'THE TIGHTROPE WALKER' DUBOIS ET FILS | A VERY RARE AND FINE GOLD AND ENAMEL QUARTER REPEATING TWO TRAIN MUSICAL WATCH WITH TIGHTROPE WALKING AUTOMATON AND TWO MUSICIANS PLAYING MUSIC, MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET CIRCA 1810
Estimate: 150,000 - 250,000 GBP
'THE TIGHTROPE WALKER'
DUBOIS ET FILS
A VERY RARE AND FINE GOLD AND ENAMEL QUARTER REPEATING TWO TRAIN MUSICAL WATCH WITH TIGHTROPE WALKING AUTOMATON AND TWO MUSICIANS PLAYING MUSIC, MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
gilded highly decoratively engraved movement, cylinder escapement, plain three-arm brass balance, barrel for going train, further barrel for music & automata, pinned cylinder plucked by a comb with 33 tines, the repetition sounding on coiled gongs, small off-set gold engine-turned dial for time, enamel roundels carrying Arabic numerals, enamel minute ring, blued steel moon hands, surrounded by a polychrome enamel painted lakeside scene, a village and mountains visible in the background, the automaton tightrope walker applied in vari-coloured gold to the foreground, two further automata figures beneath depict a man playing a lyre and a lady playing a guitar, gold case, engine-turned back and bezels, plunge pendant repeating with locking slide beside the pendant at 11 o'clock, small slide by 3 o'clock to activate the music and automata, gilt metal cuvette with two apertures with indicators for winding the going and music trains and signed DuBois et Fils
The case is in very good order with crisp and unworn engraving. Gold marks and case numbers are clearly visible within. The inside cuvette has one very faint scratch towards the winding hole.
Dial: The dial ia in good order and the enamel is undamaged. There are some scratches and dirty marks to a few of the number lozenges such as 10,11 and 1. The automata dance and play their tune very happily when the button and bow are activated..
Movement The repeats functions correctly and the music plays when activated. The watch is running when wound.
"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."
Antiquorum Geneva, The Sandberg Watch Collection, 31 March 1 April, 2001, lot 271
Musical watches incorporating an automaton tightrope walker are among the most captivating of their genre. Only a handful of similar watches are known and these include:
1 - Tightrope Walker within a Landscape signed by Grand Jean, Marseille - Sotheby & Co., The Palace Collections of Egypt, 10-20 March 1954, lot 463
2 - Tightrope Walker in a Garden with Neo-Classical Temple - A. Chapuis, E. Droz, Automata, 1958, p. 178, fig. 197
3 - Tightrope Walker in Front of a Mountain attributed to DuBois & Fils, retailed by Perrin Frères - Patek Philippe Museum, Inventory S-193
4 - Tightrope Walker in Front of a Lake attributed to DuBois & Fils, Patek Philippe Museum, Inventory S-194
5 - Tightrope Walker in Front of a Lake signed by DuBois & Fils - present lot
All of the watches listed above are styled in a similar fashion, each include the tightrope walker and two figures playing music to the foreground. A tightrope is seen strung between the two vari-colour gold trees in the foreground. When activated, the tightrope walker appears to bounce up and down on his right leg as the rope flexes realistically beneath him, his left leg kicks and he adjusts his balancing pole. The two musicians at the base of the scene accompany the tightrope walker's movements by strumming their instruments.
The DuBois family were already producing watches in the middle of the 18th century, however, the firm of DuBois & Fils was officially founded in Le Locle in 1785.