17th Century

1625_Hondius_-_Nova_totius_terrarum - low

During the 17th century England and France developed their own style of watch manufacturing. The distinction started with the case, the movements were almost identical in manufacture. The movements of all types show a single hour hand until the introduction of the concentric minute hand towards 1673. After these two major producers of watches, also the Netherlands, Switzerland (more precisely Geneva) and Germany got involved, but mostly following the French style. In 1675 the balance spiral spring was introduced, leading to fierce discussions about who to credit as its inventor. After an erratic phase, which lasted 5 years, the spiral spring got a normal feature of portable watches, increasing their precision considerably.

The leading watch producer was England in terms of number and quality followed by France and Geneva. The Swiss, who will lead the watch market by the early 20th century, were mostly involved in copying English work even usurping well known names such as Thomas Tompion and Daniel Quare, sometimes misspelling their names or even inventing non-existing English watchmakers to sell their low quality products. This practice will continue until mid 19th century where also well known French watchmakers will be copied.

Flag_of_EnglandThe English watchmakers were very prolific, especially towards the end of the 17th century, taking advantage of the Portestant exodus from France, which included many talented watchmakers. The English clients preferred simple round or oval watches (Puritan style), with a few exceptions being octagonal with rather plain surfaces. The decoration of the cases was limited to engraving and leather covering.

piqué work 1

Gold piqué work on a late 1700 leather outer case. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Some leather covered cases got decorated with gold or silver ‘piqué’ work, small needles chased through leather and metal to form different shapes, such as coat of arms. Different materials were used fro making cases, such as gold and silver, tortoise shell and some times hard stone and even ivory. The dials were exlusively out of metal, gold or silver, with Roman numerals for the hours and Arabic numerals for the minutes.

English cocks_1

English silver cocks: left, 1675 – 1685; right, 1685 – 1710

The cocks, at the beginning identical to the French ones, developed towards 1680 slowly to a D shaped single foot with a broad cock surface to protect the balance, which got bigger towards the end of the 17th century. This evolution was due to the invention of the balance spring most probably by Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch Mathematician, Physicist and Astronomer. To accomodate the balance spring, the balance needed to be increased in diameter and got three- sometimes four- armed replacing the earlier, smaller two armed versions. The introduction of the balance spring triggered a strange phase where removing the fusee from the movement construction was thought to be a logical consequence. This phase lasting from 1675 to 1680 left us with strange watches having a balance spring but with no fusee by Thomas Tompion and other watchmakers in France such as Isaac Thuret, Balthazar Martinot and others. As the precision of the watch suffered from the lack of the fusee, it got reintroduced. One other new development from an English watchmaker revolutionized the trade: the introduction of the minute hand by Daniel Quare (the invention of the minute hand beeing attributed to Huygens). Daniel Quare is also thought to have invented the earliest repeating mechanism.

Samuel Betts, London, 1650


Gilt brass, verge fusee movement (dial plate 39.1mm, 8mm between plates) with worm and wheel set-up, symmetrical oblong cock fixed with a screw. Featuring Egyptian pillars, metal chain, two armed pre-balance-spring balance of small diameter. The normally blued steel single hour hand is replaced by a turning silver disc engraved with Chronos who shows the time by pointing his left index finger to it. On the outer edge of the dial, a ‘Fleur de Lys’ shaped steel pointer marks the date engraved in a silver disc (running counter clockwise). The early Egyptian pillars, the pre-balance spring balance, the small cock (fixed with a screw) and worm regulator system for the main spring help to date this watch. The engraving ‘AD 1682’ was added later.

Alarm Mercury_dial

Nicholas Fetters, London,  1655.  Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (WA1974.128)

During the mid 17th century the movements got more elaborate and featured different complications. This movement has a date function and the single hour hand is replaced by a disc representing Chronos, the Greek god of time. He was also attributed to death and taken as a symbol for the shortness of life (Memento Mori).

Only about 5 watches of this type are known, one of them is in the Dover Museum, Dover (GB), tanother other made by John Cooke (London) is in the British Museum Collections. The subject of Chronos got reintroduced in watches made during the 19th century. One watch with similar representation is exposed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Other as the one made by Samuel Betts it has not a date complication but an alarm.The silver cased watch by Nicholas Fetters has a ‘Fleur de Lys’ alarm setting hand screwed to the alarm setting dial which engraved with the Greek god Mercury pointing his index. The blued steel hour hand is not original.

