A very important and fine Sterling silver gilt, pictorial and enamel singing bird box with timepiece, movement by C. H. Marguerat,
Designed by Vacheron Constantin and produced by C H Marguerat
Serial number 770
Enamel workmanship only accomplished by the true masters...
When wound and the side mounted start/stop slide actuated by pressing to the right, the bird suddenly appears, rising through exceptional rosette and Rococo C scroll
pierced and filigree gilt grille with seamless centrum. It has moving painted metal beak, wings, bobbing tailfeather with the whole body moving from side-to-side to continuous synchronised birdsong.
The bird has striking layered feathered plumage in tones of dark brown, claret red, post-box red and turquoise, underlined by banded iridescent hues of electric green, red and amber. It has a backdrop of a fine painted triple rosehead posy on a turquoise ground enamel to the inside of rising lid. A wide egg and twist molded gilt border and the rising lid top has a known pastel painted enamel study of twin Alpine waterfalls cascading towards a mountainous ravine, with chalet dwellings below and a lone figure on a path looking back towards snow-capped mountains beyond beneath the setting sun. The Vacheron design silver gilt case with the silver gilt frame of cast, open lotus flower halves, in between leaf trail swags as a continuous frieze; miniature rope twists to the edge and repeated to the sides and base edges and flanking the central square six jewel timepiece.
The timepiece with cream enamel in-filled blued steel Brequet hands, the dial with Western Arabic numerals in cream with black shadows, square black chapter and inner dial rings against the deep blue enamel ground and wave crest engine turning beneath.
Twin panels in clipper blue with highly reflective and fine wave-tip engine turned backing, upon which rose sprigs with leaf trails sit, flank the timepiece to the front of the case. The main lid, sides and back of the case with matching clipper blue enamel and wave-tip ground to the radial pattern cut perfectly to reflect the light and control hue change whilst moving the box. Each rosehead in various tones of pink, balanced by the butterflies in white to the corners. The silver-gilt start/stop slide to the right-hand side of the front of the case and the plain silver-gilt underside featuring full stamped marks for Sterling and Argent Dore. The winding/set crown for the timepiece with interior timepiece plate marked with the corresponding 770 movement number, Marguerat folding captive thumb winding grip, on compressed scroll turn decorated bracket feet, in the lovely period traveling case finished in red.
3.3/4in. wide, 2.1/4in. deep, 1.1/2in. high, (9.5 x 5.7 x 3.8cm)
Point of interest:
A very similar example was sold on 29th May 2008 at Christies Hong Kong for HK$667,500 ( £55,516 )
This piece is not signed Vacheron, but the quality, design, enamel technique and timepiece all point towards them being heavily involved in it's creation. For the one known signed Vacheron piece, we know that C. H. Marguerat were the firm who supplied the bird movement to them and so we could well be looking at one of their pre-commission made examples which were to bear their mark upon the commissioning body sealing the agreement. In fact the matching blue background to the dial on the box offered here seems far more in keeping than the rather jarring white backgound dial of the Hong Kong offering.
The study seen on the bird lid may be familiar to those who viewed stock number 1330 (an early Jacques Bruguier fusee singing bird box in our sold page section), where the same view is observed on a much earlier box. Some views are fantasy, most are true life. This view is certainly naturalistic, depicting life high up in the Alpine world where natural beauty comes before the noticing of time.
Now analyse the breath-taking engine turning and tooling of the radial wave-tips which were executed before the enamel firing. One strand tip is very slightly off set, making the others which flank it appear to be in front of and behind its neighbour. This very simple yet clever use of space could only be seen to be right once all the trouble of firing the enamel was finished, dry and cooled. They got it right first time.
Marguerat had the best enamelers in the world in their workshop. An asset and a line of quality which Vacheron would have expected as their base standard in terms of work being requested of them. A once only opportunity to acquire the finest Marguerat this world has ever seen.