Property from an Important Italian Collection


Auction Closed

October 28, 01:13 PM GMT


60,000 - 80,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from an Important Italian Collection



CIRCA 1825, NO. 176

Movements: polished and blued steel Chinese calibres, duplex escapements, ruby endstones, each signed Bovet, Fleurier

Dials: white enamel, Roman numerals, blued steel hands, centre seconds

Cases: gold, polychrome enamel painted panels depicting two doves surrounded by flowers and foliage, pearl-set bezels, stem and bow, gold engraved cuvettes, cases stamped G within a fancy-form cartouche and B within a lozenge-shaped cartouche surmounted by a crown, the inside of the case backs and bezels numbered 176

Keys: gold, polychrome enamel with floral bouquets

diameters 59mm & 58.5mm

Accompanied by an associated fitted presentation case. 

Between 1807 and 1815, watchmaking in Fleurier suffered a significant slowdown in trade, caused in large part by the Continental Blockade and, as a consequence, many watchmakers were forced to change career. It was during this period, in 1814, that three Bovet brothers, all skilled watchmakers - Frédéric (b.1786), Alphonse (1788-1850) and Edouard (1797-1849) - left Fleurier to work in London. In 1818, Edouard was hired as a watchmaker by the Maison Magniac, a firm involved in the watch trade in Canton, China. Arriving in Canton in August 1818, Edouard quickly recognised the trade potential with China and contacted his brothers to discuss developing their interests in the region. The brothers began forming their company in January 1820, with Edouard working in Canton, Frédéric and Alphonse remaining in London and another brother, Gustave (1790-1835), engaged in Fleurier. On 1 May 1822, the Bovet company was officially registered in London, however, operations were soon to be headquartered back in their hometown of Fleurier where the brothers’ sister, Caroline (b.1807), would also later join the firm.

Maison Bovet’s successful introduction of a new style of watch, destined for China, quickly allowed the firm to secure a dominant position within this export market. As a consequence, Bovet transformed the fortunes of Fleurier, giving a new energy to the watchmaking trade and ushering in an era of prosperity for the town. From the outset, in addition to selling good quality watches, Edouard Bovet was determined to offer a range of exceptional and highly luxurious watches, decorated using the finest techniques and materials, that would be aimed at the wealthiest Chinese clientele. These watches would incorporate a distinctive, so-called Chinese calibre, with duplex escapement. A glazed cuvette would be mounted above, through which the movement could be admired by its owner. Among the decorative scenes skilfully painted in enamel to the backs of cases, flower arrangements were a particularly popular theme and such compositions would occasionally incorporate a pair of doves, such as those found on the present lot. The two present watches also reflect the demand, within the Chinese market, for complimentary pairs of mirror image scenes – each watch being a perfect reflection of the other. It is increasingly rare to find pairs of watches from this era that remain united, since many have been separated from one another as they have passed through the generations.

In 1824, Edouard was joined in China by his brother Charles-Henri (b.1802) who, from 1830-1836 was the Maison Bovet’s main representative in China; he returned to Switzerland in 1839. Meanwhile, Edouard had returned to Fleurier and would go on to establish a further factory in Besancon with Charles Lorimier, the factory there producing Chinese market watches which were exported together with Bovets other products. The sons of the second eldest founding brother, Alphonse, would continue the Bovet firm – they were Frédéric known as Fritz (1824-1914), Alphonse 1828-1918), Gustave who was born in Shanghai (1835-1906) and Charles (b.1838). They were joined by Louis (1818-1882), the son of Gustave the elder. Louis would travel to Canton in 1836 to work with his uncle Charles and was joined in 1838 by his childhood friend Auguste Jeanneret when Charles returned to Europe. In 1880 the firm changed its name to Bovet Frères. For a detailed history of the firm, see: A. Chapuis, La Montre Chinoise, 1919.

For a pair of similarly themed enamel watches by Bovet, numbered 861, see: Parke-Bernet, The Collection of Helen M. de Kay, New York, 9 December 1966, lot 61.