Samuel Betts (active 1645 – 1673), carried on business at the back of the Royal Exchange, and appears to have died prior to 1673, when “Mr. Marquet” (Markwick?) advertises himself in the London Gazette as the successor of ” Mr. Samuel Betts, deceased”. In 1656 Betts attested the genuineness of Jas. Lello’s masterpiece to the Clockmakers’ Company. Betts is often associated with Edward East (1610-1693), who is generally regarded as one of the finest clockmakers of the period and served as clockmaker to Charles I and Charles II.

One identical complete watch by Samuel Betts is part of the watch collection of the ‘Musée Paul – Dupuy’ in Toulouse, France: Inv. Nr. 18224

Ex private collection (SCT)

Torin, London, ca. 1675

Torin 1

Torin 2

Gilt brass, verge fusee movement (dial plate 42.5mm, 12.2mm between plates) with old type Tompion regulator dial. Featuring Egyptian pillars and lacking chain, cock (cock-foot would not have been of D shape yet), balance, motion work, dial and hands.

Early balance spring regulation; Nathaniel Barrow and Thomas Tompion 

Barrow Regulator

Barrow regulator : Jacob and Bulet, Geneva 1680. Picture taken and modified: Christies’s, sale 1398, Lot 176

From the moment watchmakers started to use the balance spring, towards 1675, the tension of latter needed to be regulated in order to control the oscillation speed of the balance, thus the running speed of the watch. It is important not to mix the tension regulation systems of the main spring (worm and wheel set-up, already used in the early 17th century) with the balance spring regulation system. The earliest balance spring regulating systems used worm screws (Barrow regulator), most didn’t allow to adjust the balance spring tension according to indexes. This changed with the introduction of the regulator dial. The first regulator dials were very small and were held by a blued steel arm (one or two fixing screws), like in the movement by Torin above. Later the dials got bigger and were fixed by a pin in their axis as in the movement below. The indexes can be marked as Roman -or Arabic numerals, with lines or dots. Although named after Thomas Tompion (Tompion regulator) who most probably introduced this system in England, it was certainly invented in France by Isaac Thuret, the first who ever used a balance spring in a watch. A further balance spring regulation system will be invented by Joseph Bosley in 1755.

William Bartrem, London, ca. 1680



Gilt brass, verge fusee movement (dial plate 41.3mm, 10mm between plates) with Tompion regulator, cock-foot has not the D shape yet. Featuring primitive style tulip pillars, lacking dial and hands.

William Bartrem, most probably son of Simon Bartram, is registered as member of the ‘Clockmakers Company of London’ in 1684. Simon Bartrem (active 1630 -1690) was part of the first Court (as assistant) of the Clockmakers Company in 1631.

The Clockmaker’s Company of London:

clockmakers company logoDuring the sixteenth century, clockmaking by native English craftsmen was mostly confined to the production of tower and church clocks. Domestic clocks and watches were mostly imported or the work of immigrants from the Continent. Because tower clock making involved working in ferrous metal, clockmakers within the City of London tended to be freemen of the Blacksmiths’ Company. Blacksmiths in this sense meant general metal workers, the shoeing of horses being the province of the Farriers.

The growth of the domestic clock making industry however led to a feeling within the trade that it was a craft apart. Resentment grew up between the clockmakers who had become established in London and outsiders who came to set up in or near the City and who threatened their market. From 1622 onwards groups of London makers undertook a series of political manoeuvres designed to undermine the opposition, both through the Blacksmiths Company and in their own right. They failed at first to gain the recognition they sought, but by 1629 they had accumulated sufficient credibility to petition the Crown for an independent Company. To the considerable distress of the Blacksmiths, who believed themselves to be the rightful repository of the clockmaker’s Art, the clockmakers were granted their Charter by King Charles I on the 22nd August 1631.

The Charter gave the Clockmakers power to control the horological trade in the City of London and for a radius of ten miles around. It incorporated a controlling body which should have ‘continuance for ever under the style and name of The Master, Wardens and Fellowship of the Art and Mystery of Clockmaking’. It provided that the Fellowship should be governed by a Master, three Wardens and ten or more Assistants who would form the Court. It went on to appoint the first incumbents by name.

The first Master was David Ramsay, a Scot, who had been appointed watchmaker to James VI of Scotland, later James I of England.

The museum of the Clockmaker’s Company constitutes the oldest collection specifically of clocks, watches, and sundials in existence founded 1814. The collection is currently closed to the public and will be reopened as part of the ‘Time gallery’ of the Science Museum (London) in autumn 2015.

John Purdew, London, ca. 1680



Gilt brass, verge fusee movement (top plate 37.3mm, 8.8mm between plates) with Tompion regulator, cock-foot has not the D shape yet. Featuring egyptian pillars, lacking dial plate, motion work, dial and hands.

