This is a brief story about a rare pocket watch I came across and luckily successfully bid on in auction.
A ‘two-train’ 1880s Petite et Grande Sonnerie repeating pocket watch in a 75mm silver case covered in green stingray leather. An astonishing weight of 343 grams which exceeds al our previous ‘big’ pocket watches by far.
Acquiring the timepiece
The pictures and description of the online lot were quite poor, which often helps when bidding on a piece like this. Though I was confident many more collectors would look right through that and understand the rarity of the piece, we managed to win the lot. The description did say the movement was not working and neither was the repeating mechanism which can be bad news with such a complicated piece.
I had good hopes since the fragile sting ray leather case and enamel dial were flawless which sort of indicates this watch has never been dropped from damaging heights.
The Sonnerie Complication
For those who do not know what a sonnerie complication means I will evaluate the movement a bit; the crown can be would both ways (two train movement). Right to wind the movement and left to wind the spring barrel which powers the sonnerie. As time passes, the sonnerie function will activate the repeating mechanism automatically every 15 minutes to tell the time by chimes on two gongs (hours and quarters).
Just like a grandfather’s clock! The big difference is that you can hold this watch in the palm of your hand… The watch is issued by Golay Leresche et Fils. A company with a close relationship with Audemars Piguet. The condition of the watch is absolutely flawless. It was most likely made in commision for a wealthy gentleman and once completed the watch probably has not seen much daylight eversince.
The Patek Philippe Grande Sonnerie
Let me tell you about the Patek Philippe Grande Sonnerie pocket watch to give you more info about the difficulty and price tag these movements involve.
The PP Grande Sonnerie pocket watch was first completed in 1915, but only sold half a century later in 1964! In the meantime the movement received several prices at the Geneva Observatory competitions. Fun fact, the Patek Sonnerie was prepared and regulated for the contest by J. Golay-Audemars, a régleur at Patek Philippe.
There were less than 10 pieces made because the watch would be so much more expensive compared to a regular repeating pocket watch and therefore didn’t sell well. One was auctioned for a quarter million dollars at Christies in 2007, which would be quite a lot more these days…