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Ring Watch

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Ring Watch

Date: 1830-1840
Medium: Gold, steel
17.5 x 19.1 (length of bezel) x 26 mm
Markings: Movement: "Bacher" Case: cameo "14" (in square punch)
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 276
Label Text
The earliest recorded example of a ring watch is one made in Augsburg, Germany, in 1580. While all ring watches incorporated miniature watch movements, more sophisticated examples included automata activated by the hour gear.

Text Entries

Watches were hidden within a variety of forms. One of the most intriguing is the ring watch, a form that was an ornament for the finger and a timekeeper, a miniature watch having been set into the bezel. The earliest recorded example is a ring watch made in Augsburg, Germany, about 1580. The form continued to be popular in that country through the seventeenth century.(1) In England eighteenth-century makers such as the celebrated horologist John Arnold (1736-99) made ring watches, including a repeating watch set into a ring for George III (1738-1820) in 1764.(2)

Ring watches sometimes featured seconds and date dials in addition to the main dial. By the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the bezel was often set with pearls or diamonds, or both. The shank on this ring Watch is chased gold worked into leafy c-scrolls, flowers, and a whelk shell. The center of these watches was reserved for a tiny dial with a decorative motif and a visible balance wheel. Tiny dials were also set into brooches that replicated the style and embellishments of ring watches.(3) The Watches could also include automata activated by the hour gear.

Ring watches continued to be popular in the Belle Epoque (1895-1910) and Art Deco (1918-30) periods. At the turn of the century they were accented with enamel on the shank and set with diamonds around the bezel.(4) During the Art Deco period the French jeweler and watchmaker Leon Hatot (active ca. 1910-ca. 1940), who supplied jewelry to prestigious firms in Paris, made ring watches that resembled diamonds rings but opened to reveal a watch.(5)

1. For more information, see Harold Newman, An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry (London: Thames & Hudson, 1981), p. 325.

2. Arnold is known for his invention of the helical balance spring for chronometers and a detent escapement similar to the modern chronometer. For more information, see G. H. Baillie, C. Clutton, and C. A. Ilbert, Britten ‘s Old Clocks and Watches and Their Makers, 7 ed. (New York: Bonanza Books, 1956), p. 324.

3. A rare example of such a brooch watch is in the collections of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. See Anne Garside, ed., Jewelry Ancient to Modern (New York: Viking Press in cooperation with the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, 1979), p. 224, pl. 609.

4. For an illustration of a ring watch from 1900, see Larissa Yakovleva, Artistic Enamels from the Hermitage Collection: Swiss Watches and Snuff-boxes, 17th-20th Centuries. Translated by Alexandra George (Saint Petersburg: State Hermitage, 1997), p. 81.

5. For an illustration, see the Magnificent Jewels (auction catalogue, New York: Christies, Apr. 14, 1999), lot 272.