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LOTS 53-66: CARTIER TIMEPIECES FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Cartier/European Watch & Clock Co., Inc.
'THE BILLIKEN' AN IMPORTANT AND UNIQUE ROCK CRYSTAL, ONYX, GOLD AND ENAMEL DIAMOND-SET EIGHT-DAY DESK TIMEPIECE CIRCA 1922 NO 747
Estimation
200 000300 000
Lot. Vendu 482,500 USD (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT
53

LOTS 53-66: CARTIER TIMEPIECES FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Cartier/European Watch & Clock Co., Inc.
'THE BILLIKEN' AN IMPORTANT AND UNIQUE ROCK CRYSTAL, ONYX, GOLD AND ENAMEL DIAMOND-SET EIGHT-DAY DESK TIMEPIECE CIRCA 1922 NO 747
Estimation
200 000300 000
Lot. Vendu 482,500 USD (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Watches & Clocks

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New York

Cartier/European Watch & Clock Co., Inc.
'THE BILLIKEN' AN IMPORTANT AND UNIQUE ROCK CRYSTAL, ONYX, GOLD AND ENAMEL DIAMOND-SET EIGHT-DAY DESK TIMEPIECE CIRCA 1922 NO 747
• rectangular gilt lever 8-day movement, 10 jewels • the dial with rectangular gold chapter ring overlaid with turquoise enamel heightened by Roman numerals, set with white opaque enamel, the numerals spaced by gold florets, diamond-set hands with arrow-form terminals • the dial protected by a projecting rectangular glazed panel, the corners decorated with black and turquoise enameled attachments • the chapter ring applied to a quadrangular molded onyx case, the sides fixed with turquoise and black enameled gold medallions, hung with jade circular handles, heightened with turquoise and black enamel, the medallions applied to the case • the case surmounted by a well-carved rock crystal figure of a Billiken with diamond-set eyes • mounted on a gold socle, the base and movement each fitted with a plaque inscribed 'No. 747, European Watch and Clock Co, Inc, 10 jewels' • wound at the back by means of a key • base and movement signed European Watch & Clock Clock Co. Inc., base, movement, support and underside of chapter ring hand-stamped with Cartier numbers 1505, the movement hand-stamped with Cartier numbers 95076
height 19 cm
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Provenance

Sotheby's, New York, Important Watches, October 19th, 2007, lot 8

Description

The Billiken figure is known on at least one other Cartier timepiece. For an image of this well-known and important piece, a portico clock, see the cover of The Cartier Collection: Timepieces, as well as page 214 of the same text, where it heads the chapter entitled 'From China and Japan.' For more illustrations of that piece, see the Exhibition Catalogue from Cartier and America, San Francisco and New York, 2009, p.151, which identifies the piece as belonging to the Cartier collection, the Exhibition Catalogue of the Musée du Petit Palais, October 20, 1989-January 28, 1990, pl. 53, p. 84; Barracca, J., Negretti, G., and Nencini, F., Le Temps de Cartier, p. 21; and Rudoe, J., Cartier: 1900-1939, pl. 206, pp.123-4. For an example of another Billiken objet created by Cartier, see Nadelhoffer, H., Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary, pl. 73.

The Billiken is a symbol of luck created in 1908 by Florence Pretz, an art teacher from Missouri. His name came from U.S. President William Howard Taft's nickname, Billy, following just a few years after Theodore Roosevelt's name was used to popularize the teddy bear.  

The Billiken's whimsical, elfin look was an instant success, and his likeness was chosen for dolls and a diverse variety of other objects, including salt and pepper shakers, belt buckles, automobile hood ornaments, and the mascot for St. Louis University's sports teams.

After a few years of popularity in America, the Billiken craze dulled and the mass production of Billiken-themed items slowed. Too charming to disappear completely, though, the Billiken re-surfaced as far away as Japan, where his status was elevated to that of 'The God of Things as they Ought to Be.' The Japanese were so enamored with the Billiken that his effigy was enshrined in an Osaka amusement park in 1912. Since 1980, the Billiken has enjoyed a lofty view from the fifth floor of the city's revived Tsutenkaku Tower.

Folklore has it that the luck the Billiken offers falls into three categories: good, better, and best. Good luck results from purchasing a Billiken; better luck from having given a Billiken as a gift; the best luck of all is for one to own a Billiken and have it stolen. Luck is also bestowed upon those who rub the soles of its feet.

It is interesting to note that in Alaska, where the Billiken to this day enjoys great popularity as the subject for carved items, the artisans find this one of the most challenging figures to create. If executed less than perfectly, his unusual and difficult-to-craft features are rendered frightening rather than charming. With that in mind, one can more fully appreciate the mastery required to carve the form of the Billiken out of rock crystal, as in the present lot.

Important Watches & Clocks

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New York