Gold & agate pair-cased watch
Gallery 52

Silver and Watches, First Floor


Focus on the Object

The case which contains Perigal’s watch was made about 1760 when rich, asymmetrical ornament, incorporating plants and scrolls, was in fashion. This type of design, known as “Rococo” from its similarity to irregular rock formations, was imported to England from France in the early eighteenth century. Like many eighteeth-century watches, this watch is “pair-cased”. The watch is enclosed within an inner case to protect the mechanism and an outer case to protect the inner case. In the mid-eighteenth century, the outer cases were often elaborately decorated. By comparison with other cases from the period, the decoration of this case is relatively restrained. The gold scrolling border does not distract from the effect of the panel of reddish-brown agate.

Agate, which is a variety of quartz incorporating bands and whorls of colour, was valued by craftsmen in the eighteenth-century for its decorative effects. It went ideally with Rococo design and was imitated in cheaper contemporary ceramics known as “agate ware”. There is one piece on display in the museum: an agate cat, which can be found in the case on the stairs leading down to Gallery 9 (European Porcelain).

The white enamelled dial on this watch is particularly plain and is probably a replacement, inserted in about 1780 when the Rococo had gone out of fashion.