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Sector Watch

Date: 1903-1916
Medium: Silver, enamel, steel
73 x 58.7 x 12.7 mm
Markings: Movement: "Record Watch Co.-S.A., Tramelan; BREVET 27961" Case: curvette inside-Holy FRS; Swiss HM "coq de bruyere" for .800 silver ( in use 1882-1934), German "crown and moon" (in use after 1888), serial number: "612" Case lid: "coq de bruy, 612, 3"
Inscribed: Cuvette (outside): "Sector Watch" Dial: "Sector Watch"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Frederick T. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 179
Label Text
A sector watch uses only a portion (sector) of a circle to perform its timekeeping and display functions. An ingenious mechanism advances each hand to its end point and then quickly returns each one to its starting position. Thus after twelve hours the hour hand springs back to zero; the minute hand operates similarly over a sixty-minute interval. It is estimated three thousand to five thousand of these watches were made.

Text Entries

Sector watches are clever timepieces intended to amuse, or even mesmerize, the viewer. Instead of the traditional circular form, this watch uses only a sector of a circle to perform its timekeeping and display functions. It does so through an ingenious mechanism whereby the hands are returned to their starting position after pivoting for a partial revolution to the edge of the sector. The hour hand rotates for twelve hours before a spring brings it back to zero, while the minute hand operates similarly over a sixty-minute interval.

The Record Watch Company in Tramelan, Switzerland, specialized in these watches. The company was founded in 1903 by a group from Tramelan for the purpose of acquiring a patent that had been issued to Giovanni Sgherlino of Turin (dates unknown) for the plans of the sector watch. The Record Watch Company produced the movements; while the cases were made by Holy Fréres of St. Imier (dates unknown). It is estimated that as many as three to five thousand of these watches were made.(1)

The case is etched and engraved with motifs of oak leaves, pine boughs and pine cones against a background of tree trunks on a stippled surface. Realistic representations of nature were common images in jewelry design in the nineteenth century as the West began to marvel at novel flower and plant imports from the East, South American, and the Philippines. All types of plants found their way onto watchcases; jewelry was fashioned into flower and plant forms with stems, petals, and leaves. After the turn of the century this realis was replaced by the stylized naturalism of the Art Nouveau movement with its emphasis on the whiplash line. This watch combines these two sources with its accurate representations of oak and pine trees contrasted with the curvilinear, Art Nouveau-inspired pendant hoop.

1. The Record Watch Co. S.A. was founded by Ariste Chatlain, J.A. Gindrat-Vuille, J. O. Vuilleumier, Constant Houriet-Gindrat, Albert Zachmann, P. H. Gindrat-Mathez, Dominique Ricono, and Schwarz (first name unknown). For more information, see Kathleen H. Pritchard, Swiss Timepieces Makers, 1775-1975. 2 vols. (West Kennebunk, Maine: Phoenix Publishing, 1997), 2: R-11-15.