As part of the Jewelry and Watches sale on May 19, PIASA is proud to present a mysterious Art Deco clock made by Cartier in the early 1930s.
For the first time at auction, this clock whose hands seem to float magically in the dial is a true rediscovery. This mysterious clock had not appeared on the market since its creation by the Cartier Paris workshops. This exceptional piece comes from the private collection of auctioneer and Academician Maurice Rheims.
In 1912, when he was only 28 years old, the watchmaker Maurice Couët followed in the footsteps of the famous illusionist Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin and developed the system of mysterious clocks that were to become the mythical object of the House of Cartier. It is a true miracle of watchmaking: the hands are attached to a rock crystal disc with a serrated metal edge that is operated by a rack and pinion system hidden in the frame of the case. While the disc is in motion, the hands give the illusion that they are not connected to any movement, which is hidden in the plinth. Until the 1930s, about 90 mystery clocks were produced. The production starts again discreetly after the war, then again in the 1970s.
Initially, Charles Jacqueau and George Remy designed most of these clocks. The one presented here is a clear reference to the Empire State Building, “the 7th wonder of the modern world”, whose silhouette is repeated on the hands, while the plinth is made of rhodonite (manganese basilicate) and onyx. From the Greek rhodon (rose) for its color, rhodonite is most often presented as here with black veins of manganese oxide. Rhodonite is not commonly used at Cartier – it is the only known example – and is certainly the most surprising element in the composition of the mystery clock. The use of rhodonite in contrast to the onyx brings out the characteristics of this mysterious clock and gives it its very unique appearance, featuring an architectural motif in very sharp tones.
The manufacturing process required the intervention of six or seven specialists from Cartier’s Parisian workshops: a goldsmith, an enameller, a lapidary, a setter, an engraver and a polisher for a period of up to 12 months.
Maurice Couët first used a system with two lateral axes, then around 1920 he developed another model with a single axis that allowed the use of any clock case. Thereafter, both designs were used simultaneously. Our clock is a single-axis clock with a classic eight-days movement.
In addition to the presentation of this true jewel of watchmaking, the auction brings together a hundred pieces, including beautiful Art Deco jewelry such as this Charms bracelet on the theme of Charlie Chaplin (estimated price: € 10,000 / 15,000), a bracelet in yellow gold and diamonds from Lacloche Frères (estimated price: €20,000 / 30,000) or pieces signed René Boivin, Jean Desprès, Arnold Ostertag… Also noteworthy is an articulated bangle bracelet in yellow gold (estimated price: € 5,000 / 7,000) made during the second half of the 20th century by the Brazilian jeweler Haroldo Burle Marx.
Echoing early 20th century decorators, PIASA heralds, above all, a certain way of life. The scenography of the sales and the objects displayed are opportunities for great names of interior architecture and design to conduct both brilliant and ephemeral exercises in style. These inspiring moments are the occasion for collectors to discover medieval and renaissance works, ancient paintings and drawings, books and manuscripts, Asian arts, modern and contemporary art, 20th century design, jewelry, fine furniture and objects, in an intimate setting. This passion for innovative atmospheres and luxurious interiors is particularly celebrated during the design sales presented every semester in partnership with the prestigious AD magazine.
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