Ilbery, London, Movement No. 6654, 62 x 88 mm, 159 g, circa 1810
A gold and enamel watch of museum quality studded with half pearls, created for the Chinese market: "The Peach". To the best of our knowledge this is one of only eight such pieces in the world and at the same time the largest and most extravagant of the surviving peach watches. This example seems to be the most important and most valuable Ilbery watch on the market today. Case: gold enamel and half pearls. Dial: enamel. Movm.: bridge movement according to Lepine, keywind, gilt, lavishly florally engraved, signed, lavishly florally engraved going barrel, duplex escapement, three-arm steel balance with screws and trapezoid weights, open-worked balance cock with finely floral engravings, chatoned diamond endstone on balance.
The case back is covered with painted enamel in subtly fading hues to resemble the fruit. Two translucent green enamel leaves rise from the pendant set with half pearls. The stem, forming a loop for the pendant, is also studded with half pearls of different sizes and shapes. The white enamel dial on the front is framed by a light green border with drop-shaped translucent red enamel ornaments. The case band is ornamented with a border of tiny half pearls. The dial has Roman numerals, heart-shaped gold hands and centre seconds. Pushing a small button opens the case back and reveals the richly decorated translucent and opaque enamel gold dome. It has a blue and white geometrical pattern in the centre within a border of black enamelling with golden foliage of wine and translucent enamel grapes. The movement with its Chinese duplex escapement and the lavish floral engravings is typical for Ilbery's Workshop. The movement is signed by Ilbery and numbered 6654.
Provenance: This watch has most of the time been in a Dutch-Finnish well known collector and musician family, van Gilse van der Pals, beginning with the Dutch consul Hendrik (1856 - 1928) and further on inherited within this family until now.
Hendrik van Gilse van der Pals, from a merchant family of Rotterdam, was a rubbermanufacturer and honorary consul for the Netherlands in St Petersburg until he (temporarily) settled on his estates in Finland because of the Russian revolution. The wealthy industrialist household participated actively in the musical life of St Petersburg. At their 'palace' they organised concerts with composer Anton Arensky and pianist and conductor Willem Mengelberg. Van der Pals met people like Gustav Mahler und Alexander Glazunov. His oldest son Leopold van Gilse van der Pals (1884-1966) was a composer and moved to Berlin and Switzerland where he worked primarily with Rudolf Steiner. His second son Maximiliaan Hendrik van Gilse van der Pals (1885-1966) became agriculturalist on the Laakspohja estate near Lohja in Finland. He married Sara Stjernvall, daughter of the Russian Railway Minister Knut Stjernvall (Nikolaev Railway). Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Nicola%C3%AF_van_Gilse_van_der_Pals, as of 04/28/2016.
This highly important timepiece is a so-called fantasy watch and one of only eight remaining pieces in the world that have this form of a peach. Six of them were created as mirror pairs and are held by important museums and collections, although sometimes they are regarded as 'mango fruits'. An early pair of peaches is held today in a private collection, but it is unsigned. It used to be part of the Sandberg Collection (described and illustrated in Terence Camerer Cuss' "The Sandberg Watch Collection", pages 432-433). Another pair of watches formed like peaches is in the Hans Wilsdorf Collection/Rolex. That pair is signed by Ilbery and numbered 6494 and 6495 (described and illustrated in Alfred Chapuis "Montres et Émaux de Genève" - Collection H. Wilsdorf, Lausanne 1944, pages 138-139). The third known pair is held by the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva and is signed by Ilbery as well. These three pairs of gold enamel peaches were on loan to the exhibition "Le Miroir de la Séduction" - Prestigieuses paires de montres "chinoise" held at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva from May 15 to Oktober 16, 2010 (see the exhibition catalogue pages 82-83, 90-91 and 92-93).
Most of the peaches were manufactured as pairs of mirror-image gold enamel pocket watches to ensure that the contemporary taste was met as well as the Chinese penchant for duality, which symbolizes cosmic wholeness.
Inspired by nature, these fantasy watches were produced for the Chinese market in Geneva at the end of the 18th and in the early 19th century. Imaginative shapes and decorative motifs were popular and the artists were incredibly creative in their work. Inspiration was found in nature and everyday objects. This led to a great variety of new decorative subjects such as heavenly bodies, hats, shoes, musical instruments, animals, plants and various fruit. In addition to being a highly decorative subject the peach has an important status in Chinese tradition: among humans the peach symbolises long life, among gods it symbolizes immortality.
William Ilbery (circa 1760 - 1839) began working in Londons Goswell Street in 1780 and moved to Duncan Terrace later. Influenced by the examples of James Cox in London and Pierre Jaquet-Droz in Switzerland, Ilbery specialized in producing luxury watches for the Chinese Market. At first he very much adhered to the traditional English style with its full plate movement and duplex escapement. For later movements Ilbery took his inspiration from the Lepine caliber with free-standing barrel, as did Jaquet-Droz with the watches he signed in London and William Anthony in London. Ilbery had the cases of his watches exquisitely decorated by the best enamellers from Geneva such as Jean-Francois-Victor Dupont or Jean-Louis Richter. William Ilbery initiated the production of opulently engraved movements for the Asian market in Fleurier in Switzerland; other makers in Fleurier such as Bovet and Juvet followed his example. Ilbery should therefore be considered one of the most renowned makers of the so-called "Chinese watches". Although he worked mainly in London, Ilbery kept in close contact with the trade in other countries; a watch signed "Ilbery Paris" is known and Ilbery & Son are recorded in London and Fleurier as well as in Canton.
Estimate 160,000 - 250,000 €
Price Realised 192,200 €
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