A RARE AND FINE GOLD AND ENAMEL CENTRE SECONDS DUPLEX WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET WITH POLYCHROME ENAMEL PAINTED SCENE DEPICTING A JUNK SAILING BY THE WHAMPOA REACH PAGODA CIRCA 1830, NO. 6973 [ 罕見黃金畫琺瑯懷錶，飾琺瑯彩繪帆船駛經黃埔寶塔場景，為中國市場製造，年份約1830，編號6973]
November 12, 04:17 PM GMT
20,000 - 30,000 CHF
A RARE AND FINE GOLD AND ENAMEL CENTRE SECONDS DUPLEX WATCH MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET WITH POLYCHROME ENAMEL PAINTED SCENE DEPICTING A JUNK SAILING BY THE WHAMPOA REACH PAGODA
CIRCA 1830, NO. 6973
• Movement: gilded Chinese calibre decoratively engraved with scrolling flowers and foliage against a stippled ground, similarly decorated hanging barrel, skeletonised balance cock and central bridge, duplex escapement, five-arm polished steel flat balance, diamond endstone, signed and numbered Ilbery, London 6973
• Dial: white enamel, Roman numerals, outer minute ring with Arabic 15-minute divisions, gold hands and centre seconds
• Case: gold, the back with polychrome enamel painted scene depicting a Chinese junk ship at Whampoa reach, front and back bezels decorated with opaque light blue and black champlevé enamel, pendant similarly decorated, pusher through pendant to release case back, plain polished hinged gilt-metal cuvette with apertures for winding and hand-setting
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"Ilbéry était un grand artiste et en même temps un technicien hors ligne. Ses montres, vrais chronomètres de l'époque, sont aussi parfaites par la décoration extérieure que par le mouvement." A. Chapuis, La Montre Chinoise, p. 181.
The scene to the case back depicts a Chinese Junk in front of the island of Whampoa (Huangpu) with the nine-story Pazhou or Whampoa reach pagoda. Whampoa is situated on the Pearl river about a dozen miles from Canton. A deep water port and it was at Whampoa that Western ships were required to drop anchor, pay their taxes and arrange for Junk boats to transport their goods to shore. The buildings to the right of the scene are almost certainly trading warehouses. A very similar enamel painted panel, depicting the same Whampoa scene and Junk can be found at the Patek Philippe Museum, Inv. S-674, the latter watch has a case by Bovet and is illustrated in P. Friess, The Emergence of the Portable Watch, Patek Philippe Museum, Vol. III, p.486 and A. Tellier & M. Didier, The Mirror of Seduction, Patek Philippe Museum, 2010, p. 148.
In his book, La Montre Chinoise, Alfred Chapuis ascribes the origins of the Chinese calibre movement to William Ilbery, stating that it was a style that the Bovets would go on to copy [see op. cit. p.180]. The movement in the present watch is an especially fine example of this genre with its highly decoratively engraved plates, bridges and barrel cover. With five spokes and a highly polished broad, flat rim, the balance provides a dramatic visual display as the watch runs.
Chapuis also credits Ilbery with the distinctive style of the Chinese market watch case. Such cases were usually highly decorative, featuring elaborate and often intricately arranged enamel decoration. The most prized watches would feature polychrome enamel painted panels depicting floral bouquets, classical or pastoral themes and landscapes or harbour scenes such as that found on the present watch. While some enamelling was completed in London, the majority, especially the finely painted panels, were executed in Geneva.
William Ilbery ran his watch business together with his brother James, the former being based predominantly at Doughty Street in London, the latter developing the firm's activities in Canton. Together the brothers led a highly successful export business, producing some of the finest Chinese market watches of the period.