Swiss Automaton Pocket Watch, ca. 1815
Well, it belonged to my great-grandfather and it came down through the family.
Now, this is a watch made for the Chinese market. And there was an entire industry in Switzerland, centered in the town of Fleurier, which produced in the early part of the 19th century watches that were sold exclusively to a Chinese market. Typically, they have this wonderful floral enamel on the back. But yours is more special than that. Now, we can turn this over and look at the other side of the watch. When we first saw the floral enamel, we saw the pearls around the outside of it. This once had pearls around it, too. And I understand this has had sort of a sad history.
That's correct. It was confiscated by the Communists during the Cultural Revolution, and when it was returned, the pearls were gone.
How did you get it back after the Cultural Revolution?
It was returned to my family, and it came down through my mother.
The front of the watch really is pure Swiss, and it depicts a scene out of Greek mythology known as "Cupid's forge." And what makes it even more interesting is that it's an automated scene. Watches like this are very highly prized by collectors, and even though many watches are not terribly valuable, these have always been very sought-after. We think that if you had to insure it, you should think in terms of $35,000, perhaps to $40,000. It's quite a nice watch, and you should be very happy that it survived, and I'm delighted to hear the story of the watch.
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