Important Modern and Vintage Timepieces.

Geneva, Nov 13, 2010

LOT 466

Quarter-Repeating Navette-Shaped Ring Watch ? One of Only Two Known Examples - A Gift To The Emperor Napoleon I. Attributed to Antoine Rojard, Geneva, the mainspring signed Marchand, the case engraved ?à l?Empereur N?. Made circa 1810. Extremely fine and exceptionally rare, 18K gold, pearl and rose-cut diamond-set ring watch with virgule escapement and visible balance, one of only two known examples of a quarter-repeating ring watch of navette shape.

CHF 40,000 - 68,000

USD 40,000 - 68,000 / EUR 30,000 - 50,000

Sold: CHF 92,500

C. Two-body, navette-shaped, the bezel set with pearls, engraved band with four screws, back with engraved border pierced for the emission of sound, sliding cover engraved ?à l?Empereur N? opening to reveal apertures for winding, hand-setting and regulation, the shank secured by two pins. D. White enamel, navette-shaped, chapter ring in the lower half with radial Roman numerals, outer dot minute divisions and Arabic quarter-hour numerals, aperture for the visible rose-cut diamond-set balance in the upper half. Blued steel Breguet hands. M. 29 x 17 mm., navette-shaped, matte gilt, going barrel, virgule escapement, blued steel flat balance spring, rose-cut diamond-set balance visible through the dial, diamond endstone, repeating with two hammers on a bell recessed within the movement, activated by a slide protruding from the band. Mainspring scratch signed ?Marchand?. Dim. 37 x 23 mm.

Click to full view

Grading System
Case: 3


Movement: 2

Very good

Dial: 3-71-01



HANDS Original


Provenance : By tradition, Emperor Napoleon I - A French noble family.
This ring watch is only the second known example in the navette shape with quarter-repeating, the other is in the collection of the Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva. Traditionally, the present watch was presented to the Emperor Napoleon I. What today would be considered a feminine object would have been perfectly acceptable for a man to wear during the period it was made; this is further highlighted by the large size of the ring shank. In the early 19th century a ring watch such as this would have been hugely expensive and regarded as a mechanical marvel in miniature. Napoleon had more than a passing interest in watches and clocks; his patronage of Breguet shows this beyond doubt. Somebody wishing to impress the Emperor could not have chosen a more suitable and intriguing gift.
The movement of the present watch is a rare type, not only navette-shaped but where the bell is sunk into the movement. This type of movement with sunk bell was invented by the Genevan maker Antoine Rojard around 1802; it was also used by the firms of Chevalier & Cochet, Pepin, Genève; Moricand, Genève; Bordier & Cie, Genève and Scherer & Fils. Very few watchmakers had the required skill to make a watch as sophisticated as this ring watch. Rojard, known for his very high quality automaton and repeating watches was one such maker. He also often used the virgule escapement in his movements. The virgule is very uncommon, particularly so in a miniature watch movement. The use of the virgule combined with the recessed bell make an attribution to Rochard the most likely.
Antoine Rojard Was most likely the son of Jean-Daniel, a horologist, and was active at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries. He is known to have produced automaton and unusual watches, including ones with thermometers. The Rojard firm continued until the end of the 19th century and produced, among other things, repeating watches in the English style. An automaton watch with sunken bell movement and virgule escapement signed ?Inventé par Antoine Rojard à Genève? was sold by Antiquorum, Geneva, on October 16. 2005, lot 245.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) Born in Ajaccio, Corsica into a family of minor noble Italian ancestry, he was educated at military school, rose rapidly within the ranks, and in 1796 he became commander of the French army in Italy. In 1798 he conquered Egypt, then under Ottoman rule, in the hopes of undermining British trade with India. The coup d?état of 18 Brumaire, in November 1799, resulted in Napoleon?s becoming First Consul. In 1802 he was made consul for life; on December 2, 1804, he crowned himself Emperor. In 1800, he defeated the Austrians at Marengo, and negotiated a general European peace, establishing French power on the continent. Three years later Britain resumed war with France, soon joined by Russia and Austria. France?s naval defeat at the hands of the British at Trafalgar in 1805 led Napoleon to abandon his plans to invade England. Instead, he attacked the Austro-Russian forces at Austerlitz that same year, and defeated them. The territory gained gave Napoleon control over most of Europe. Napoleon's faithful supporters and relations were installed as leaders in several countries (Holland, Westphalia, Italy, Naples, Spain and Sweden). The tides soon turned against France, with a series of costly military defeats.
The 1812 invasion of Russia ended in disaster. In March 1814, Paris fell to the coalition of the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian armies. Napoleon was forced to abdicate. He was exiled to the island of Elba, from which he escaped in March 1815. He then returned to power in a brief second reign known as the ?100 Days?, but was again defeated, at the Battle of Waterloo. Imprisoned by the British on the remote island of St Helena, Napoleon died on May 5, 1821. One of history?s greatest military leaders, Napoleon's campaigns are still studied today in all the world?s military academies. His many lasting achievements include the centralization of the French government, the creation of the Bank of France, and the revision of the civil law codes - the Napoleonic code remains the basis of French law today - while he also established the judicial and administrative foundations for many modern European countries.