Daniel Quare (c.1648 – 1724)

Master of the Clockmakers Company in 1708. He was the inventor of the repeating movement. He was also the first to have used minute hands, feature invented by the Dutch mathematician Christiaan Huygens. Quare was an arch rival of Thomas Tompion and as a practising Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) he would not sign any oths of allegiance and this prevented his appointment as Clockmaker to the King. Nevertheless he was a regular visitor at the Royal Palace and was ‘free of the back stairs’. He took on Stephen Horseman as apprentice in 1709, who later became his partner. Although not all watches are numbered, the known production numbers are between 233 and about 4989, with Horseman as partner until about 5500, and a separate series (109 – 857) for his repeating watches. He had a very successful business which counted many members of the Nobility and Foreign Ambassadors amongst his clientele.

Daniel Quare, London, ca. 1685



Quare _2

Gilt brass cased watch (inner case 51.3mm, later pendant and bow), with gilt brass, verge fusee movement with Tompion regulator, D-shaped cock-foot with cock of big diameter. Featuring Egyptian pillars, gold champlève dial signed ‘QUARE LONDON’ with one blued steel hand.

Ex private collection (UK)

Daniel Quare, London, ca. 1690



Gilt brass, verge fusee movement (top plate 43.7mm, 10.6mm between plates) with Tompion regulator, D-shaped cock-foot with small diameter cock. Featuring Egyptian pillars, lacking dial plate, motion work, dial and hands. The manufacture of the movement shows, that it was constructed with hour and minute hand (to the contrary of the Quare watch above).

Ex private collection (UK)

Jonathon Purchis, Margate, No. 31, ca. 1780, 22ct gold pair case, 1690

Gold case_1690

Gold case_1690_2

Verge pocket watch, the movement made by Jonathon Purchis, in Margate, Kent around 1780.  The 22ct gold engraved pair case is a much earlier, made in 1690. Gilt brass movement with engraved and pierced balance cock.  Six spokes on the 3rd and 4th wheels (a sign of good quality). The white enamelled copper dial is about 35.5 mm in diameter.

Inner Case (41.5 mm) hallmarked for 1690,  22ct. gold,  maker SWF?. Dust protective shutter for the winding hole. The stem and bow are not gold and are later replacements. Outer case (46.2 mm) with matching hallmarks to the inner.

This wonderful early gold pair case is excedengly rare.  The earliest known hallmarks on gold cases only date from a few years earlier in about 1683. The movement is a perfect fit, with the catch and winding arbor lining up perfectly with the case and the hinge sleeves are tight with no gaps.  We think that the movement was custom made to fit this case.

The previous owner has contacted the most knowledgable expert on English hallmarks: Philip Priestley, who has written two books on the subject. His comment was: “You are very fortunate to have one of the earliest pieces of hallmarked English 22 carat gold of any type and anywhere in the world”.

Ex private collection (UK)


royaume de franceThe revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685 by Louis XIV, the grandson of Henry IV, drove an exodus of Protestants, and increased the hostility of Protestant nations bordering France. Among these people were also many good watchmakers. This contributed to the decline of French production as compared to England. In France the cases, apart from the usual round or ovoid forms, remained oddly shaped. One can find watches with heart, ivy, cross, ball, shell, skull and tulip shaped forms. Most of these watches have rock crystal front pieces to enable to read the time without opening the case (glass was only available for watches from about 1650).

shape watches_1

Form watches from left to right: flower, scallop, cross, pumpkin, book -shaped watches. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

enamel watch2

IWM, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Towards 1630 many cases got intricately enameled with biblical or mythological scenes. Also the dials got colorful. This style got introduced in France, especially in Paris, Blois and Limoges. Most of the later work from 1660 on was made in Switzerland, Geneva beeing the most renowned. During the reign of Louis XIV, the watches got round again, and huge. Due to their big size and rounded form they are called ‘ognions’. Their diameter can reach 55mm with a distance between the plates of 17mm. The gilt brass cases are usually engraved, the dials are of enameled brass with big black or blue roman numerals. Some dials are of gilt brass with enameled cartouches for the hours. Some watches already bear astronomical information such as day/date, moonphase, astrological signs and even equation of time.

Timepieces were a privilege of the wealthy and especially under the reign of Louis XIV they were regarded a status symbol, hence the big size. The king himself was very fond of horology enabeling scientific research on the subject.

