This summer, the attention of horologists from all over the world will be focused on the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva, where the auction house Christie’s is holding a unique and fascinating exhibition and sale. No fewer than 101 rare clocks covering more than eight decades of production at Cartier are to go on show before being sold in an online auction from July 7 to 21, 2020.
Starting on July 7, 101 rare clocks including some of the jeweller’s famous “mystery” clocks will go under the hammer in a sale with an estimated total value of 3.9 million to 5.7 million Swiss francs (3.7 million to 5.3 million euros). Estimated prices for individual lots start at 8,000 Swiss francs (around 7,500 euros).
Cartier watches, jewellery and high jewellery pieces have long been the subject of fascination for their extraordinary delicacy and precision, their spectacular design, their history, and the royalty who have worn them. But what of the clocks, which have contributed much to the renown of the French luxury house? Connoisseurs are aware of the story of how one of these precious objects became the point of departure for the now legendary Cartier Collection.
The upcoming sale brings to light the intense collaboration between Louis Cartier and master horologist Maurice Coüet in the early 20th century, which “helped to cement Cartier’s reputation as the leading manufacturer of jewelled objects,” as Christie’s points out in its guide to the auction.
Inspired by the work of illusionist Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, Maurice Coüet created innumerable captivating and delightful pieces, among them the famous mystery clocks, characterised by transparent dials and mechanisms that were hidden in their frames. In 1973, the jewellery house’s acquisition on the art market of one of these historic clocks that it had itself made half a century earlier became the starting point for the renowned Cartier Collection, which now includes some 1500 pieces.
The 101 clocks will go on public display from July 17 at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva.