L’Duchen, bringing back centuries-old watchmaking values

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July 2016

A special 18th century watch by Louis Duchene & Fils was sold at Christie’s auction for 195,000 CHF. Successor brand L’Duchen also offers something special for the rest of us, too.

In today’s age of smart technology in our watches, it’s easy to forget that the forefathers of watchmaking also had some tech tricks up their sleeves. One was the so-called automaton watch, which means that the timepieces had some mechanical components that could work by themselves. In other words, they were “smart” for their day.

One such automaton timepiece – dating back to the 18th century- was just sold at a Christie’s auction for 195,000 Swiss francs.

L'Duchen, bringing back centuries-old watchmaking values

It’s a very rare18K pink gold open face verge pocket watch, powered by a two train movement with chain fusée. It also features a polychrome enamelling and a multi-coloured gold automaton scene of a lady sitting on a swing, which sways back and forth when pushed by a standing gentleman. The automatic feature is activated by a sliding lever in the band.

The special watch was a creation of master watchmaker Louis Duchêne. The Geneva-based craftsman was renowned for manufacturing finely enamelled watches with all conceivable complications. Some of his most stunning examples include minute repeaters, petite and grande sonneries. But he was famous for his extraordinary automaton watches, which were also exported to China.

L'Duchen, bringing back centuries-old watchmaking values

The rare pocket watch definitely made the winning anonymous collector very happy by being the highest bidder, even at the hefty pricetag. For the rest of us, we can take solace in the fact that the historical Swiss watchmaker was reincarnated as the L’Duchen manufacture in 2004.

The company keeps to the centuries-old traditions of the original brand with a diverse range of designs of timeless elegance. Their Art Collection is a great example of refined painting masterpieces for the wrist, while the more recent Space Collection is ideal for mechanical lovers, which is based on the solid Soprod movement.

It just goes to show that not everything from the past has to be resigned to history.