Pierre Le Seyne, Paris, ca. 1615

Le Seyne

Remains of a French movement made around 1610 by the parisian watchmaker Pierre Le Seyne. Unfortunately none of the actual movement is left, only the plates, the engraved dial, the round baluster pillars, the steel verge stop and steel pieces of the regulator wheel are present.
This movement is made following the German or English puritan style, with no major decoration. Latter German versions are nown as ‘Nürnberger Ei’ (the eggs from Nurenberg).

Pierre Le Seyne is listed between 1612 and 1648 at the “Palais de Paris”. He was elected Juré in 1616.

Ex watchmakers collection (UK)

Thomas Ribart, Paris, ca. 1625


Small oval, gilt brass movement. The dial plate is highly decorated with engraved exotic animals and fruits. Among them the newly discovered pineapple known to be a symbol of welcome. The silver dial is engraved with a country scene showing a village, a church, sheep and a man guarding the sheep. The movement is equipped with a single, steel hand for showing the hours.
The verge movement was driven by a cord made with pigs intestine (now nylon), later (about 1650) this will be slowly replaced by a chain, which is more resistant.
The cock is fixed with a peg, this contruction will also be enhanced by the later use of a screw. The small two arm balance has no spring.

Thomas Ribart was maître horloger, bourgeois de Paris, at ‘rue de la Pelleterie, enseigne des Singes’, already listed from 1604.

Ex private collection (SCT)

‘Tulip’ watch case, France, 1635

tulip case

Bronze, modern reproduction of a tulip shaped early 17th century watch case. Usually of quite small shape, this form-watch case was imitating the then very expensive flower, especially grown in the Netherlands. Sometimes the ‘petals’ are inlayed with rock crystal or  painted porcelain panels. Cultivation of the tulip began in Persia, probably in the 10th century. Carolus Clusius is largely responsible for the spread of tulip bulbs in Europe in the final years of the sixteenth century. He finished the first major work on tulips in 1592, and made note of the variations in colour. While a faculty member in the school of medicine at the University of Leiden (The Netherlands), Clusius planted both a teaching garden and his private garden with tulips. In 1596 and 1598, over a hundred bulbs were stolen from his garden in a single raid.

Between 1634 and 1637, the enthusiasm for the new flowers triggered a speculative  frenzy now known as the ‘tulip mania’. Tulip bulbs became so expensive that they were treated as a form of currency, or rather, as futures. Around this time, the ceramic ‘tulipière’ was devised for the display of cut flowers stem by stem. Vases and bouquets, usually including tulips, often appeared in Dutch still-life paintings. To this day, tulips are associated with the Netherlands, and the cultivated forms of the tulip are often called “Dutch tulips.” The Netherlands have the world’s largest permanent display of tulips at the Keukenhof.

‘Memento Mori’ watch case, France, 1650

memento-moriSilver, modern reproduction of a mid 17th century watchcase in the shape of a human skull. This case has been manufactured exactly the same way as more than 300 years ago. Timepieces were formerly an apt reminder that your time on Earth grows shorter with each passing minute. Public clocks would be decorated with mottos such as ultima forsan (“perhaps the last” [hour]) or vulnerant omnes, ultima necat (“they all wound, and the last kills”). Even today, clocks often carry the motto tempus fugit, “time flees”. Old striking clocks often sported automata who would appear and strike the hour; some of the celebrated automaton clocks from Augsburg, Germany, had Death striking the hour. The several computerized “death clocks” revive this old idea. Private people carried smaller reminders of their own mortality. These portable ‘Memento Mori’ watches came into fashion in France and Britain around 1650, and re-apeared during the end of the 19th century. Mary, Queen of Scots, owned a large watch carved in the form of a silver skull, embellished with the lines of Horace.

Balthazar (l’Ainé) & Gilles Martinot, Paris, 1675


Gilt brass, back wound, verge movement with NO fusee, brass three arm balance with steel balance spring. Fusee replaced by an additional fourth wheel. Gilt silver (vermeil) two footed cock. Because of the lacking chain the barrel is equipped with a wheel too, lacking hour wheel, dial plate, dial and hour hand. Cased in gilt silver (vermeil) case with typical late 17th century decoration like scallops and scrolls.

The introduction of the spiral spring revolutionized timekeeping. Before the spiral spring was added, watches differed up to 40 minutes per day. The amazing gain of precision let many watchmakers (including Thomas Tompion) think that they could build simpler watches and retain the precision by omitting the fusee and the chain. A conceptual mistake, which was corrected very fast by adding the spiral spring and reintroducing the fusee. Most verge watches with no fusee of the period 1675 – 1680 were new constructions, some however are modified watches which were equipped with a fusee before. Not many of these watches have survived, as the clients realized quickly the lack of precision caused by the omitted fusee and scrapped these watches or exchanged them for examples with fusee and spiral spring.

