This week we put a photograph of two miniature, vintage Cartier enamel clocks on our Instagram page and instantly, someone called and snapped them up. The buyer is London based, so Insta did not have to reach very far.
Of all that Cartier made, and I mean all, there are one or two things which stick in the mind because they can be only be categorised as ‘simply charming’. The ladybird brooches are one example, but these tiny (5 cms tall), little clocks are another.
In 1910, Cartier and Faberge were fighting head-to-head for clients from a remarkably small pool of wealthy individuals who could afford their expensive ‘bibelots’. Faberge, at this moment, was the leader and Cartier was somewhat slavishly following the trends Faberge had made so fashionable. Both had shops in London, and it was not infrequent that people would shop for very similar items at both shops on the same day.
Enamel was one of the keys which set these two companies on a similar path. Boxes or clocks or inkwells or pens; everything beautifully coloured in shinning, exquisite colours achieved through
the applications of layer upon layer of enamel. These items were both beautiful and hugely popular. It was an extraordinary and intricate achievement to apply coloured surfaces so superbly to even the tiniest elements of their creations. One of the finest applications was when translucent enamel was applied over an engraved ground so a pattern could be seen through the enamel. This pattern would alter the way light reflected back through the enamel and thereby created an illusion of colour change. This is easily seen in the peach-coloured clock illustrated here.
Whilst the two firms fought for patronage, Cartier did create items which, while remaining in the Faberge vein, were unique. Studying Cartier’s objets d’art production from that period, this individuality was already apparent, and this would ultimately develop into the unique Cartier vision which would only fully flower after the First World War.
These three clocks perfectly illustrate Cartier’s oeuvre in 1910. Cartier had their own palette of enamel colours and these clocks illustrate just three. The carved agate bases became a signature
of the Cartier style.
So utterly charming are these tiny clocks that Cartier gave them a special, descriptive name which was unusual. They were named ‘Mignonette’…apres le mot ‘Mignon’ which means ‘sweet’…They could not be more accurately categorised.