A Creative Collaboration of Horology, Technique, Artistry and Design

It’s always exhilarating to uncover rare designs and discover new information. Such was the case on my guided tours at OMBAS (Original Miami Beach Antique Show) which I wrote about in different articles last week

On the Miami tours, a fun and educational time was had by all who visited different dealers with me as we became privy to historical, sentimental and intriguing treasures.

This was also true last summer while on the tour I gave at the summer New York Antique Jewelry and Watch Show. I found two important pieces at Ye Olde TimeKeepers (which also goes under the name Exotic Jewelry Collectors)  I met founder Dennis Nichinson and his two sons, Jason and Rob Nichinson who co-run the company today. Dennis is somewhat of a legend in the business of timepieces and Jason and Rob have stories upon stories to tell. They have been around epic jewels since they were young and now score some important acquisitions today. During the July show, they revealed a special platinum and diamond commission of a Van Cleef and Arpels’ Cadenas bracelet watch as well as a multi-gemstone version of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Zip necklace. (Read full articles here and here)

Therefore, it was no surprise that I would find more treasures at their booth in Miami—in the form of two watch pendants that were so breathtaking I could not pull myself away and neither could those on the tour with me. They are magical examples of pendants that tell time and also reveal symbolic motifs, decorative details.

Both pendants represent a collaboration between three renowned houses of the period in which they were produced. They were created by masters of jewelry, artistry, horology and design—Vacheron Constantin, Verger Frères and Paillet. “The fact that we have found two that highlight this collaboration is extraordinary.” Explains Jason, who also says, “deciphering the who, what, how, and when they were created is a little like detective work.”

A little history behind the alliance that led to the creation of these watch pendants:

Vacheron Constantin was founded in 1755 and is the oldest watch company in Geneva. It has since continued to be on the cutting edge of technical innovations and design.Verger Frères was founded in Paris in 1872 by an ultra-talented watchmaker and jeweler Ferdinand Verger. The company was renamed Verger Frères when Ferdinand’s sons Georges and Henri joined the business. The innovative use of precious materials and the outstanding workmanship of their watches, clocks, jewelry and frames cemented them as one of the most distinguished watchmaking houses of the time. Verger’s partnership with Vacheron & Constantin began in 1879 and continued through the early 20th century.

The combination of Vacheron & Constantin’s technical knowledge and Verger’s imaginative and dead-on skill would have been epic in itself, but the addition of French artist and jeweler Ferdinand Paillet’s work brought an unprecedented beauty, rarity and provenance to the pieces the three would create. Paillet became famous for his ability to paint portraits miniatures on enamel and porcelain.

The collaborations between Vacheron Constantin, Verger Frères, Paillet and on occasion, Lalique were created in limited editions and special commissions of pendant watches for elite clientele. These include empresses, kings, dukes and celebrities.

Scenic depictions of different trades professions and hobbies were found throughout art and jewelry during the 19th and early 20th century. Music became important motif during the early 1900’s.

Paillet painted a musical motif on white jade, for this elongated octagonal shaped watch pendant. The movement is Vacheron Constantin and the case is the work of Verger Frerer. “During this time Renee Lalique collaborated on the rock crystal carvings of these special watch pendants,” Jason explains. “Although we have not confirmed as of yet, we believe the rock crystal carving can be attributed to Lalique in this piece. ” The chain is crafted from platinum and diamonds and the watch pendant is striking from every angle and in all its intricate detail. Jason dates it to the beginning of the 20th century, between 1905-1915.

The second watch pendant, Jason has dated slightly later within 10 years of the design of the rock crystal example. This is another masterpiece with a distinctive Belle Époque feeling in design. Once again the movement is Vacheron Constantin and the outer case with a floral enamel design and a surround of small natural pearls is Verger Frères. Jason notes, “ The purple enamel miniature in relief is on ivory by Paillet and according to different experts, it features Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation.”

Not only are these two pieces collectible with an awe-inspiring provenance, but they encourage you to want to dig deeper and see more collaborations of these ingenious artists and firms to find out how to interpret and unearth the mysteries of these type of intriguing pieces of which so few still exist today.