Christiaan Huygens    14.4.1629 – 8.7.1695


In 1675 Christaan Huygens, a Dutch physicist and mathematician revolutionized precision in timekeeping by introducing the spiral spring. He moved to Paris in 1665, where he staid for 15 years, financed by Colbert, the finance minister of King Louis XIV. Huygens studied oscillations and was interested in timekeeping. 1657 he invented the pendulum as regulatory organ for big clocks, which made them achieve a precision not known until then. During further investigations on the subject he recognized the parallels between the oscillations of a pendulum and the change of shape of a spring. By adding a spring to the balance of a watch he wanted to achieve similar isochronic oscillations as with a pendulum. His original notes show that the shape he chose for such a spring was a spiral.

Huygens commissioned the construction of a watch with a spiral spring to the parisian watchmaker Isaac Thuret. The first model was completed the 22nd of January 1675. Thuret was so impressed by the precision of the watch, that he constructed a second one. In addition to this, he started to speak about this new, improved watches and he made people think, that he invented the new system. He even tried to get it patented, but Huygens intervention made him write a letter of apology in which he admits that Huygens is the inventor. The invention was then published the 25th of February 1675 in the ‘Journal des Sçavans’.

Strange enough Huygens might not be the inventor of the spiral spring after all! Jean de Hautefeuille, a French priest, inventor and scientist presented his invention of the spiral spring to the French Academia of Sciences the 7th of July 1674, who turned it down. Furthermore not him, but Huygens, who had contact with Hautefeuille got the permission (patent) to apply the spiral spring for watches, as he refined it and put the invention to application. In 1675, Hautefeuille protested against the attribution of the invention to Huygens, but he could not prove anything, so finally he abandoned.

However, also an English party claimed perfecting the spiral spring (earliest name: pendulum spring), when sometime between 1675 and 1680 Thomas Tompion and Robert Seignior developed the ideas of Hooke and Huygens in a small series of watches for the King, Dean Tillotson, Jonas Moore and others. (1)

Abraham Yver, Angoulême, 1680

Tuer 2

Tuer 1

Gilt brass, front wound verge fusee movement (46.7mm diameter). Tall Egyptian pillars. Lacking everything but the fusee and the main spring barrel. Would have had a big highly decorated cock with small balance spring tension regulator and a white enamelled copper dial. Relic of a very early onion type of movement.

Abraham Yver (Hyver or Yuer, 1620 – 1680), the head of what will become one of the most influential watchmaker families in northers France. In the ‘Memoire sur la Généralité de Limoges’ published in 1698 one can read, that the Yver family from Angoulême had greatest reputation among Royals and in the cities Saintes, Blois, Poitiers and others. All family members were protestants and there were ties with watchmakers in Blois. Ten members of the Yver family are listed as working in Angoulême between 1670 and 1783.

French onion dials, 1685 – 1700

French dials

French dials 2

French dials 3

Gilt copper dials with white enamelled cartouches (47 – 50.3mm). Cartouches with blue or black Roman numerals for the hours one with small cartouches for the Arabic minutes (most lacking). Three feet for fixing to the dial plate. Counter – enamel unsigned. Openings for the case bolt, hour and minute pinion and winding hole. Gilt centre panels decorated with symmetrical scroll, animal and architectural elements

The first dials used for the ‘onion style’ watches in fashion during the rule of Louis XIV were copper base with white enamel and blue or black enamelled Roman hour numerals with Arabic minute numerals. First with some decorative features, towards 1685 they became gilt with enamelled cartouches bearing blue or black Roman numerals. Some types retain the Arabic minute indication on separate small cartouches on the edge. Most dials of this type have an inserted enamelled ring with five minute markings. These dials were used with early one handed ‘onions’ or with two handed versions, as soon as the minute hand got introduced. Bigger versions of these dials were used for mantel clocks until very late into the 18th century. Not only French workshops used these dials, also Swiss, German and Italian workshop are known to have followed the French Louis XIV taste.

Mousset, Paris, ca. 1690




Gilt brass consular cased (case 55.9mm) watch (ognion) with gilt brass, verge fusee movement with small regulator, two footed cock with big diameter (30.9mm) showing pseudo pendule of the three armed, steel balance (Mock pendulum). Back plate signed ‘MOVSSET A PARIS’. Featuring Egyptian pillars, gilt copper, engraved dial with enamelled cartouches with dark blue painted roman numerals with one steel hand. .

