rémond, Geneva Jean-Georges Rémond (c.1746-c.1820) was active from 1783 to circa 1815-1820. Became Master goldsmith on December 22, 1783, and struck his first Master mark. Seven years later he appears to have formed a company: Georges Rémond & Cie, which eventually became, circa 1800, Rémond, Mercier, Lamy & Cie. During the French occupation of Switzerland by Napoléon, Jean-Georges Rémond recorded marks. In 1792, the partners Joseph Guidon, Jean-Georges Rémond, David Gide, Laurent Guisseling and Jean-Noël Lamy informally began working as Guidon, Rémond, Gide & Cie, (the company was officially registered on January 1, 1796). In 1809, the firm took on the name of Jean-Georges Rémond & Cie, and had offices both in Geneva and Hanau. The partners were Jean-Georges Rémond, Jean-Noël Lamy, Jean Boëhm (domiciled in Hanau), Denis Blondet, Laurent Guiseling, and Daniel Berton. In 1811, Jean-Georges Rémond, Jean-Noël Lamy, Laurent Guiseling, Pierre Mercier and Daniel Berton formed a company known as Rémond, Lamy, Mercier & Cie. Bibliography (to understand the importance of Jean-Georges Rémond as a gold box-maker in Geneva) Chapuisat, Edouard, Le commerce et l’industrie à Genève pendant la domination française (1789-1813), d’aprés des documents inédits, Editions A. Julien, Georg & Cie, 1908, p. 489. Haydn, Williams, & Clarke, Julia (ed.), Enamels of the World, 1700-2000, The Khalili Collection, London, The Khalili Family Trust, 2009, pp. 292-317 (see also: http://www.khalilicollections. org). Clarke, Julia, “Swiss gold boxes: myth or reality?”, in Murdoch, Tessa, & Zech, Heike (ed.), Going for Gold: Craftsmanship and Collecting of Gold Boxes, Brighton, Sussex Academic Press, 2014, pp. 70-71.