Bovet - The Hong Kong Watch Auction: EIGHT Hong Kong Monday, May 27, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Bovet
    Year: Circa 1890
    Material: Silver
    Calibre: Key wound, chased gilt Chinese caliber movement with lateral lever escapement
    Dimensions: Both 47mm Diameter
    Signed: Movements signed Bovet, cases signed with the Chinese trademark of Felix Guinand, Dials both signed No. 3
    Accessories: Accompanied with a red leather fitted presentation box and two winding keys.

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present matching pair of silver timepieces are known as “Chinese Market” watches. The history for these type watches began in the late 16th century when the Jesuit Matteo Ricci arrived in Macau in 1552. Both a missionary and scholar, Matteo became conversant in Chinese and in 1601 he became the first westerner to enter the court of Emperor Wanli. Ricci brought gifts from the west including paintings revealing the technique of perspective, maps and western texts translated in to Chinese. Additionally, he introduced the court to mechanical chiming clocks, which were a novelty at the time with no equivalent. It is from this encounter that the Chinese began a long love affair with western horology. Prior to the introducing of chiming clocks, the Chinese employed water clocks, which were not as reliable and the western chiming clock provided the court with a powerful status symbol.

    During the 18th century, the English dominated the field manufacturing refined pocket watches and Chinese market watches developed distinctive characteristics. The movements were highly engraved and decorated, while the cases could be elaborately decorated with pearls, semi-precious stones and enamel painted scenes, in particular florals. One interesting aspect was the desire for identically paired watches. There are theories to explain this phenomenon, one was practical, should a watch need to be returned to Europe for repair, there was a spare. The second was cultural focusing on the Chinese desire for natural order, pairs make up much of our universe as in humans have two eyes, two arms, two legs, there is the sky and the earth, or the sun and the moon. The number two also considered good luck.

    Overtime costs became a factor and with lower wages in Switzerland, English watchmakers began to import Swiss movements stamping their names on the movement. By around 1820, all movements made for China were of Swiss manufacture. The firm of Bovet Fleurier began with master watchmaker Edouard Bovet (1797-1849). Born in Fleurier Switzerland, Edouard arrived in Canton in 1818 selling four watches for over 10,000 Francs. Bovet remained and in 1822 he formed a trading company with his brothers. His watches became prized for both their technical and artistic skills. The movement maker Felix Guinand exclusively supplied watches to Bovet.

    The present watches are a rare example of the paired timepieces the Chinese found so attractive. In very nice overall condition, the movements are signed Bovet, with the Felix Guinand trademark on the case. Each dial reads Bovet and numbered three. Paired watches were en vogue in the 18th and 19th centuries, and today they still hold a fascination amongst collectors. This lot provides a rare opportunity to own part of this history.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1822

    The firm Bovet 1822 has a rich, centuries-long history beginning when Edouard Bovet sold four decorative pocket watches in Canton Asia for what would today equal $1 million. By 1822, Edouard, with his brothers, registered the company in London, which at the time was an important center for watches and clocks. That same year, they moved their manufacturing center to the Swiss municipality Fleurier. Bovet became known for their highly decorative pocket watches for the Chinese market. Their richly engraved movements were so important to the watch that Bovet created the concept of the transparent watch back so owners could see the beauty of the movement. Bovet's oversized chronograph wristwatches, such as the Mono Rattrapante chronograph, are especially sought-after. Today, the firm continues their tradition of exquisitely enameled watches.

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A very fine and rare matching pair of silver openface pocket watches with center seconds and original fitted presentation case and winding keys

Circa 1890
Both 47mm Diameter
Movements signed Bovet, cases signed with the Chinese trademark of Felix Guinand, Dials both signed No. 3

HK$120,000 - 200,000 

Sold for HK$162,500

Contact Specialist

Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2001

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: EIGHT

Hong Kong Auction 28 May 2019