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Skeletonized, Jacquemart Watch

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Skeletonized, Jacquemart Watch

Artist: Berthoud (active Paris, France, 1750 - 1813)

Date: c. 1805
Medium: Gold, copper, varicolored gold, enamel, steel
88.9 x 55.6 x 25.4 mm
Markings: Cuvette: "Berthoud à Paris, N 23078" Case: "K18, 2332, AH, 1614"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 333
Label Text
The back of this case is decorated with a painted enamel portrait of Napoleon I (1769-1821), Emperor of France from 1804 to 1815. This watch form is referred to as "skeletonized" because the movement is visible through glass.

Text Entries

Most watches with moving figures, called jacquemart watches, have plain silver cases. This case, however, is decorated with an enamel-on-copper portrait of Napoleon I (1796-1821), Emperor of France from 1804-1815. The portrait depicts Napoleon when he was a general in the army, before he became emperor: he is shown in his military uniform with epaulettes and medals including a Maltese cross. His uniform is unbuttoned at midwaist, indicating his habit of placing his hand inside his jacket.

The enamel dial with an Arabic chapter ring is flanked by jacquemart figures of Apollo and Ceres- executed in varicolored gold- poised to strike bells on the quarter hour, while a putto below the numeral six strikes the hours. This is a skeletonized watch, so called because its movement is visible through the glass. The style is originated in France in the mid-eighteenth century. Leafy scroll work engraved on the top plate and polished steel repeating work are clearly observable.

This watch was made by Berthoud a Paris when the firm was already well established. It had been founded by Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807), who emigrated to Paris from Switzerland in 1747. Berthoud was not only an eminent watchmaker but also the author of several books on this history, theory, and practice of watchmaking. His nephew, Pierre Louis Bethoud (1754-1813), succeeded him and, like his uncle, was appointed Horloger de la Marine (Watchmaker of the Navy). When he died in 1813, Pierre Louis’ sons, Louis-Simon-Henri and Charles-Auguste, took over the company and renamed it Berthoud Freres.(1)


1. For more information, see Cecil Clutton and George Daniels, Watches: A Complete History of the Technical and Decorative Development of the Watch, 5d ed. (London and Totowa, N.J.: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1979), pp. 46-49, 268; and Tardy, with contributions by Paul Brateau, Dictionnaire des horlogers francais (Paris: Tardy) pp. 49-54.