FRÈRES ROCHAT | A MAGNIFICENT AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE GOLD AND ENAMEL SINGING BIRD WATCH MADE FOR THE TURKISH MARKET CIRCA 1820, NO. 268
Estimate: 400,000 - 600,000 GBP
A MAGNIFICENT AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE GOLD AND ENAMEL SINGING BIRD WATCH MADE FOR THE TURKISH MARKET
CIRCA 1820, NO. 268
gilded movement, cylinder escapement, plain three-arm gold balance, stamped FR within an oval cartouche for Frères Rochat, the singing bird mechanism pump wound via the pendant and with locking slide to inner bezel within case back, the bellows and bird song controlled via a sliding stack of eight cams, the top four controlling the singing valves stepped through four revolutions per play, further fixed cams for controlling the movement of the bird, white enamel dial, Turkish numerals and outer minute ring, dial signed Breguet et Fils, gold case, bezels decorated with opaque turquoise and translucent red guilloché enamel, the pendant and bow decorated en suite, case back with polychrome enamel painted scene of battleships exchanging fire with a town to the foreground and mountains against a setting sun in the background, the band and bezels further enamelled with flowers and foliage, the case back opening to reveal a fixed cuvette with central hinged circular panel polychrome enamel painted with trophies of music against a translucent pink guilloché enamel ground, the panel opening upon depression of the pendant to reveal a bird-shaped reserve surrounded by a gold plate enamelled with a blue feather design, the singing bird rising from the reserve with vibrantly coloured plumage, the surrounding cuvette with polychrome enamel painted floral wreath upon an opaque turquoise enamel ground and outer translucent red guilloché enamel wave-form border, inside case back polychrome enamel painted with trophies of war against a translucent red guilloché enamel ground, bordered with opaque white and turquoise enamel, case maker's mark DB within a lozenge for Dupont & Bonnet
Movement: not running at the time of cataloguing. The singing bird not functioning. Was likely last restored by the prior owner Seth Atwood Founder of the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois,in 1982, copy of a restoration report available upon request carried out at that time
CASE:In superb original condition. The enamel showing very few signs of wear, some light surface scratches to the rear scene, but does not distort the scene itself. The red flower to the right of the pendant with some minimal loss. Some scratching to the inside bezel beneath the crystal on the dial side from where screws have been removed and put back. Enamels to the inside back in very good condition with not signs of loss.
DIAL: in very good condition, no visible hairlines or damage. Some very light spots of discolouration only visible under magnification and raking light. Some light speckling to the lower half, barely discernible with the naked eye
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. All dimensions in catalogue descriptions are approximate. Condition reports may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. Please note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and leather bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
The Time Museum, Rockford, Il., Inventory no. A5
Sotheby's New York, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, 2 December 1999, lot 31
Current private collection, purchased from the above auction
Britten's Old Clocks & Watches and their Makers, Revised and enlarged 9th Edition, Bloomsbury, 1989, p.101 & pl.IV
Jim Arnfield, Longitude Symposium Tour, Horological Journal, January 1994, p.234
The mechanical singing bird is one of the most captivating of all automata, those produced by the firm of Frères Rochat are renowned for their exceptional quality, realistic bodily movements and the mellifluous tone of their song. The firm worked with the finest case makers who housed their automata in exquisite gold cases, richly adorned with decorative enamel panels and polychrome painted scenes which might be further embellished with pearls and other precious materials. The horologer David Rochat (1746-1812) of Le Brassus in the Vallée du Joux worked at the end of the 18th century with his three sons Jacques François Elisée (1771-1836), David Frédéric Henri (1774-1848) and Samuel Henri (1777-1854), supplying the firm of Jaquet-Droz & Leschot with singing bird parts and also spending some time at Frédéric Leschot’s workshop in Geneva. Jaqeut-Droz’s chief singing bird specialist was Jacob Frisard. Frisard is generally believed to have been responsible for inventing the whistle and sliding piston that enabled the miniaturization of the singing bird automaton. David Rochat and his sons were perfectly positioned to learn the design and construction of Jaquet Droz and Leschot’s singing bird movements, and the brothers would go on to set up an independent business in Geneva (which later included members of their extended family), to produce singing bird movements of outstanding quality. The present watch’s case carries the stamp DB for Dupont & Bonnet, gold watch case makers who worked in Geneva from 1812 until 1822. They first entered this mark around 1812 and re-registered it on 17 October 1815. Dupont & Bonnet’s workshop was in the Maison Sessel at 7 Rue de Cornavin. According to the registers, the firm went into liquidation and their mark was expunged on 1 October 1822.
Singing bird automata are more usually found within the larger dimensions of snuff boxes or within exotic bird cages. Examples of watches incorporating singing birds are extremely rare, especially those featuring the complex arrangement of a bird rising from within the case, as found on the present watch. Simpler versions of the complication exist, including birds on full view either singing in a cage that is mounted to a watch’s dial or perched on a branch fitted to the dial. Another example of a watch containing a singing bird rising from within the watch’s case can be found at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the latter watch is signed Hillaire Bassereau and is illustrated in A. Chapuis, E. Droz, Automata, 1958, p.202, fig. 245.