Ex private collection Bordeaux (F)



Geneva, once part of the Kingdom of Burgundy, then conquered by the Germans and ruled by the House of Savoy, struggled for independence for a long time. In 1387, Bishop Adhémar Fabry granted the town its great charter, the basis of its communal self-government. Still, the House of Savoy countered the continuous struggle for independence with invasions, then the 20.2.1526 Geneva signed a treaty of alliance with Fribourg and Bern, hence joining the Swiss Federation. The Protestant leader John Calvin was based in Geneva from 1536 to his death in 1564 (save for an exile from 1538 to 1541) and became the spiritual leader of the city, a position created by the Grand Council as the city turned Protestant. During the next centuries Geneva became the gathering continental city of protestants especially fleeing from France.

Many of these refugees were watchmakers who learned their trade in Paris, Limoges, Rouen or Blois.

Towards 1630 Geneva rose to one of the most prolific producers of watches and especially enamelled watch cases. This specialisation integrating the respective styles through time continued with interruptions until the end of the 18th century. During the 17th century well known watchmakers worked in Geneva such as Jean Rousseau and his apprentice Jean – François Lachis. Jean Rousseau was the great – grandfather of what will become one of the best known philosophers in history: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28.6.1712 – 2.7.1778). In his writings Jean – Jacques Rousseau mentions that he used to visit his father Isaac Rousseau in his watchmakers atelier and disassembled and reassembled watches there.

Pierre I Huaud (Huaud le Père, 1612 – 1680)

Huaud Père

Musée de l’horlo- gerie et de l’em-aillerie, Geneva

The Huauds are the best-known and most prolific family of enamel painters of their day. They descended from a family of goldsmiths in Châtellerault, France. The father, Pierre Huaud I was a protestant who emigrated to Geneva, where he became a “habitant” in 1630. He finished his apprenticeship as a goldsmith with Laurent Légaré in 1634, and soon afterwards became Master goldsmith. In 1661 he served an apprenticeship in enamel painting with Jean André. Pierre Huaud I made noteworthy use of the pointillé technique of painting on enamel, a technique that he used for the entirety of the subject depicted. Indeed, this may be considered the principal innovation that is attributable to him. This technique, featuring superimposed dots of contrasting colors, allowed for scenes of greater volume and depth. The pointillé technique was practiced by certain Blois and Paris artists, but it was used sparingly, only for faces, in order to enhance the delicacy of the features or to spotlight certain mannerist touches. This was a fine and subtle pointillé, nearly imperceptible, in which one could admire the purity and delicacy of line. Pierre I is credited with enamel watch cases in which the central scene is a portrait, framed by a medallion that is generally oval and surrounded by mostly black and white garlands of intertwined flowers and scrolling typical of the mid 17th century. His three sons became enamel painters as well.

Pierre II Huaud (Huaud lAîné, 2.2.1647 c.1698) was apprenticed to his father. Taking his inspiration from the pointillé technique employed by bis father, and being extremely gifted artistically, he painted many mythological and historical scenes such as the ‘Judgment of Paris’, ‘the Abduction of Helen’, ‘Roman Charity’, and ‘Cleopatra’. 1685/6 he went to Berlin to work in the service of the Brandenburg Elector.

Musée de l'horlogerie et l'emaillerie, Geneva

Musée de l’horlogerie et l’emaillerie, Geneva

After a brief stay there, he returned to Geneva in 1686. Pierre II went back to Germany at the end of 1689, and in 1691 he was named painter-miniaturist to Frederick I. Pierre II was the most talented of the three sons, only few watch cases with its signature are known (most of them are unsigned). Two signed examples reside in a public collection in Switzerland, a third one is in the Frick collection in New York. He signed bis work in various fashions: ‘P. Huaud l’aisné pinxit a Geneve’, ‘Petrus Mayor Natus Pinxit Geneva’, ‘Huaud l’aisne pinxit a Geneve’, ‘P. Huaud P. a G’ or just ‘P. Huault’. The signature is often enclosed in a cartouche on the band, under the VI; it is rarely found under the scene.The unsigned works can be distinguished from the ones of his brothers by the better quality and the higher precision of the enamelling. Moreover he continued to use the black and white elements typical of his fathers work integrating them as separators between the usual landscape scenes on the border of the cases. All three sons were inspired by the same subjects, as was their father: Greek mythology, paintings by Peter Paul Rubens (28.6.1577 – 30.5.1640), nature and architecture.

