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Oignon Watch

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Oignon Watch

Artist: Helie Boursault (active Paris, France)

Date: 1675-1700
Medium: Silver
76.2 x 63.5 x 30.2 mm
Markings: Movement: "HÉLIE BOURSAULT A PARIS"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Frederick T. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 218
Label Text
Seventeenth-century technical advances, which resulted in more accurate timekeeping, required thicker cases to accommodate improved mechanisms. This structural change resulted in the appearance of a new French model, known in that country as the oignon (onion) and in England as the turnip.

Text Entries

This watch typifies the oignon style popular in France in the latter part of the seventeenth century and predominant in French watchmaking for forty years. The name is derived from its shape, like a bulging onion, which was created to accommodate a larger balance wheel and other parts of the movement.

The movement of this watch is hinged to the back of the case so that it can be listed out and easily repaired or adjusted. The backplate is pierced with a design of leafy scroll work and two birds, in contrast to the plain design of concentric engine-turned rings on the back of the case. The dial is chased with scrolls, strapwork, and two birds. The roman chapters (hours figures) are enameled on matte reserves enclosed by an arcade of scrolls. A single hand marks the hours, a feature characteristic of watches until about 1700.