An “exceptional” Swiss pocket watch once owned by King Fouad of Egypt, which is due to go under the hammer in Geneva, has been put on public display in Bahrain.
It was made by the oldest manufacturer of watches in the world, Vacheron Constantin, which celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2005.
To mark the event, Geneva auction house Antiquorum is organising a special auction of 250 Vacheron Constantin timepieces, which span the history of the company from its beginnings in 1755 to the present day.
The choice of monarchs since their earliest days, Vacheron Constantin timepieces boast a long line of rich and famous owners, including world leaders, politicians, stars of stage and screen, artists and sports personalities.
But the highlight of the one-day sale on April 3 is likely to be the King Fouad I pocket watch, which is expected to fetch several million francs.
“To find a pocket watch with so many complications and such exceptional provenance makes it a very rare piece,” Antiquorum spokeswoman Ita McCobb told swissinfo.
“It is a unique opportunity that this should have come up for sale,” she added.
Its history dates back to July 1929, when it was given to the king as a present by the Swiss colony in Egypt to mark the occasion of his visit to Switzerland.
The remarkable 18-carat gold timepiece with a silver dial was reportedly highly valued by King Fouad who took it with him everywhere.
Originally made for the International Exhibition of Barcelona, the watch boasts no fewer than 12 complications, which will no doubt attract the serious collectors.
These include a split-second chronograph with 30-minute register, perpetual calendar, date and day aperture, months and year with full leap-year cycle, and moon phases.
It also has a minute repeater that strikes on demand as well as an automatic “grande sonnerie” that strikes the hours and quarters on three-gongs and a “petite sonnerie” which strikes the quarters, all controlled by a slide bolt on the rim.
This elaborate striking mechanism even possesses its own winding train distinct from that of the impressive 46-jewel movement.
The case back displays the Egyptian royal family’s coat of arms in traditional Geneva enamel framed with diamonds, and the inside case back contains an inscription from the Swiss colony in Egypt.
The presentation box for this exceptional piece weighs 130 grams and is engraved with the king’s coat of arms.
Not surprisingly the watch took three and a half years to make and, even in 1929, it cost a small fortune. At auction it is likely to go for several million Swiss francs.
Antiquorum is exhibiting the piece at the International Fair in Bahrain that runs from October 3–9.
The sale in Geneva takes place at a Geneva hotel on April 3, and will be previewed around the world during the spring of 2005.
swissinfo, Robert Brookes
King Fouad I was the son of the Khedive Ismail.
The king ruled Egypt for 18 years from October 9, 1917, until his death on April 28, 1936.
He was born in 1868, the younger brother and successor of Sultan Hussein.
His was a reign which saw many political changes in Egypt, including the 1919 revolution.
When Britain declared Egypt an independent sovereign state in 1922, Fouad became the country's king.