Important Collectors’ Wristwatches, P...

Hong Kong,the Ritz Carlton Hotel,harbour Room, 3rd Floor, Jun 02, 2007

LOT 325

"The Necessaire Casket" Attributed to Gideon & Co., Locle, Swiss, No. 86825, the movement attributable to Henry Grandjean & Cie., (Le Locle). Made for the Indian market, circa 1900, sold to the Sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan (reigned 1869 ?1911). Exceptional and extremely rare, early George III, gold and gilt-metal mounted agate traveler's nécessaire fitted with a watch, compass, four perfume/powder bottles, a mirror, spoon, watch key, magnifying glass, brush and spy glass.

HKD 600,000 - 900,000

USD 80,000 - 120,000 / EUR 60,000 - 90,000

C. Rectangular, in the shape of a casket with hinged lid, set with panels made of gray/brown striated agate mounted in repoussé gold with chased floral and scroll decoration mounts, dragon feet, the inside compartments with four scent bottles, spy glass, a mirror, a lens, an ear spoon, a brush and a watch key. The watch mounted inside the lid. D. Gold, with applied polished Roman numerals, outer minute dot divisions, winding aperture at 6 o'clock, engine-turned center. Gold "spade" hands. M. 35 mm, hinged, frosted gilt full plate with square baluster pillars, fusee and chain, verge escapement, steel balance with flat balance spring, pierced and engraved single-footed cock, silver regulation dial. Movement signed. Dim. 9 x 7 x 6 cm. Property of an Italian Collector

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Grading System
Case: 3


Movement: 3*


Overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense

Dial: 3-66-06


HANDS Partially replaced


Very few of these caskets are known. One, made by James Cox, is now in the Palace Museum of the Forbidden City. The similarities between them are so striking that there is little doubt it came from the same workshop; the same type of agate was used, same pattern of mounting, and the same feet, only the watch differs.

James Cox (circa 1723 - 1800).
Born in London around 1723, he was the son of Henry Cox, a tailor. He became Free in 1745, at which time he was described as a goldsmith. Cox also called himself a "jeweller". In December 1745, Cox married Elizabeth Liron. In June of that same year he had set up shop in Racquet Court, where he remained until 1756. An elaborate trade card has survived from this period; with a text in English, French, and German, it offers a "Great Variety of Curious Work in Gold, Silver, and other Metalls: also in Amber, Pearl, Tortoiseshell and Curious Stones". In 1756 Cox entered into a partnership with Edward Grace and moved to larger premises in Shoe Lane. However, Cox & Grace declared bankruptcy in November 1758. The list of Cox and Grace's stock, which was advertised for sale in 1760, was said to comprise "things in the jeweling and toy business suitable both for foreign and home trade". The Cox & Grace bankruptcy did not stop Cox from advancing; on the contrary, he retained the premises in Shoe Lane and continued working. In July 1763, his bankruptcy proceedings terminated with his discharge. It was during the 1760s and early 1770s that Cox became famous for a very specific genre: elaborate and luxurious musical and automaton clocks and watches, made of precious metals and studded with precious stones, destined particularly for the Ottoman, Indian and Chinese empires, and especially for the court of the Chinese Emperor himself. The first record of such activity on Cox's part is a "notice of two curious Clocks" which appeared in the Gentleman?s Magazine of December 1766. During this period, and until 1773, Cox's chief "mechanic" was a brillant Belgian, John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803). Merlin is generally considered to have been Cox?s "right-hand man", and any pieces signed by Cox which can be securely dated to before 1773, may have been designed or even made by Merlin. Later, many clock, watch, and singing bird movements were made for Cox by the Jaquet Droz firm. Cox earned great renown through the Museum he maintained in London's Spring Gardens from 1772 to 1775. It was a lavish venue draped with crimson curtains, whose ceilings were decorated with "chiaroscuro paintings of the liberal arts", by a "celebrated artist" of the day, probably Angelica Kauffmann. In 1769, Cox purchased the Chelsea Porcelain Works, intending perhaps to further diversify his trade it has been suggested that he planned to collaborate with Matthew Boulton in the making of ormulu-mounted porcelain vases. However, for reasons that remain unknown but may have to do with Cox' s persistently precarious financial situation, the porcelain works were sold again only five months later. Both profits and demand continued to decline, and Cox soon found himself in difficult financial straits, with insufficent cash at hand, and a large stock in which he had invested hugely. To remedy this situation, Cox held two sales of items from his stock at Christie's, in July and December 1772. In addition, early that same year he had opened his mechanical museum in the Great Room at Spring Gardens. For the three years of its existence, "Cox?s Museum" - with its astonishingly high entrance fee of half a guinea - was the talk of London. James Boswell, who went to see it in April 1774 at the insistance of Dr Johnson, found it "a very fine exhibition" for "power of mechanism and splendour of show", while Fanny Burney, considered it impressive but somewhat heartless. (enlarged) (Continued on opposite page)