THE DODGE CLOCK: AN ART DECO CITRINE, EBONITE, DIAMOND, AND ENAMEL MYSTERY CLOCK BY MAURICE COÜET FOR CARTIER, PARIS, CIRCA 1920

SOLD: Acquired by the Cartier Collection

A clock with an octagonal citrine dial enclosing rose-cut diamond hands, with an ebonite and gold case and base embellished with rose-cut diamonds and turquoise and white enamel; with French assay marks, mounted in 18-karat gold and platinum; with winding key

  • 2 citrines and 272 rose-cut diamonds
  • Base signed Cartier, New York, E.W. & C. Co. Inc., France (for the movement by the European Watch & Clock Company), side of base hand-stamped no. 191, underside of base engraved no. 507, inside of case inscribed Horace G Schwartz Detroit, 1923 1926 3/18
  • Measurements: 5 x 3 x 1 3/4 inches

Additional cataloguing

Provenance

  • Anna Thomson Dodge (Mrs. Horace E. Dodge)

 

Literature

  • cf. Chaille, François, and Franco Cologni. The Cartier Collection: Timepieces. Paris: Flammarion and Cartier, p. 197.
  • Darr, Alan Phipps, et. al. The Dodge Collection of Eighteenth-Century French and English Art in The Detroit Institute of Arts. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1996, p. 31.
  • cf. Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier.San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2007, p. 261.

 

Biography

Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier. His three grandsons, Louis, Pierre, and Jacques, built the house into a famous international jewelry empire serving royalty, Hollywood stars and socialites. Cartier has created some of the most important jewelry and objects of art of the twentieth century with many iconic designs such as mystery clocks, Tutti Frutti jewelry and the Panthère line. In 1983, The Cartier Collection was established with the objective of acquiring important pieces that trace the firm’s artistic evolution. Today, Cartier has 200 stores in 125 countries.

 

Significance

Clocks that do more than just tell time have fascinated connoisseurs for centuries. Singing bird boxes, automatons, and Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin’s pendules mystérieuses captured the imagination of an eager clientele in the nineteenth century. It would take another century before clocks again achieved a similar level of inventiveness. In the second decade of the twentieth century, Louis Cartier collaborated with Maurice Coüet to create clocks that seemed to defy natural laws: the hands moved without any visible operating mechanism. Called mystery clocks, these new inventions mesmerized viewers. Although there was no scientific mystery behind how these clocks worked, there was an artistic magic in the ingenuity and craftsmanship that created the optical illusion. The clock hands were set into transparent rotating discs with toothed metal rims propelled by gears in the clock case. These intricately made clocks took from three to twelve months to complete by as many as six or seven skilled craftsmen. They are considered the apogee of Cartier’s work during the 1920s and 1930s.

The dials on most Cartier mystery clocks are rock crystal; only a few examples incorporate citrine. Citrine has the same see-through quality as rock crystal, but on this clock its striking coloration counterbalances the surrounding turquoise chapter ring and ebonite frame. Rose-cut diamond florets soften the linearity of the design. The clock is in the shape of a Japanese screen and the yellowish tones of the citrine recall the gold-leaf decoration on many such screens.

This clock was formerly in the collection of Anna Thomson Dodge, wife of Horace E. Dodge, co-founder of the Dodge Brothers Company. Her mansion Rose Terrace in Grosse Point, Michigan, housed a collection of European art and antiques, many of which were given to the Detroit Museum of Arts. Other pieces can be seen at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. One of the first single-axle mystery clocks produced by Cartier, this clock is a testament to the time in which it was made and to the connoisseurship of the person who owned it. It is truly one of the masterpieces of Cartier’s Art Deco period.

Anna Thomson Dodge’s private second-floor sitting room, where she spent most of her time during the thirty-five years she lived at Rose Terrace, featured Louis XV furniture and her collection of Chinese jade and hardstone objects. The Cartier citrine clock sits atop her desk. Photograph from The Dodge Collection of Eighteenth-CenturyFrench and English Art in The Detroit Institute of Arts, page 31.

A close-up of Anna Thomson dodge’s private desk showing the Cartier citrine clock in pride of place.

Original pamphlet from Horace Greeley Schwarz. In his time, Schwarz was known as one of the finest clock specialists in the United States. The Detroit Saturday Night described him thus “Horace Greely Schwarz, horologist, has organized a clock service which frees the owner of all care and responsibility and insures at all times perfect and accurate time in the home.” This pages shows some of his accolades from publications, professional organizations, and watch companies.

This alphabetical listing of prominent clients includes Mrs. Horace E. Dodge. Schwarz would have inscribed his name on the clock at time of service or sale. Perhaps he helped Mrs. Dodge select this magnificent clock; he certainly maintained it.