Important Modern and Vintage Timepieces

Geneva, Mar 11, 2012

LOT 253

MAGNIFICENT ENAMELED WATCH WITH THREE HAMMER & THREE GONG MINUTE REPEATING - VENUS & CUPID ? AN ALLEGORY OF LOVE Swiss, the movement attributed to Decombaz, No. 99018, the case by Frères Oltramare, No. 5476, the enamel in the manner of Isaac Adam. Made for the Chinese market, circa 1820. Magnificent and exceptionally fine, large, gold, enamel, painted on enamel and pearl-set pocket watch with three-hammer minute repeating on three gongs.

CHF 150,000 - 250,000

USD 165,000 - 270,000 / EUR 120,000 - 210,000

Sold: CHF 722,500

C. Two-body, ?bassine?, the bezel and matching back border overlaid with azure champlevé enamel, oval panels with chased gold and seed pearl-set fl ower heads with a black enamel ground and pearl border, alternating with chased gold and pearl-set fl owers with red champlevé enamel detail, entirely pearl-set pendant, the bow decorated with azure and black champlevé enamel stripes and further set with graduated pearls, hinged and sprung back cover with a very fi nely painted on enamel scene of Venus and Cupid on a daybed, Venus with her attributes of a fl aming torch and a pair of doves, winged cupid looking tenderly at his mother, arabesque pearl border and azure enamel border. Hinged and sprung gold cuvette decorated with black champlevé enamel scrolling foliage within an azure border, apertures for winding and hand-setting. D. White enamel with Arabic numerals, outer minute track, secured by a blued steel screw. Blued steel lozenge hands. M. Blued and polished steel with matte gilt plate, standing barrel, jeweled cylinder escapement, three-arm gilt balance, fl at balance spring, index regulator, polishedsteel repeating work on the back plate, repeating with three hammers on three square-section polished-steel gongs activated by depressing the pendant. Case punched with the mark of Freres Oltramare and numbered 5476, cuvette numbered 76, movement punch numbered 99018 and 76. Diam. 65 mm

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Grading System
Case: 2

Very good

Movement: 2

Very good

Dial: 2-73-01

Very good

ENAMEL AND VARIOUS TYPES OF DECORATION Chipped under bezel,not visible when closed

HANDS Original


This watch is remarkable in its lavish decoration and special minute-repeating movement, it would certainly have been destined for the Emperor. The fact that the "bassine" form of case was used instead of the usual "Empire" type allowed the artist to continue the pattern elegantly from the back of the case to the front giving a very pleasing and majestic effect. The makers who produced these watches only used the ?bassine? form for very special pieces. The enamel scene of the present watch represents an allegory of love, Venus and Cupid the gods of love with Venus?s attributes, the fl aming torch representing love kindled and the pair of doves to suggest constancy. The painted enamel panel has an arabesque border outlined by pearls instead of the more usual round enamel disc for painted on enamels mounted on watches, outside the pearl border is azure enamel with red enamel dots and chased leaves. This panel is an exceptionally complicated technical achievement incorporating the special shaped painted on enamel, pearls and champlevé enamel all on a single piece of gold. This particular scene of Venus and Cupid can be compared to that of another exceptional watch ?Le Coeur? sold by Antiquorum on 15th October 1994, lot 614. The subjects chosen for the decoration of enamels for watch cases by the Swiss enamellers were usually taken from engravings of the original works in European collections. There were several engravers who specialised in copying these paintings for engravings, perhaps the most famous being Franceso Bartolozzi (1727-1815), several scenes on Swiss enamel watches can be identifi ed as being directly taken from his work. The most popular subjects were those from classical mythology whose allusions and allegories were readily recognised by people at the time but are to modern eyes sometimes obscure. The artists whose work was repeatedly copied by the Geneva enamellers from engravings included Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842), Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807), Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758-1823), Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-1785) and Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779). The fi ne enamel decoration of the gold cuvette has within the design the strawberry or pinecone that can be seen on the cuvettes of other watches with cases by Frères Oltramare such as ?Allegory of Summer? sold by Antiquorum, Geneva, November 12, 2006, lot 51. The terminals of the bow of that watch were also decorated with the black enamel stripes found on the present watch. Minute-repeating watches of this date are extremely rare and very few makers were capable of producing them, almost all were made in Switzerland. The movement of the present watch is one of only two known from this period that have repeating using three hammers and three gongs. The other known example is thought to have almost certainly been made by Decombaz in Geneva. The polished steel repeating work is deliberately and very visibly placed above the movement, highlighted by the dark blued steel below. The maker was naturally very proud of this movement and wanted to display fully the complex and at that time little known minute repeating mechanism rather than hide it behind the dial. The three square-section gongs, and during repeating, the hammers, can be clearly seen in operation. Decombaz was one of the fi nest watchmakers working in Geneva at the beginning of the 19th century. He often worked for Breguet, specializing in repeating and complicated watches, and usually used either virgule or cylinder escapements. Frères Oltramare Originally from Genova, the family settled in Geneva in the 17th century. Branches of the family were engaged in the watchmaking trade by the second half of the 18th century. The watchmaker Pierre Oltramare (1753-1827) had apprenticed under the "maître horloger" Jean Pattey of Passiery in 1768. The mark of F.O. is that of Louis-David-Benjamin and Jean Hughes. Both trained as "monteur de boites en or", makers of gold watch cases. They worked together in an informal association and later entered a maker's mark as the Frères Oltramare between 1810 and 1811. When Geneva was liberted from French occupation they re-registered the same mark on November 4th, 1815, their workshop was at rue de Coutance 82. The two brothers ended their partnership on March 31, 1826. Isaac Adam (1768-1841) The son of Louis-Alexandre, he was an enamel painter and became associated with his father. He made a specialty of the decoration of watch cases and tabatières, and signed "Adam" or "A".