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Triple-case Clock Watch

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Triple-case Clock Watch

Artist: George E. Prior (London, England; active beginning c. 1800)

Date: c. 1810
Medium: Gold, gilt metal, enamel, half-pearls, leather, Swiss enameling
88.9 x 74.6 x 30.2 mm
Markings: Cuvette: "Geoe Prior, London, 1001" Dial: "GEORGE PRIOR, LONDON"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Frederick T. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 210
Label Text
By the second half of the eighteenth century, the market for watches had expanded to the East. This triple-case watch typifies production for the Turkish market. Its dial is marked with Turkish chapters. The inner case is simply decorated, but the second case is richly ornamented with a painted enamel scene of what was thought to represent a Turkish landscape. The outer case is fitted with panels of shagreen (treated animal skin).

Text Entries

By the second half of the eighteenth century the market for watches had expanded to the East. A few English watchmakers catered to the increased demand in the Turkish Empire, where avid consumers abounded. According to watch expert Catherine Cardinal, after 1820 Isaac Rogers and George Prior, son of the watchmaker John Prior, “exported thousands of watches to Turkey, [and] received in return, exotic products.”(1) Before becoming involved in the Turkish trade, George Prior had been responsible for numerous horological improvements; his clock escapement won a silver medal from the Society of Arts in 1809, and his remontoire escapement earned a commendation two years later.(2) The dial on this watch is signed by Prior, but the type of enameling on the case suggests that it was produced at a Swiss workshop and exported to England.

This triple-case watch typifies the production for the Turkish market. Its dial is marked with Turkish chapters and embellished with pearl-set hands.(3) The inner case is simply decorated with an engraved rosette in the center with pierced and engraved leaves along the band. The second case is richly decorated with an engine-turned background with red translucent enamel. In the center, a painted enamel scene of what was thought at the time to be a Turkish landscape- an eastern building with two minarets, a stream and bridge, trees, and a town in the background- is framed by scrolls and rosettes of half-pearls. The side, with a pierced pattern, features green and blue panels and champlevé turquoise enamel flowers. Half-pearls also decorate the bezel that fits over the dial. The outer case is fitted with panels of imitation shagreen, decorated with rosettes and studs in a garland design alternating with pierced panels of leaves.(4)


1. Catherine Cardinal, The Watch from Its Origins to the XIXth Century. Translated by Jacques Pages (Avon, Eng.: Artline Editions, 1989), p. 61.

2. G.H. Baillie, C. Clutton, and C.A. Ilbert, Britten ’s Old Clocks and Watches and Their Makers. 7th ed. (New York: Bonanza Books, 1956), p. 457.

3. Watches made for the Turkish market in the eighteenth century were unusually thick because the movement was set in a double, triple, or even quadruple case so as not to “be damaged by the pistol at the belt,” as one traveler put it. Later this feature appeared on watches decorated with enameling to protect the surface from scratches. Eugene Jaquet and Alfred Chapuis with the cooperation of G. Albert Berner and Samuel Guye, Technique and History of the Swiss Watch (London: Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1970), p. 126.

4. Cecil Clutton and George Daniels, Watches: A Complete History of the Technical and Decorative Development of the Watch. 3rd ed. (London and Totowa, N.J.: Sotheby Park Bernet, 1979), p. 88. Imitation shagreen is made from skin on the lower back of the ass. After soaking in water and drying, the skin is impressed with hard black seeds, known as alabuta, producing tiny impressions.