Mainly classical round pocket in his aesthetic model, the Watch has explored different forms in every moment of its long history and according to the different ways to wear it.
As a model, the Watch has chosen frequently in the shape of a square or rectangle, or oval or rounder shapes such as tonneau. But there was a time – in the first centuries of the great history of those who, with a little generic, were initially defined “watches from person” – in which the shape of the case was the main guideline for the creativity of watchmakers, goldsmiths, and lapidaries.
Are the watches have appeared since the sixteenth century, intended to accompany the person and for this monumental clocks that marked deeply different from large public and private time in the cities like in small towns, or from watches to keep at home. Their appearance gave a new and personal connotation to the concept of time and its usability; and since it was not a question of domestic wall clocks to keep indoors but to wear – just like a dress or a jewel – their aesthetic soon acquired a strong priority.
For a long time the new timepieces were carried around the neck, suspended from massive necklaces; the ladies loved him instead take them hanging on the belt with a silver mirror, or as a pendant or brooch, just like other jewels; in later times they’d be tied on the wrist as bracelets, setting the stage for the development of a totally new kind of watch making, so important to be obfuscated, during the twentieth century, all kinds!
In each of these cases, it was the visibility to stimulate creativity: for pure aesthetic taste, or to communicate messages and ways of thinking.
Thus, already in the second half of the 16th century, we are witnessing the birth of the first “fancy watches,” featuring original forms and made mostly in gold, silver, vermeil (gilded silver) and rock crystal.
Among them, a very special kind is represented by models of religious inspiration. Numerous cross-shaped ones, intended mainly for the clergy, with metal frame and top in rhinestone; with them spread – especially in southern Germany, but also in Blois, one of the great centres of watchmaking French of the era, and later to Geneva and London – the watches with diamonds in the shape of a death’s head, called “memento mori”, which were worn both by men and by noble women of a certain age.
Outside the religious sphere, between the 16th and the 17th century, in all European centers of horological production took a significant spread of rhinestone; due to its transparency, in fact, it was possible to emphasize the valuable etchings of the dial and movement.
But when it comes to fancy watches, our thoughts go especially to a production of various shapes and whimsical pendant, which spread especially between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, finding in the city of Geneva on their most flourishing production centre: their coffers faithfully reproduced animals, flowers, fruits, musical instruments, hearts and so on; or the clocks were incorporated into everyday objects like bottles door-perfume, spectacle cases, Pocket knives, purses, fans and others. To combine them, the delightful decoration in enamel, whose function was, first, to make the object – especially flowers, fruits and animals – realistic, true-to-life as possible not only in form but also in color.
There are numerous testimonies of this kind of watchmaking, the prerogative of the great specialists of the genre – among them, distinguished himself particularly Isaac Daniel Piguet (1775-1841), a fine watchmaker who worked first in company with Henry Capt (1802-1811) and later with Philippe Samuel Meylan (1811-1828), giving birth to two of the most prestigious in the Geneva production of enamel watches during the first half of the 19th century – but also of the creators were absolutely anonymous.
Their achievements are an important heritage of public and private museums, or are part of large collections of antique clocks; from time to time appear in large international auctions, where they reach very interesting quotes, on average, of course depending on their quality, rarity and architect who oversaw the construction.