Important Modern and Vintage Timepieces

Geneva, Mar 27, 2011

LOT 187

Henry Capt, Musique d?Amour - Repeating Musical Watch with Four Actions with Concealed Erotic Automaton Henry Capt, Genève, No. 515. Made circa 1810. Extremely fine and equally rare, 18K gold and painted on enamel, two-train, quarter-repeating musical watch with two automaton scenes ? musicians and birds automaton scene on the dial plate and concealed erotic automaton scene, playing at will.

CHF 70,000 - 90,000

USD 70,000 - 90,000 / EUR 55,000 - 70,000

Sold: CHF 200,500

C. Three-body, "Empire", maker?s mark IG, with reeded band, the back with wavy-line engine turning. Fixed gold and finely painted on enamel cuvette with an automaton scene of a gentleman with a lady in a sumptuous interior, activated via a steel cam when the music plays. D. Small eccentric gold, engine turned and engraved, Breguet numerals on a plain reserve, outer dot minute divisions, the center engraved with a rosette. Steel spade hands. The gold dial plate finely painted on enamel with a scene of a landscape with a classical building, the foreground applied with a varicolored gold chased automaton scene of a seated gentleman playing the mandolin and a seated lady playing the lyre, to the side two birds in an arbor, one moving towards the other with the music. M. Gilt brass full plate double train movement with cylindrical pillars, going barrel and cylinder escapement, plain gold three-arm balance, flat balance spring, small pierced and chased gilt brass cock with polished steel end-piece, repeating on gongs activated by depressing the pendant, regulator arm protruding from under the cuvette with engraved scale at the edge. Musical train with pin-barrel and six stacked steel blades. Diam. 58 mm Property of an Swiss collector

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Grading System
Case: 3-24-72


Slightly chipped


Movement: 3*


Overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense

Dial: 3-06


HANDS Partially replaced


This watch is undoubtedly the work of the exceptional Genevan watchmaker Heny Capt. It can be compared directly to other examples signed by him. This watch, with its concealed erotic automaton, is one of very few known examples made by Henry Capt with two automaton scenes. The present watch is of higher specification than most; it has three animations on the dial instead of the usual two. The arm of each musician moves and a charming scene of two billing doves in an arbor, one dove appears when the music starts and disappears at the end of the tune. The enamel erotic scene is of very high quality depicting an aristocratic interior, of particular note is the pillar in the scene which is very cleverly enameled, with flecks of gold dust to accurately simulate lapis lazuli, again indicating the high status of the piece
Literature : A very similar watch formerly in the B. Franck Collection, Paris, is illustrated in "Le Monde des Automates", Chapuis & Gélis, 1984 ed., fig. 305. Another watch with a variant of the present erotic scene is Illustrated and described in "Les Heures de l'Amour" by Roland Carrera, Editions Scriptar/Antiquorum, Geneva, 1993, p. 4-5. It is suggested by the author that the figure of the gentleman represents Napoleon I.
Henry-Daniel Capt Born in Chenit in 1773, he married Henriette Piguet. He specialized in the production of complicated watches, musical watches and automaton watches. Among the first in Geneva to use the musical mechanism with pinned cylinder and tuned teeth comb, he was famous for his snuffboxes with music and automaton scenes. From Ventôse 16, An X (March 7, 1802), to 1811, he formed a partnership with Daniel Isaac Piguet, who was from the same village as he. Their signature was Piguet & Capt. In 1811, when Piguet broke off to join Meylan in a new partnership, Henry-Daniel Capt continued to work on his own until, in 1830, he went into partnership with Aubert and son, Place Bel-Air. Their signature was Aubert & Capt. They were among the first Genevan makers to produce watches with chronograph. In 1844 the workshop was at 108, rue Neuve in Geneva. It was then managed by Capt's son, Henry Capt Jr. After a short time it moved to 85, rue de la Fusterie, and in 1851, to 177, rue du Rhône. In 1880, the firm was bought by Gallopin and its name became H. Capt Horloger, Maison Gallopin Successeurs, a trademark registered on November 1, 1880, under the No. 44. This signature was only used for watches retailed in their own store, the watches supplied to other retailers being merely signed Henry Capt. Henri Capt, along with Isaac Piguet and Philippe Meylan, was the foremost maker of small musical automata in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Most of his work is not signed, although he sometimes scratched his name on his movements