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Lot No. 3
Estimate  25,000 - 50,000 €
This is a lot of a former auction!

Henry Capt à Gèneve

, Case No. 418, 39 mm, 52 g, circa 1830

A double-sided, half pearl-set gold and enamel pocket watch of museum quality, with musical movement and 3 automatons in four colour gold, produced for the Chinese market: "The Swing"

Case: 18k gold, front and back with glass panels, the bezels studded with half pearls, reeded band, the back cover with four colour gold automaton scene and polychrome enamelled landscape, button at 4 o'clock/ resp. 8 o'clock for for activating the automaton. Dial: gilt, engine-turned centre, Roman numerals, winding arbors at "2" for the musical movement and the automatons and at "6" for the watch, spade hands. Movm.: full plate movement, barrel, cylinder escapement, brass balance, musical movement with barrel with pins and vibrating blades.

Against an enamel miniature painting with a mill and a mountain stream, a party of three is depicted in multi-colour gold on a wooded knoll. On the left a lady plays the lute, a young lady in a hat sits on a swing in the middle while her chivalrous admirer to the right looks at the scene. The staff with which he pushed the swing is on the ground. When the automaton is activated, the lute is being played, the young man pushes his lover on the swing and the swing moves back and forth.

A similar pocket watch is illustrated and described in: "Pocket Watches" by Cecil Clutton/George Daniels, Munich 1982, fig. 279.

Henry Capt (1773-1841) was an independent watchmaker who specialised in watches with additional functions such as musical watches and automatons; Capt was one of the first in Geneva to use barrels and crowns in his automatons. Born in Chenit in the Vallée de Joux in April 1773, he was the son of Jaques Samuel Capt and Susanne Piguet. On January 1, 1796, he married Henriette Piguet. Around 1789 Capt settled in Geneva and worked for several renowned companies such as Jaquet-Droz, Godet, Leschot and his brother-in-law Isaac Daniel Piguet. In 1802 he went into partnership with Daniel Isaac Piguet, which lasted until 1811. When this partnership ended, Capt kept producing his own pieces for some time before entering another partnership with Aubert et Fils in 1830. The firm was taken over by his son, Henry Capt, in 1844. A shop was opened on the Rue du Rhône in 1855 which became quickly famous. During the 1870s, the Henry Capt company advertised that they were the only Geneva watch manufacturer to have a branch retail house in London. Branches were also established in Paris, Nice and New York.

The Art of the Automaton in Geneva
During the 1780s, Geneva opened a most intriguing chapter of horological history. The city developed, with great flair, the art of automatons: machines designed to imitate the movements of live beings or creatures. They ranged from the simplest forms, where a figure’s moving arms could point to the time, to complex, full-scale productions, such as pastoral scenes, theatre pieces or concerts. Automata were soon being used to animate a wide variety of objects, such as scent bottles, amphorae, mirrors or snuffboxes; their use as timepieces was often merely a pretext for possessing these exquisite creations. And since where there is life, there is sound, the automata were fitted with a musical mechanism. The acknowledged masters of this marriage between ornamental watches and automata included Pierre Morand, Henry Capt, Isaac Daniel Piguet and Philippe Samuel Meylan as well as the Jaquet Droz workshop in Geneva, with colleagues and successors Jean-Frédéric Leschot and Jacob Frisard. All were the brilliant creators of musical watches functioning first with chiming bells, and later with a cylinder or pin-drum that caused a comb made up of a set of blades to vibrate. These watches were especially prized in the East and during trade with Turkey and China they acquired a subtle local touch, a discreetly exotic charm that makes them easy to distinguish today. In the hands of the Rochat family and the Bruguier workshop, this tradition continued until 1850.
Source: La Tribune des Arts présente en exclusivité le Patek Philippe Museum,‌as of 10/07/2011.
Case: very good
Dial: very good
Movm.: very good, capable of running

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