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Watch and Chatelaine

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Watch and Chatelaine

Artist: Thomas Tompion (London, England; active 1671-1713)

Date: 18th Century
Medium: Gold, enamel, steel
203.2 x 57.2 x 28.6 mm
Markings: Movement: "Tho Tompion, London, 129" Underside of pillar plate: "129" Underside of dial plate: incuse "RS, 129" Inner case: London HM 1697, cm incuse "WS, 129" Outer case: graffito "380"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 383
Text Entries

From about 1715 to the middle of the eighteenth century, repoussé chasing became the most popular method for decorating metal watchcases and, often, the chatelaines from which they hung. This chatelaine is a waist plaque from which a series of central plaques supporting the watch is suspended. The plaques and the case itself are decorated in detailed, high-relief repoussé work depicting scenes from Greek mythology. The waist plaque is decorated with a man sitting on a throne while the three suspending plaques have a lion, a standing figure in classical attire, and a winged putto with arrows and a club. Four pendant chains radiating from the central plaques were originally intended to support items such as an etui.

By midcentury repoussé work was commonly executed in the rococo style featuring scrollwork and medallions with classical scenes surrounded by symmetrical volutes. The outer case on this Watch depicts a scene from the Aeneid where Dido, sitting on a throne with her right hand raised, welcomes Aeneas, who approaches her with his left arm raised. The case band is pierced and engraved in a foliate pattern with birds and an oval landscape vignette.

The watch movement was made by the noted London clock and watchmaker Thomas Tompion, credited with building the first working model of the dead-beat escapement. Tompion was one of a small group of watchmakers whose technical achievements gave England’s watch industry a clear advantage over its Continental counterparts for most of the eighteenth century.