PARIS – As part of the Jewelry and Watches sale on May 19, Piasa is proud to present an Art Deco mystery clock made by Cartier in the early 1930s and estimated at €400,000-€600,000. This clock, which has hands that seem to float magically in the dial, will make its auction debut. It has not appeared on the market since its creation by the Cartier Paris workshops. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
In 1912, when he was only 28 years old, the watchmaker Maurice Couet followed in the footsteps of the famous illusionist Jean-Eugene Robert Houdin and developed the system of producing the mystery clocks that were to become a legendary 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 plinth — the platform on which the clock’s legs appear to rest. While the disc is in motion, the hands give the illusion that they are not connected to any clockwork or mechanical power system. Cartier produced about 90 mystery clocks until the 1930s. It restarted production after World War II, and reintroduced the mystery clock 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 skyscraper’s silhouette is repeated on the hands. The plinth is made of rhodonite, also known as manganese basilicate, and onyx. Derived from the Greek word rhodon, or rose, for its pink color, rhodonite most often appears as it is seen here, with black veins of manganese oxide. Rhodonite is not commonly used at Cartier – this clock is the only known example that features it – and it is certainly the most surprising element in its composition. Contrasting rhodonite with the onyx brings out the characteristics of this mystery clock and gives it its unique appearance.
The manufacturing process required the involvement of six or seven specialists from Cartier’s Parisian workshops: a goldsmith, an enameler, a lapidary, a setter, an engraver, and a polisher for a period of up to 12 months.
When creating mystery clocks, Maurice Couet first used a system that relied on two lateral axes; later, around 1920, he developed another model with a single axis that allowed the use of any clock case. Thereafter, both designs were used simultaneously. The example offered in the Piasa auction is a single-axis clock with a classic eight-days movement.
In addition to the Cartier mystery clock, the auction presents 100 pieces, including beautiful Art Deco jewelry such as a Charlie Chaplin-themed charm bracelet, estimated at €10,000-€15,000; a bracelet in yellow gold and diamonds from Lacloche Freres, estimated at €20,000-€30,000; and pieces by Rene Boivin, Jean Despres, and Arnold Ostertag. Also noteworthy is an articulated bangle bracelet in yellow gold, estimated at € 5,000-€7,000, which was made during the second half of the 20th century by the Brazilian jeweler Haroldo Burle Marx.
The current rate of exchange between the Euro and the U.S. dollar is 1 = $1.20.
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