Jean-Pierre Huaud (Huaud le Puîné, 1655 – 1723) and his brother Ami Huaud (9.8.1657 16.11.1724) became partners from 1682 to 1688. They, like their older brother, were appointed painters to the Court of the Brandenburg Elector in 1686, and went to Berlin where they lived and worked until 1700, at which point they returned to Geneva. Although much of their work was done in partnership, they also often worked alone.

Musée de l'horlogerie et l'emaillerie, Geneva

Musée de l’horlogerie et l’emaillerie, Geneva

When working alone Jean-Pierre signed: ‘Huaud le Puîné’, ‘P • Huaud L ‘aisne pinxit a Genève or ‘Huaud Le puisné fecit’. When working together the two brothers signed: ‘Les •f• Huaut’ , ‘L. deux frères Huaut les jeunes’ or ‘Les deux frère Huaut pintre deSon A[ltesse] • [l’]E[lecteur] de B[randebourg] • a berlin’.

The work of the Huaud family was sought-after by watchmakers from all over Europe. Watchmakers would order a case from them and then build a watch to fit it. After the invention of the balance spring in 1675, when the old movements became obsolete, older cases were still cherished to the point that, for many of them, the owners would order a new balance spring movement. The Huauds created a true school of painting on enamel. Their work and reputation helped to popularise the art throughout the world. As was the case for Blois and Limoges, the characteristics of this type of painting on enamel led it to be named after its city of origin: ‘Email de Genève’.

Pierre II Huaud, Geneva, 1675




The Judgement of Paris, P. P. Rubens, c. 1636, National Gallery, London

The ‘Judgement of Paris’, P.  P. Rubens, c. 1636, National Gallery, London

Gold case (40mm diameter) enamelled on the back with a scene depicting the ‘Judgement of Paris’ after an engraving by Antoine de Fer (d.1673) after a painting of Laurent de la Hyre (27.2.1606 – 28.12.1656) which he painted after a painting of Peter Paul Rubens (ca. 1636). The border is enamelled with idyllic landscape vignettes separated by black and white scrolls. The inside of the case is enamelled with a view of an imaginary villa surrounded by high trees with a bridge over a river (the Rhone?) and a person with hat. On the background one can see what looks like lake Geneva and the Italo-French alps. The enamelling survived in very good condition, only little rubbing to the surfaces, a few slight cracks and a small loss are visible. Pendant and bow are in good condition, they have a little darker aspect as the cold case, this is due to the heating up of the gold case when firing the enamel. This procedure makes the gold appear slightly lighter in color. This case was most probably made for the English market, as per the shape of the pendant.

According to literature less than 100 cases enamelled by a member of the Huaud family survive (most survivors being made by Jean – Pierre and Amy), most of which in public collections such as the Louvre (Paris), British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Uhrenmusem Beyer (Zurich), Frick collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Haus zum Kirschgarten (Dr. E. Gschwind collection, Basel), International Watch Museum (La Chaux-de-Fonds), Musée d’horlogerie (Le Locle), Patek Philippe Museum, Musée de l’horlogerie et de l’emaillerie (Geneva).

Please note that on the 24.11.2002 several important pieces have been stolen from the ‘Musée de l’horlogerie et de l’emaillerie’ in Geneva (among those, 9 pieces with cases enamelled by the Huaud family). You see the list with the stolen pieces here (French). We would like to emphasise, that the purchase of stolen cultural goods is prohibited by international law (UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, 1970).

Jean Rousseau (1606-1684)

Jean II Rousseau was the second in a watchmakers dynasty located in Geneva starting from 1630, when he fled France for Geneva, which became the cradle for prosecuted French Protestants. He gained fame making fine watches in refined cases, many of them decorated by the celebrated Huaud family, but also form watches, like his father, as well as complicated and astronomical watches. He had 12 children, 5 of his sons followed him into the business, the best known are Jacques, David -and André Rousseau. A well known apprentice of Jean Rousseau was Jean – François Lachis, who became a famed watchmaker in his own right.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

David Rousseau (1641-1738) took over his father’s business in Geneva, which he gave further to his son Isaac Rousseau (1672 – 1747), father of the well known philosopher Jean – Jacques Rousseau (28.6.1712 – 2.7.1778).

André Rousseau was sent to Hamburg (Germany) for a goldsmith apprenticeship and continued to work there. Jacques Rousseau had to represent the family business in England, so he settled in London, the world’s centre of watchmaking at the time. He struggled badly to concurrence the local watchmakers such as Tompion, Windmills, Quare and others. The other two sons, Noël – and Louys Rousseau entered the business as well, but recordings are scarce about their work.

