Patek Philippe heart-form watch made in 1864. Sold by Sotheby’s Geneva, 11th May 2008, lot 109 (CHF 43,000).

NEW YORK - Watches have been given as tokens of love and affection since the 16th century. Most historical watches have lost their stories, who they were for and why they were given, but some ‘love’ watches do reveal a little more information to us. I’m rather fond of the heart-form watch photographed above. Suspended like a miniaturised Jeff Koons sculpture, it was made in 1864 by Patek Philippe. The watch is set to both sides with blood red, heart-shaped garnet that conceals the watch’s dial beneath. This watch was almost certainly a Christmas gift from a lover, for we know that it was bought in Frankfurt, Germany, on December 9th, 1864.

Gold oval watch with compass and sundial by Cartier, Paris, 1939. Sold Sotheby’s London, 30th November 2010, lot 13, £63,650.

Cartier have mastered the watch as a playful token of love. In 1939, The Duke of Windsor gave a Cartier watch to the Duchess of Windsor with a compass and sundial to the reverse and inscribed “no excuse for going in the wrong direction.” The Duke gave this watch to the Duchess at Easter 1939, shortly after the couple had found a new home in Paris.

Pink gold letter-form watch by Cartier. Sotheby’s New York, Important Watches and Clocks, 10th June 2013, lot 237.

On 10th June, at Sotheby’s Important Watches and Clocks auction in New York, a wonderful Cartier ‘envelope’ watch will be offered for sale. Designed as an Air Mail letter, the watch is engraved to the front with the name and address of James Ortiz, complete with postage stamp and franking. The back of the envelope is engraved with the names of the senders: Mr and Mrs Ortiz. The date of the franking, that of James Ortiz’s birthday, shows that the watch was sent, with love, to a rather lucky birthday boy.