Watches

Watches were introduced in the mid-sixteenth century following the refinement of spring-driven clocks. However, they became accurate only after 1675, when the balance spring was introduced. They were valued primarily as luxury items and their cases were of various materials, shapes, and forms, decorated in different techniques reflecting the fashion and tradition of the country where they were made and the personal taste and wealth of their owner. 

During the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the most sought-after watches were decorated with miniature paintings on enamel. The technique was developed in Blois around 1630 but soon evolved in Geneva, thanks to Pierre Huaud, a Protestant who had fled France and established himself in Switzerland in the early seventeenth century. His eldest son, Pierre Huaud II, decorated the case for an early balance-spring watch made in Switzerland circa 1685 by Henry ArlaudThe enamel on the back is inspired by an engraving after The Toilet of Venus by the French artist Simon Vouet (1590−1649). 

Gold watches were coveted throughout Europe. In England around 1750, repoussé (the ancient art of hammering the underside of a piece of metal to create a design on its surface) was in fashion for luxury watches. John Gastrill mastered the technique on a case for a watch by Thomas Mudge, one of the greatest watchmakers of eighteenth-century England.

  • detailed silver gilt calendrical and astronomical pendant watch, circa 1625

    George Smith (active c. 1622−after 1646)
    Silver Calendrical and Astronomical Pendant Watch
    London, c. 1625
    silver gilt, gilt brass and steel on brass
    2 7/16 x 1 7/16 x 1 in. (6.2 x 3.6 x 2.5 cm)
    Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
    Accession number: 1999.6.17 

  • gold and enamel pendant watch depicting woman's portrait surrounded by town scenes and flowers

    Chavannes le Jeune (active c. 1650−1660)
    enameling attributed to Pierre Huaud (1612−1680)
    Gold and Enamel Pendant Watch
    Geneva, c. 1660
    gold and enamel on brass
    1 7/8 x 1 5/16 x 1 1/4 in. (4.7 x 3.3 x 3.2 cm)
    Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
    Accession number: 1999.6.21                                 

  • gold and enamel pocket watch with white face

    François Beeckaert (master in 1746)
    Gold and Enamel Repeating Verge Watch
    Paris, 1750−55
    gold and enamel on gold
    Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
    Accession number: 1999.6.25 

  • gold and blue enamel pocket watch with white face

    Julien Le Roy (1686−1759)
    Gold and Enamel Pocket Watch
    case and movement displayed separately
    Paris, c. 1750
    gold and enamel on gold
    2 1/4 x 1 3/4 x 1 3/4 in. (5.8 x 4.5 x 4.4 cm)
    Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
    Accession number: 1999.6.24 

  • gold and enamel pendant watch with white face and depiction of man and woman in each other's arms at center

    Henry Arlaud (1631−1689)
    enameling by Pierre Huaud II (1647−c. 1698)
    Gold and Enamel Pendant Watch
    Geneva, c. 1685
    case and movement displayed separately
    2 5/16 x 1 5/8 x 15/16 in. (5.9 x 4.1 x 2.4 cm)
    Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
    Accession number: 1999.6.22

  • gold, rock crystal, and enamel pendant watch, hanging from chain

    C. de Lespée (dates unknown)
    Gold, Rock Crystal, and Enamel Pendant Watch
    case and movement displayed separately
    Reims, c. 1620
    gold and cloisonné enamel on rock crystal
    2 5/8 x 1 9/16 x 1 1/16 in. (6.6 x 3.9 x 2.8 cm)
    Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
    Accession number: 1999.6.18 

  • Gold framed pocket watch, white face with Roman numerals

    Thomas Mudge (1715−1794)
    chaser and casemaker John Gastrill (active 1757−66)
    Gold Repoussé Pocket Watch
    London, 1757
    gold and enamel on brass
    2 3/8 x 1 15/16 x 1 3/4 in. (6 x 4.9 x 4.4 cm)
    Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
    Accession number: 1999.6.26