ART DECO NEPHRITE, AGATE, GOLD, ENAMEL, AND CORAL DESK CLOCK BY VERGER FRÈRES FOR BOUCHERON, PARIS, 1928

A clock with an agate dial with black-enamel Arabic numerals on gold plaques, a bicolored-gold and black-enamel center with gold and red enamel hands, nephrite columns with an agate crossbar, embellished with ribbed gold and cabochon coral accents; black enamel door reveals frosted gilt 17-jewel, 5-adjustment, straight-line lever-escapement movement with cut bimetallic compensation balance with Breguet balance spring; mounted in gold, with French assay marks

  • Stamped with Verger Frères maker’s mark, signed on the engraved plaque on the reverse Boucheron Paris, the movement signed Vacheron Constantin, no. 407563
  • Copy of original drawing
  • Measurements: 5 1⁄2 x 4 1⁄2 x 2 inches

Additional cataloguing

Certification

Vacheron & Constantin Extrait d’archives no. 0051 stating that clock is Verger Frères for Boucheron Paris, movement made 1928.

 

Provenance

Michel Souillac

 

Literature

Néret, Gilles. Boucheron: The Jeweller of Time. Milan: Edita SA-Office du Livre, 1992, p. 102.

Kjellberg, Pierre. Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Âge au XXe siècle. Paris: Les Editions de l’amateur, 1997, p. 502.

 

Biography

In the Art Deco period, Verger Frères was an important manufacturer of clocks and jewelry for all of the great jewelry houses. During the 1920s and 1930s, the firm worked with Vacheron & Constantin, one of the oldest French watchmaking companies. With Vacheron & Constantin creating movements and Verger Frères the cases, retailers such as Boucheron, a Parisian jewelry company known for magnificent Art Deco design, sold their innovative timepieces, along with Van Cleef & Arpels, Ostertag, Cartier, and Tiffany.

 

Significance

During the 1920s clocks from great jewelers and watchmakers surpassed mere mechanics and became outstanding works of art combining Eastern influence, contrasting colors, clean lines, and sumptuous materials. The makers of these clocks designed increasingly complex and ingenious creations to continually outdo themselves and each other in creating objects of art sought after by an elite clientele. These new clocks were the perfect palettes for the Art Deco’s strong and architectural elements. Clocks, which in the previous century had been round and boring, became strongly geometric, utilizing vertical and horizontal shapes that were more in keeping with the Machine Era.

This clock, made by Verger Frères for the renowned jeweler Boucheron, is strongly architectural and constructed to have a bold presence. An evenly colored square agate forms the dial, which is accented with sugarloaf-shaped coral studs. Rectangular-shaped nephrite supports contribute a strong color contrast to the dial, while paying homage to the Far East. The center of the dial is pure art with its flat, overlapping, geometric configurations that bear design similarities to Pablo Picasso’s Cubist painting Harlequin, 1915, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Constructed at the same time as the Chrysler building (1928–30), similarities can be seen in the layered geometric decoration on both forms. The theme is reiterated in the rectilinear hands.

The Art Deco period was a time of inventiveness, when design broke free from established paradigms. Made by Verger Frères for Boucheron with a movement by Vacheron & Constantin, this clock utilizes stark color contrasts and bold geometric forms to successfully break from the designs of earlier decades. This magnificent clock represents a rare period when makers had the skill to create such objects. This clock is a supreme example of Art Deco design.

The original design drawing for the clock from the Boucheron archives, 1929.

Pablo Picasso’s Harlequin, 1925, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. This Cubist masterwork utilizes a massing of flattened planes, similar to the center section of the Boucheron clock, to create a unified artwork.

The Chrysler Building in New York, 1928–30, was created at the same time as the Boucheron clock and the two masterworks utilize similar massing of geometric elements and the elongated forms of the Streamlined Moderne showing how Art Deco forms permeated all the arts.