Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Watching the Clock

Each year, Christie's organizes fine jewelry sales across the globe - in Amsterdam, Dubai and Hong Kong, to name a few locations - but no venue provides a more appropriately stunning backdrop for such beautiful gems than the historic Badrutt's Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

This February 21st, the hotel will host Christie's highly-anticipated Important Jewels sale. With a record of nearly $355 million in sales for 2006, this early spring sale will be a good indicator of the 2007 market. The sale boasts an abundance of magnificent pieces, including a purple-pink diamond ring (no, not J. Lo's) estimated at
$2,500,000-3,000,000 and a blue pear-shaped diamond ring estimated at $1,300,000-1,600,000 (shown below).

One of the more unexpected lots in the sale is a Cartier mystery clock made of red and pink coral, diamonds, mother-of-pearl and rock crystal. Mystery clocks, as they were called for their hidden workings, were first produced by Cartier in 1913. The floating hands appear to be completely unattached to the movement, and looking at the reverse side provides no additional clues to solving the illusion. Construction of the clocks, which took about a year for each one, was a closely guarded secret by the firm, but we now know a bit more about how they work. The central material of the clock face, usually rock crystal, had to be carefully - and perfectly - cut in half and then crystal discs, to which the hands were attached, were placed between the halves. The inner discs had a sawtooth edge that served as the mechanism, hidden within the surrounding frame.

The first clock made by Maurice Couet for Cartier was purchased by American industrialist J. P. Morgan. The Duchess of Windsor had one too, though it was smashed in a lover's quarrel. Mystery clocks reached their height of popularity during the 1920s-30s, and they are most often in an elaborate, exotic Art Deco style, each with a red-leather carrying case. The Gazette du Bon Ton, France's leading fashion magazine of the time, described the clocks as "otherworldly and precious, handspun with moonlight in a dream." A bewitched bidder will need to pay $80,000-120,000 for this genius little piece of theater and quite possibly more. They've been known to fetch sums of well over a million dollars.

Christie's cautions potential bidders with the gentle reminder that "several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell" and advises those interested to "familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country." But all that drudgery will soon be forgotten, once its owner stares, mesmerized, into the clarity of this mystery clock's brilliant face.

Important Jewels
Sale 1343
21 February 2007, 2:00 pm & 6:00 pm
Badrutt's Palace Hotel
St. Moritz

17 February 11:00 am - 6:30 pm
18 February 11:00 am - 7:30 pm
19 February 11:00 am - 7:30 pm
20 February 11:00 am - 7:30 pm
21 February 11:00 am - 1:30 pm

Sale Contact: Eric Valdieu
Tel: +41 (0)22 319 1730

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