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Miniature Floral Enamel Gilt Verge "Chinese Market" Watch by Dimier c1825

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    Posted 8 years ago

    (117 items)

    This is a rare miniature "Chinese Market" pocket watch, by Dimier et Cie, Geneva, Circa 1825. It's unusual for its small size and verge fusee (chain driven) movement.

    European pocket watches became popular with the Chinese Emperor Chien Lung and his courtiers and officials in the mid C18th and remained in fashion through the C19th.

    These pocket watches were worn purely as jewelry and status symbols, and were not used for timekeeping by the Chinese, who didn't follow the Western system of fixed length hours and minutes.

    The Chinese taste was for an enameled case, with an ornately engraved complex mechanism, covered by a glass cover (cuvette). This enabled the owner to show their admiring friends the details of the workings in operation.

    The ideal configuration was for large watches (all the better to show off), and they were sometimes purchased in identical pairs, to have a spare in case one broke down (it would take over a year to send the broken one back to Europe for repair and receive it back).

    Miniature Chinese Market watches like this one are rather rare. It is only 32mm in diameter, just a little larger than a bottle cap, and the pics in the last image should be about actual size.

    You can see more info on the watch on this link, including details on how it came into our family around 150 years ago.

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    1. kyratango kyratango, 8 years ago
      Wow! 32mm is a miniature for a fusee watch...
      I'll run to see your link as soon as possible :-)
    2. Bluboi Bluboi, 8 years ago
      Incredibly fascinating and wonderful provenance! You are so fortunate to own such a beautiful object.

      Did your great-grandfather pass down other wonderful treasures? Kiwi, was it only men who owned/wore these watches or did wealthy women also wear them? I wonder if the watchmaking firm employed the enamelists or whether they were purchased from an outside firm?

      We should get a photo of our two watches together! BTW, loved Dunedin, especially the albatross sanctuary (though the drive to it was rather hairy for us Yanks!).
    3. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 8 years ago
      Hi Bluboi, very few possessions remain in our family from the wealth amassed by my GGF. He and his wife had 8 children, 7 survived to adulthood and all received a large inheritance, however my grandfather lost almost everything in the Great Depression in the 1930's.

      The watch probably survived because it is not precious metal, and these Chinese Market watches have only become valuable in recent years due to the surge in value of antiques with a Chinese interest.

      I believe both men and women owned these watches in C18th & C19th China.

      I presume watchmakers like Dimier jobbed out the enameling to specialists. The Swiss enamel artists produced amazing work, and so did the French and English who also produced enameled watches for the Chinese (and Turkish) markets.
    4. racer4four racer4four, 8 years ago
      Another exceptional piece. SO beautiful, and incredible that it has a fusee works (rare enough) in this tiny case!
    5. Bluboi Bluboi, 8 years ago
      Would you explain more about its verge fusee movement?
    6. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 8 years ago
      Sure, a "verge" escapement is the earliest version of that part of a clock or watch that ticks back and forth. Wikipedia explains it here:

      The "fusee" is the chain drive that evens out the power of a key wound spring as it winds down. Again Wikipedia explains here:

      The relevance to this Chinese Market watch is because the combination of verge and fusee was virtually obsolete in Swiss timepieces at the time this watch was made. The newly invented "lever escapement" (developed 1755-1800) was more accurate and enabled thinner watches.

      However Dimier used a verge fusee in this piece, to appeal to the Chinese Market taste for complex mechanisms, and probably because it was the traditional type of movement the Chinese expected.
    7. Zowie Zowie, 8 years ago
      Very very nice love it
    8. critchpics, 8 years ago
      Is the "fast slow" dial used to monitor the movement? Not sure why this would be needed with the verge fusee mechanism if the intent of the design was to solve inconsistency of movement? Just seeing one of these for the first time so my question is probably just showing my ignorance. :-)
      Fascinating piece made all the better by your knowledge of its history and provenance.
    9. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 8 years ago
      Actually all mechanical watches required regulation to adjust for changes in temperature and a variety of other factors, and verge watches and clocks generally were inherently inaccurate.

      However when we go back to when only the wealthy owned a watch, and no clocks were really accurate, measuring time was a bit of a moving target.
    10. Elisabethan Elisabethan, 8 years ago
      A real buty!

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