Master of Time: An impressive and very rare gold hunter cased keyless lever minute repeating triple calendar pocket watch with retrograde date and moon phases by LeCoutre, Geneve with gold chased case by Bapst and Falize, Paris
This rare and important minute repeating triple calendar pocket watch with retrograde date and moon phases by LeCoutre, Geneve with gold chased case by Bapst and Falize, Paris is an excellent example of French craftsmanship at the end of the 19th century. The gold repoussé Renaissance inspired case by Bapst and Falize depicts Chronos (Kronus), the Titan and god of time, standing atop a globe, surrounded by three partially draped figures of the Moirai or Fates: Chlotos, whose name derives from the Greek word ‘to spin’ and who presides over the moment we come into the world, holds a distaff or spindle. Lachésis, who is responsible for weaving together all the events of our lives, reclines opposite her sister while Atrophos, the eldest sister crouches below with shears in hand, ready to cut the thread of life. The Fates are seen holding skeins of wool with two pendant love trophies below. The back of the case is of similar design and centres on Atrophos with her shears while Apollo and his twin Artemis (Diana), gods of the sun and moon respectively, lounge below. With its delicate depictions of the fates, god of time, the sun and the moon, this timepiece could be seen to represent the wearer’s mastery of time and his own destiny. As the motto inscribed around the edge of the case states, ‘Qui temps a tout’ ‘He who has time has everything.’
The houses of Bapst and Falize were each renowned in their own right, but unified for a short period between 1880 and 1892. In 1876 Lucien Falize (1839-97) assumed control of the Falize workshops from his father, Alexis Falize. Having apprenticed under his father for two decades, Lucien was a competent successor for the firm—a highly skilled enamellist, goldsmith, and designer. Lucien’s obsession with historical aesthetics, particularly the Renaissance and Japanese art, matched if not surpassed that of his father. In 1878, Falize won a grand prize for his jewellery as well as the coveted Legion of Honour Cross at Paris’s International Exposition.
Germain Bapst (1853-1921) was descended from French royal jewellers, Evrard and Frederic Bapst, who created several magnificent pieces for the French royal family, including an emerald tiara for Marie-Therese, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Bapst proposed joining their firms together, and on 16 June 1880, the partnership between Lucien Falize and Germain Bapst was formalized. As descendant of the famous crown jewellers, Bapst and could expect loyal customers and friends to follow him in this new venture, while Falize, following his success at the International Exposition, could certainly hope to gain from the long- standing reputation of the Bapst name. Both of the new partners were widely respected for their expertise and their professional skills and enjoyed great success until 1892, when their partnership was dissolved.