L. Duchêne et fils (Genève)
Enamelled pocket watch with map of Italy, 19th century
Royal Museums of Art and History
Inv. G854

OBJECT 5
Extremely flat pocket watch,
Movement signed by Louis Duchêne et Fils, serial no. 20880
Geneva, ca. 1810-1820
Case and dial in enamelled gold,
Second and calendar dials in engraved silver, with steel hands.
Godtschalck bequest 1921
Inv. G. 854

The movement of this pocket watch bears the signature of the watchmakers “Louis Duchêne et Fils” of Geneva. Louis Duchêne (1730-1804) began his career sometime in the mid-18th century. It was only at the end of his life, in 1791, that he would begin collaborating with his son. After his death, his signature continued to be used until 1820.
The mechanism of this watch, constructed with a bridge and without a fusee, is exceptionally precise. It has a cylinder escapement, a technique that would no longer be used after 1830, once the anchor escapement had been perfected.

For Duchêne and his son, it is an unusual choice, as their production is generally characterised by traditional mechanisms, with verge fusee escapement.
The watch face is adorned with an elegant foliate motif in black enamel and also has two small subsidiary dials, one of which indicates the seconds and the other, the days and months, a technical feature that was extremely sought after at the time. The original decoration of the case is in black and pale blue champlevé enamel and depicts the map of Italy at the beginning of the 19th century, prior to the Risorgimento (unification), including Savoie, Sicily and Sardinia. The major countries of southern central Europe are also shown, such as Switzerland, Bavaria, Swabia and Croatia as far as the borders with Turkey. The painter of this exceptional enamelwork is unknown, as is generally the rule for watch cases. However, on the back of the cuvette there is a hallmark GB. A watch that was manufactured in 1824 by the house Vacheron Constantin is similarly decorated, however cobalt blue is used instead of black enamel. It is highly likely that the work was created by the same enamellist.


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