With a lower price, there was something very unusual and if you are attracted by the really unique, very beautiful stuff. According to the catalog, we would think about smothering here. It is a so-called “form” watch – this is a term given to cheap replica watches that are in the shape of some other object, and throughout watchmaking history, there have been many examples in shapes as diverse as those of insects, flowers, and even skulls. It’s meant to be used as the head of a cane, but it is also a form watch in that it is shaped like a parrot’s head. In this case, the watch is a sort of double-form watch that is both a utilitarian object and a decorative one.
The parrot’s head is elaborately carved and decorated, with the individual barbs of each feather carefully delineated, and decorated with contrasting champleve enamel (enameling in which a metal surface has hollows carved in it which are then filled with enamel, and fired). The cover over the watch is launched by a catch in the handle and is spring-loaded so that when it pops open it looks like the parrot has raised its crest. Inside is a wonderful watch movement in an octagonal case, with a miniature music box hidden below it that plays when you open the case.
This is not a precision timekeeper per se, but on the contrary, it was intended to be a mechanical distraction and diversion, as well as a conversation piece, and would have been a real show-stopper for whoever owned it. The mainspring has the year 1807 scratched on it, and the catalog notes speculate that a likely date of completion is 1810. The notes also observe: “Almost surely made in Geneva, it is a testament to the quality of the work of the goldsmith and watchmaker in Switzerland at the beginning of the 19th century. Although the signature on the mainspring of the musical movement cannot be deciphered it must have been made by one of the best workshops in Geneva such as Piguet & Capt or Moulinie, Butte & Cie.”
Apart from telling the time and playing a tune, the movement incorporates two animations forming the sort of rustic scene often shown in Rococo period art. The Rococo era only flourished through the mid-18th century and by 1810 its last vestiges would have been wiped out by the French Revolution, but you can still see characteristics of its lightheartedness in some Swiss watchmaking of this period, especially replica watches incorporated in decorative or useful objects, and those which had animations. Here a blacksmith hammers on his anvil against a backdrop of a fountain; the illusion of flowing water is created by a rotating glass rod. Even the balance wheel has been decorated; its rim glitters with rose-cut diamonds.