Important Modern and Vintage Timepieces

Geneva, Mar 11, 2012

LOT 114

MAGNIFICENT GOLD & ENAMEL SINGING BIRD SNUFF BOX WITH CONCEALED WATCH Attributed to Freres Rochat, Geneva. Made for the Chinese market, circa 1815. Magnificent and extremely rare, 18K gold and pearl-set, combined singing bird box with snuff box, watch and twin painted on enamel scenes.

CHF 100,000 - 150,000

USD 110,000 - 165,000 / EUR 85,000 - 125,000

Sold: CHF 362,500

C. Four-body, rectangular with curved corners, mastermarks HN in a lozenge and J3C in an oval, the sides and base with engine-turned reserves with repeated leaf pattern, the corners engraved with a wreath, central hinge with opposing twin covers engine-turned to match the base within an engraved foliate border, the lid on the right opening for the snuff compartment, the watch within the lid concealed by a sprung and hinged cover decorated with a fi nely painted on enamel scene of a seated young lady and child in a classical landscape with fl owers and a quiver, pearl-set border, the lid on the right opening to reveal a foliate engraved gold plate with winding aperture for the singing bird, the bird cover decorated with a fi nely painted on enamel scene complementing the opposite cover depicting the seated lady and child with a dog at her feet in an alpine landscape, when the bird cover is opened, the bird rises from a foliate engraved surround and begins to move and the song starts, activated by a slide in the edge of the case, the multicolored feathered articulated bird sings, rotates, opens its beak, fl aps its wings and moves its tail. D. Gold with annular white enamel chapter ring with Arabic numerals, outer minute divisions on a polished reserve, engine-turned center, winding aperture at 3. Blued steel Breguet hands. M. 28 mm., matte gilt, spring barrel with gilt brass cover secured to the backplate by two screws, cylinder escapement, three-arm brass balance, fl at balance spring, continental cock with polished steel endplate. The singing bird movement: Rectangular brass, fusee and chain, cams and a whistle with sliding piston for the song's modulation, the cams rotate four times per song and lift one step every rotation, allowing a long duration of singing. Box with punch marks HN in a lozenge and J3C in an oval, watch movement signed Pre. Michaud, Paris. Scratched repair marks: 12 Avril 1814 réparée par Golay; remis à neuf par a Détigné à Paris (1856). Dim. 87 x 46 x 26 mm.

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Grading System
Case: 2

Very good

Movement: 2*

Very good

Overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense

Dial: 2-8-01

Very good

Slightly scratched

HANDS Original


This box can be attributed to Frères Rochat, the best makers of the period for singing bird boxes. Boxes of this design with symmetrical double lids ? one housing the singing bird, the other the watch, are exceedingly rare. The present box is also of small size and exquisitely decorated with chased goldwork and painted on enamel panels of different yet complementary scenes cleverly decorated to give the impression of a mirror image, borders set with pearls complete the richness of the box. The enamellers in Geneva during the late 18th and early 19th centuries very often copied their fi gures and compositions from the readily available engravings by publishers such as Francesco Bartolozzi. The enamel painters did not necessarily copy them slavishly but would take one fi gure from one engraving and another from elsewhere and combine them to make a pleasing composition of their own, often with a decidedly Swiss landscape background. Another box of very similar construction and dimensions to the present box is illustrated in ?Flights of Fancy?, Bailly, 2001, p. 208. That box is also apparently unsigned and it has been suggested that because Rochat were not organized to trade directly in China and therefore had to deal with agents who did not always wish the pieces to be signed with any other name than their own, boxes such as this are sometimes unsigned ? particularly those intended for export to China.