- cf. Néret, Gilles. Boucheron: Four Generations of a World-Renowned Jeweler. New York: Rizzoli, 1988, p. 142, pl. 222.
A similar model was exhibited at the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, Paris
Frédéric Boucheron opened his Paris jewelry salon in 1858 at the Palais Royal. In 1893, Boucheron was the first jeweler to move to Place Vendôme, at number 26, where they still operate today. From the beginning, Boucheron was known for groundbreaking work. His creativity, and that of his son Louis, earned accolades at international exhibitions including the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The house remained in the family until acquired by Gucci Group in 2000. Today, Boucheron has 34 shops around the globe selling perfume, watches, and jewelry.
International expositions celebrated advancements in technology as well as design in the fine and decorative arts. The most influential was the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes which featured jewelry and objects in the rectilinear Art Deco style. In 1937, the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne opened its doors in Paris during a time of uncertainty and political tension. The exposition symbolized Europe’s last remaining hope for peace with fifty countries represented among the exhibitors. The jewelry on display looked toward the future, uniting technology and beauty.
By the time of the 1937 exposition, Louis Boucheron was making novel jewelry including feathers fashioned out of gold or gemstones, question mark brooches, and birds of paradise, as well as a small selection of imaginative watches including this pivoting ball watch. The newspaper Le Figaro wrote about these curious items, “The unprecedented number of watches that the firm of Boucheron contrives to produce for women, and for men too, ensures that there will no longer be any excuse to be late for an appointment. The charming and decorative way in which they display time with the most exact precision leaves one at a loss for words of praise. Today, the banal wristwatch of times past becomes an amusing semi-circle girding the wrist, a sphere fitted into its centre, turns on its axis like the earth itself.” Boucheron exhibited an example of this wristwatch in gold at the exposition and it appeared in several French fashion magazines, including appearing in an article exploring femininity, jewelry, and car design shown alongside fantastic Art Deco cars.
Not only is the pivoting ball an innovation for this watch, but the bracelet wraps cleverly around the wrist by means of an invisible spring. As a French magazine stated, “This bracelet shows ingenuity and taste . . . The spherical watch pivots and moves under the finger to present or conceal the dial at will.” The Boucheron archival collection contains the only other known example, a gold-plated version with a lizard skin strap. The marvelous pivoting ball watch is an eminently wearable iconic piece of design history.