The biggest collection of over twenty watches with movements made by the Rousseau family can be admired in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.

Jean – François Lachis, Geneva, 1685


Gilt brass, front wound movement of early ‘onion’ single handed type. Big four armed steel balance lacking balance spring and balance cock. small silver regulator and verge escapement. Back plate signed ‘François Lachis’. Long round baluster pillars. Lacking chain, dial and dial plate. Motion work for single hour hand present.

Jean – François Lachis (30.9.1627 – 4.11.1699) was apprentice of Jean Rousseau, of whom he married one of his daughters Clermonde Rousseau in 1657. He was also, together with Jean Rousseau, the master of David Rousseau, Jean’s son who continued the fathers business in Geneva.

Jacques (Jacob) Rousseau, London, Nr. 1738, 1690


Gilt brass, back wound movement of typical English manufacture. Brass balance, lacking balance spring. Single foot balance cock with no jewelling. Tompion regulator and verge escapement. Back plate signed ‘Ja(cque)s Rousseau, London, No. 1738′. Egyptian pillars with silver crowns. Lacking chain, barrel worm, dial and dial plate as well as motion work.

Although manufactured in London we would like to present this movement in the section showing the work in Geneva, because of the link to Jean – Jacques Rousseau and also because many English-style watches were made in Geneva as copies of London work. This is one of the very few movements known to us with the signature of Jacques Rousseau. He learned as a lapidary before being sent to London by his father. A grand-son of his, Samuel Rousseau (1763 – 1820) was a British oriental scholar and printer. He compiled the first Arabic-English dictionary and translated and printed the first English language editions of several important Arabic works.

Two footed cock, Geneva, 1690

Cock Geneva 1690

French-style two footed cock (35.5mm max diameter, 37.7mm between attachment holes), decorated with symmetrical scrollwork, two dolphins, geometrical, architectural elements and urnes typical of the French Louis XIV style. The only feature giving it away as made in Geneva is the counter-clockwise scale for showing the tension of the balance spring (1 -8), which mechanism differed from the one used in France, being exclusively used in Geneva.


900px-PrinsenvlagEven if one of the most important invention of horology, the spiral balance spring, can most probably be attributed to a dutchman, the manufacture of watches was quite limited and restricted to the major cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague. Moreover the typical dutch pocket watch was only produced roughly between 1685 and 1750. The dutch watch, as compared to the English or French watch, had a very unique type of cock, two footed like the French, but the feet were very broad. Many watches have a ‘Mock pendulum’, which is a balance with pendulum like bump showing through a oblong, curved opening. The purpose of this construction was to give the impression that the pocket watch was equipped with a real pendulum, to suggest a high precision piece. Other features of Dutch watches are the sometimes very intricately fashioned pillars, most probably to differentiate them from English or French watches and to impose a ‘Dutch style’. Also, Dutch customers were very fond of complications visible on the dial, many early Dutch watches have calendar or day/night function. Most dials (champlève silver or gold and later enamelled) show another Dutch speciality: the ‘wavy’ minute index, later sometimes combined with a central enamelled scene of every day life (farms, ships, landscapes). Latter feature was later adopted in English and French watches as well. Many watches of Dutch style were also manufactured in Geneva with fake ‘London’ attribution for the Dutch and Scandinavian market (1).

Two footed cock, Netherlands, 1690


Silver, highly decorated with mythological scene. Diameter 33mm (43mm with feet). Winding hole integrated in the cock. Representing a voluptuous, nude Venus lying, surrounded by flowers. A thin veil seems to mould the harmonious forms of her body. She grasps an apple with her left hand (symbol of the fertilizing power) which was offered to her by satyr with goat-like features carrying a fruit basket. This satyr represents Pan, the god of fertility and sexual power. Over the scene a cupid protects them with arc and arrow. On the top two doves represent the love in marriage.

Venus is the goddess of beauty and love. She was created out of a drop of blood from Uranus, when he was mutilated by Chronos. This blood fertilized the water and Venus rose out of a breaking white wave. Goddess of love, her powers are immense, she represents two facets of love: One being the loving protector of marriage,  the other representing the unstoppable passion. She is married to the god Hephaistos, but she often cheats on him with other gods or even with mortals.

This type of cock is represented in Tardy’s book (‘les coqs de montres du Mont Saint Michel’) describing the collection of watch cocks of the ‘Mont St.Michel’, in Normandy, France. This type is valued as the most beautiful dutch watch cock.

Ex private collection Lille (F)