Christie’s Geneva Announces A Unique Private Collection Of 101 Cartier Mystery Clocks

Art Daily
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Art Deco enamel and gold "altar" desk clock. Blue and white enamel, blued steel hands, gold, circa 1925, mechanical movement, 4.2x2.3x1.0 cm, signed Cartier, maker's mark (Viel-Robin & Co.), nos. 1939 9300, brown Cartier original fitted case. Estimate CHF 15,000-20,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2020.
Art Deco enamel and gold “altar” desk clock. Blue and white enamel, blued steel hands, gold, circa 1925, mechanical movement, 4.2×2.3×1.0 cm, signed Cartier, maker’s mark (Viel-Robin & Co.), nos. 1939 9300, brown Cartier original fitted case. Estimate CHF 15,000-20,000. © Christie’s Images Ltd 2020.

GENEVA.-Christie’s Geneva will be presenting a unique private collection of 101 Cartier Mystery Clocks spanning more than 80 years of clockmaking at Cartier. This collection was created over a period of 30 years, with every clock receiving their rightful place in this once in a lifetime collection. The pre-sale estimate for the entire collection is CHF 3.9 million to CHF 5.7 million, with individual estimates starting at CHF 8,000. The auction will take place on 1 July at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the relationship between Louis Cartier and master clockmaker Maurice Coüet helped to cement Cartier’s reputation as the leading manufacturer of jewelled objects. Coüet was inspired by the magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin — considered by many as the father of modern conjuring — and incorporated the most technologically advanced mechanisms into his designs, creating works that continue to fascinate and entertain today.

Best known for his pendules mystérieuses, or ‘Mystery’ clocks, with their mechanisms hidden in the frame, Coüet astonished the industry with his use of illusion. In 1973 the Maison acquired one of these marvelous clocks from the art market, a pioneering move which gave birth to what would become known as the Cartier Collection. Today the Collection is comprised of more than 1,600 pieces of jewellery, watches, clocks, and precious objects, and gives the world’s most renowned museums the opportunity to celebrate Cartier creations by featuring them in major exhibitions.

The first planet clocks were made in 1912, constituting round or angular cases with two superimposed dials. The lower dials would usually be crafted from light or dark blue enamel and constantly rotate to represent a day or night sky. Sometimes, a crescent moon in diamonds served as an indicator to the hours at night. The other model that year featured a central disc with a comet that rotated within the dial, while the minutes were read off a pointer that circled along a concentric ring. The auction will offer two such examples lot 11 a semi-mystery clock, circa 1920 (estimate CHF70,000-100,000/US$75,000-110,000) and lot 42 a planet semi-mystery clock, circa 1918, maker Maurice Coüet (estimate: CHF 120,000-180,000 US $130,000-190,000). Another very nice example states the obvious: “I do not count the hours, if they are not brilliant”, made in 1913 (estimate:140,000-200,000).