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A fine and rare gold, lapis lazuli, onyx, jadeite and coral annular desk timepiece, Vacheron Constantin, retailed by Ostertag, circa 1929, No 404672

Vacheron Constantin

A fine and rare gold, lapis lazuli, onyx, jadeite and coral annular desk timepiece, Vacheron Constantin, retailed by Ostertag, circa 1929, No 404672

A fine and rare gold, lapis lazuli, onyx, jadeite and coral annular desk timepiece, Vacheron Constantin, retailed by Ostertag, circa 1929, No 404672. Photo Sotheby’s

Designed as a gem-set jadeite flowerpot with fanciful exotic flowers composed of carved coral petals and realistic leafage, the rotating chapter ring designed as the rim of the pot with diamond-set Arabic numerals, the time indicated by one angled leaf, the whole surmounted upon a stepped onyx base enhanced with cabochon sapphires at the corners, containing the 15 jewel rectangular mechanical movement, all raised on a beveled lapis lazuli base with four gold feet, all contained within a square glass outer case, the corners fitted with gold cabochon sapphire-set openwork brackets, base signed by Ostertag, movement signed by Vacheron Constantin. Estimate 150,000 — 200,000 USD. LOT SOLD. 290,500 USD 

Notes: This magnificent clock is an excellent example of the stunning and highly imaginative decorative clocks created during the 1920s and 1930s. Between 1880 and 1930, Vacheron Constantin worked in close collaboration with Verger Frères, a renowned French firm who was known to be the Paris representative of Vacheron Constantin. In this partnership, Vacheron Constantin would create movements, and upon arrival in Paris, Verger Frères would case them in watch and clock cases.

Many of the finest clocks known in the Art Deco period were collaborations by these two celebrated firms. These pieces made brilliant use of carved hardstones, favoring Eastern-themed motifs, resembling Buddhist figures or exotic creatures such as elephants, gazelles, parrots and monkeys.  

Unlike Vacheron Constantin’s more traditional clocks that employ a standard two-hand time telling system, the present example features a rotating chapter ring, ingeniously designed as the rim of the flower pot. This annular time-telling method showcases the pinnacle of the technical merits of the watchmakers at Vacheron Constantin, as well as the highly creative work of the artisans at Verger Frères who designed the case.

For a similar piece made by Vacheron Constantin in collaboration with Verger Frères, see Cologni, F., Secrets of Vacheron Constantin, p. 333.

Ostertag, the retailer of this piece, was an exclusive Parisian jeweler with a salon in Place Vendôme in the first half of the twentieth century, run by Arnold Ostertag. Much like the finest jewelers of that era, he too was fascinated by the lavish aesthetic of the Far East, and was particularly taken with Chinese and Indian motifs. The masterpieces in his boutique reflected this interest, and the present lot appears to be a fanciful interpretation of an exotic orchid, calling to mind voyages to far away lands.

Similar pieces were also retailed in many of the other fine jewelry salons of the era, such as Lacloche Frères, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, and Black, Starr & Frost.

Sotheby’s. Magnificent Jewels.New York, 09 Dec 2010