Reinhold Vasters, Aachen (1827-1909), having trained as a goldsmith, worked in London, Paris and Vienna. He exhibited works at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.
Registering his mark in Aachen in 1853, he was immediately appointed restorer to the Cathedral by Canon Bock, repairing objects from the Cathedral's treasury. Subsequently, in collaboration with the Vienna born Paris marchand-amateur Frédéric Spitzer (1815-1890), Vasters restored and enhanced damaged early works of art, in addition to creating entire pieces in the Renaissance style, working closely with the Parisian jeweller, Alfred André (1839-1919). Spitzer’s clientele included many of the great collectors of the day, notably the Rothschilds in Europe, and J.P. Morgan and Henry Walters in America; many pieces found their way into major museums. Long accepted as genuine it was the re-discovery in the 1970s of a large folio of drawings that had been in the archives of the Victoria & Albert museum since 1919, but never previously studied, that led to a re-evaluation of many objects and jewels, culminating in a detailed study of the entire folio published in 2003 by Miriam Krautwurst as her Doctoral thesis.
Although it is certain that the folio of drawings preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum does not include everything that passed through Vasters' hands, there is no evidence that he made watch or clock movements. On the contrary, all watches known, where he has "enhanced" the cases with gold and enamel mounts, have genuine period movements. Miriam Krautwurst concurs with this conclusion in her introduction to the chapter on watches. Indeed, in most cases, particularly those with a complex "astronomical/calendrical" dial, as is the fact with the current lot, the original dial was retained. There is no identifiable drawing for the enamelled gold frame of the Bartam, however, there is an accurate design for an intended gold and enamel dial overlay which (although not used in the present lot) must have been proposed for this watch. Evidence for this is the existence of the small sector-shaped aperture beside the hour ring at 4 o’clock shown on the drawing. This indication of planetary sign may not be unique, but appears rarely on similar recorded watches (another example being the David Ramsay watch sold Sotheby’s London, 15 December 2015, lot 4). In addition, the drawing shows the projected champlevé decoration as being in translucent green and solid white enamel. These are the same colours as used on the inside of the crystal cover, somewhat unusual in view of the exterior enamels being in blue and white. The large size and exceptional quality of the Bartam dial would have made it a prime candidate for enhancement into a renaissance style jewelled object.
Sotheby's would like to thank Simon Bull, Scholar of early watches, for his assistance in the research of this lot.
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