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Pair-case Watch and Chatelaine

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Pair-case Watch and Chatelaine

Artist: Jacques (or James) DeBaufre (London, England; active 1712-1750)

Date: 1725-1750
Medium: Gold, old mine diamonds, silver, rubies, agate, enamel
177.8 x 44.5 x 31.8 mm
Markings: Movement: "IAs DEBAUFRE, LONDON, 995" Case: cm incuse "SG", fish above (twice), "995" (Stephen Goujon) Dust cap: "DEBAUFRE, LONDON, 995"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 318.a-b
Label Text
A pair-case watch has an inner case, which contains the movement, and a detachable outer case that protects the watch from dirt and damage. In the eighteenth century this type of watch was ordinarily made of silver; gold was reserved for watches produced by distinguished watchmakers, such as this example by the workshop of Jacques Debaufre. The outer case is elaborately decorated with repoussé, chasing, and piercing and is set with precious gemstones. Similarly, the chatelaine features diamond and ruby enhance-ments. The key for winding the watch and a seal are suspended from either side of the chatelaine. Thomas Proctor purchased this watch and chatelaine in 1903 from Tiffany and Company.

Text Entries

In the eighteenth century, watches suspended from chatelaines were often enclosed within a second, outer case to protect the movement from dust. Pair-case watches were most often made of silver; gold was usually reserved for it watches made by renowned watchmakers. This pair-case watch and chatelaine is an example of the latter. The gold case is elaborately decorated with repoussé, chasing, and piercing and it is set with precious gemstones. The watch is suspended from the chatelaine by a long, pierced-link, double chain; two shorter, single chains hold a key and a fob seal. The Waist plaque is decorated with a basket of ruby- and diamond-set flowers. The row of diamonds on the basket represents a ribbon, while an insect with a ruby wing flies above. This basket motif is similar to the one on giardinetto rings popular in the mid-eighteenth century.(1) The hinged center chain is decorated with rubies and diamonds, and a diamond-set forget-me-not adorns the key. A fob seal with a double-scroll motif is set with a white-gray agate intaglio of a classical male bust bearing the likeness of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus.”(2)

On the watch a pierced band of leafy scrolls and strap work is decorated with exotic birds and serpents within husks. The pendant panel is a townscape, while the drop panel is decorated with a classical’ portrait bust of a helmeted man. The outer case of the watch features a gem-rich variation on the flower basket and insect motif of the chatelaine. Diamonds make up one flower, serve as the center for three others, and line the front of the basket.

Rubies are used to depict one flower and the petals of two others. Above is a diamond and ruby insect. The tableau is surrounded by a symmetrical scroll border. The band and hinged bezel panel are decorated with alternating pierced leafy scroll openwork and a ruby-and-diamond floral motif. A diamond serves as the thumbpiece. The diamond-studded hands are shaped as fleurs-de-lis.

Thomas Proctor purchased this watch chatelaine just after 1900 from Tiffany and Company, which was then retailing antique jewelry. Its fitted box with the Tiffany imprint also survives. The watchcase is signed with the mark of Stephen Goujon (dates unknown), a London maker who entered his mark at the assay office on April 8, 1720. London watchmaker Jacques Debaufre was the son of Pierre Debaufre, noted for his patent on ruby mounts for low-friction escapements as well as his invention of a new dead-beat escapement that employed ruby mounts.

1. For an illustration of a giardinetto ring, see Clare Phillips, Jewels and Jewellery (London: V&A Publications, 2000), p. 59.

2. The intaglio is said to depict Caesar Augustus; see Ferdinand T. Haschka, Thomas R. Proctor Collection of Antique Watches (New York: privately printed), p. 65, no. 75.