By Michelle Graff

During the course of my first year covering the watch industry, I was asked to cover an auction that included multiple lots of “erotic” watches, watches that contain a hidden-yet-naughty scene.

After these watches appeared in several subsequent auctions, I turned to Charles Tearle, director and watch expert at auction house Antiquorum, to learn more about the origin of these interesting timepieces, which have become more desirous among collectors in recent years.

Tearle said erotic watches date back to the early 19th century and were crafted by a number of different watchmakers, Henry Capt being one of the most well-known.

In those days, it was not uncommon for the heads of the most prestigious households to hold dances at their respective manors and invite the “playboys” of that time.

Once surrounded by ladies, these amorous young men would present their watches. While the ladies were staring at the watch’s innocuous cover of music or nature, the men would set into motion the hidden, automaton erotica and, with the flip of a manual switch, open to reveal the scandalous scene.

“At that point the girls of the age would scream and run away while others would stay and watch,” Tearle said. The men then would select the ladies they liked based on their reaction to the watch.

Whether you would want the woman who stayed or the one who ran away would depend on a man’s personality or, perhaps, his purpose that evening.

Around 1830 or 1840, churches began to protest the production of these watches, especially when artists began including nuns and priests in the scenes. This caused the production of erotic watches to grind to a halt. Tearle said as he understands it, many of the watches were rounded up in a single night raid and destroyed within a span of a few days.

Batches of erotic watches have been created since that time, first re-emerging around 1880 or 1890, but it is impossible to guess how many from the pre-1830 period are still around today. Only eight erotic watches by Capt, for example, are known to exist.

Over the past few years, collectors’ interest in these rare watches has been re-awakened.

“As a whole, the novelty of it has become more popular again in recent years,” Tearle said, noting that the bidding for a collection of erotic timepieces sold at an Antiquorum auction in Geneva in March was “absolutely frenzied.”

Other, more modern takes on timepiece erotica have popped up at auction in recent years, including 121211_Lot-69this 18-karat white gold wristwatch (right) by Svend Andersen, dubbed “At the President’s Pleasure,” a nod, of sorts, to former U.S. President Bill Clinton. I am leaving out the indecent scene included in this particular watch, though anyone with even the slightest knowledge of American politics should be able to drum up a pretty accurate picture in their minds.

The watch sold for about $34,000 at Antiquorum in 2010.

In addition, as I was writing this blog, I received a release from watch brand Perrelet, which has just designed a set of four Turbine Erotic Limited Edition watches.

The 44 mm watches feature a mechanical self-winding P-181 movement with a scene displaying hentai, or sexually explicit Japanese cartoons. Created to evoke the erotic watches of the early 19th century, the scene is visible only in snippets or when the 12-blade wheel of the turbine is spinning quickly.

TAGS:   Watches
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