• We are aware of the performance issues with the forum. These are due to problems with Comcast's lines in the Columbia, PA area. We are working on the immediate issue with Comcast and are also working on a long term plan that will eliminate our reliance on Comcast. Thank you for your patience.

Caron verge watch (Paris mid-18th century)

rstl99

Registered User
Oct 31, 2015
1,165
288
83
Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
I thought some of you might be interested in this nice verge movement I acquired a little while ago, and which I disassembled for cleaning and inspection.

The watch is signed CARON À PARIS, and the watchmaker in this case is André-Charles CARON. He was born on 26 April 1698 in Lizy-sur-Ourq, near Meaux in France, and was the son of an "horloger" (clock/watchmaker). Caron relocated to Paris in 1721, renounced the Calvinist religion in favour of catholicism, which allowed him to be accepted as master watchmaker. He died in Paris in August 1775.

Caron married in 1722 and had several children, including the one who was to become quite famous, Pierre-Augustin Caron, on 24 January 1732. Pierre-Augustin is more commonly known by the adopted name of Beaumarchais, and lived a most interesting life close to the French Court.

You may have read about Beaumarchais in the short bio given to him by Chamberlain in IT'S ABOUT TIME. He was very well trained in the art of watchmaking by his father, created a double-virgule escapement, and was famous for making a keyless bezel-winding ring watch for Madame Pompadour, the official mistress of Louis XV. Beaumarchais was a charmer, taught the king's daughters to play the harp, and lived a most full life when he turned his back on horology in his 20's, became an ambassador to the King, and ended up writing some famous plays (Barber of Seville, Marriage of Figaro).

But I digress... Because Beaumarchais became such a famous man, many biographies were written about him, which brings to light a lot of information about his father, and the relationship between father and son.

The other interesting connection with André-Charles CARON, is that Jean-Antoine LÉPINE (whose innovations in late 18th century greatly influenced Breguet, and led to the creation of the "modern watch" as we know today), joined Caron's shop around 1746 when he arrived in Paris, and later became partner with Caron. Lépine also married one of Caron's daughters, so he became brother-in-law to Beaumarchais. It's quite remarkable to think of 3 such great watchmakers all part of the same family and same "atelier" in Paris, for a time anyway, each learning from and influencing the other.

Now to the watch. It was sold as part of two "verge movements" by a seller in France, with little information given about them. The other watch is a complete movement with dial, of a rather pedestrian french provincial watchmaker from the 1820's. But I noticed the other movement with Caron's signature, and was immediately interested and intrigued. Especially when I noticed that the cock had Caron's name ingeniously inscribed in it.

In taking the watch apart, it's evident to me that Caron was a most excellent watchmaker, very attentive to quality and detail. I've taken apart a few other Parisian verge watches (signed Lépine and Romilly) and this one is evidently on a higher level. This watch was a repeater watch, but all the repeating mechanism, dial and hands have been separated from the rest a long time ago. What is left is the watch movement itself (complete), the signature and the wonderful cock (you can see the letter C around 7 o'clock and follow the other letters A R O N counter-clockwise around the cock).

I have not been able to find references to many watches by André-Charles Caron, so will be a careful custodian of this one in the time I will be allowed to be its owner.

I hope you enjoyed the little story of my Caron watch, and some of the pictures below for illustration.

--Robert

IMG_0068.jpg IMG_0075.jpg IMG_0090.jpg IMG_0107.jpg IMG_0117.jpg IMG_0120.jpg
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Duncan Luddite

SKennedy

Registered User
Jan 5, 2017
274
163
43
Country
What a beautiful movement! Those wheel crossings are really quite something as is the design and finish of the adjustable potence. And I don't recall ever seeing a makers name picked out in the cock engraving like that before although it is so subtle it would be easy to miss if you were just expecting it to be the usual floral patterning.
 

rstl99

Registered User
Oct 31, 2015
1,165
288
83
Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
I'm glad you also appreciate the qualities of this orphaned little movement by a largely forgotten Parisian watchmaker. This little thread was my humble way of paying hommage to André-Charles Caron, and the contributions he directly or indirectly made to the practice of horology (by influencing Lépine, who influenced Breguet, who influenced ...)

The cock engraving of the letters of his name represents the work of a true artist in my view (as opposed to a skilled artisan). I read that some of the more respected Parisian makers would get their initials engraved in the cock (Julien Le Roy is a good example, you can see J L R on the cocks of his watches), both as a demonstration of great skill, but also to possibly thwart swiss or other counterfeiters, who could not replicate this level of detail.

I particularly like the small flourishes of the graver around the crown wheel window. These kind of small details would never be seen by the wearer, but demonstrate a true love of the craft by the watchmaker, for which I have great fondness and respect.
 

rstl99

Registered User
Oct 31, 2015
1,165
288
83
Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
Just a few biographical details about André-Charles Caron, for those who might be interested in that kind of information. I like to research into the life and times of some of the watches I own, it makes the watch connect me in a real and honest way to a distant past.

Caron was born in a protestant family (protestants were prosecuted at the time in France, their offspring were considered illegitimate), of many children and frugal means. His decision to move to Paris, renounce his protestant religion, and get accepted as a watchmaker was a sound one, as it provided him and his own family with a good livelihood and reasonably good means. Caron eventually acquired the title of Horloger du Roi, which was an indication of his skill and reputation at the time. He was a religious man of high moral character. His two first sons died young, and Pierre-Augustin (later Beaumarchais) was his last hope of having someone take over the profession that he had inherited from his own father. Beaumarchais had other interests (playing the harp and singing in neighbourhood taverns and street corners, charming the young ladies) which unfortunately got in the way of his apprenticeship in the father's shop. André-Charles, exasperated with Beaumarchais's social escapades, eventually forced him out of the house, and the son was obliged to seek refuge in a relative's home. Only several weeks later, after Beaumarchais's mother interceded, and Beaumarchais wrote an earnest letter to his father, did the latter accept him back into the family home to continue his apprenticeship, under conditions that he was to devote himself seriously to learning the intricacies of the art and science of horology.

Beaumarchais was diligent, and grew into an outstanding watchmaker (in part no doubt through the additional guidance of his father's business partner, Jean-Antoine Lépine). Through a public debate with Lepaute (another famous Parisian watchmaker) about who in fact had invented the double-virgule escapement (the Academy of Sciences decided in Beaumarchais's favour), he became known of the public and of the Court, for whom he made some rather sophisticated and small timepieces. But Beaumarchais had an indomitable spirit that would have been hopelessly confined inside the windowed rooms of a watchmaker's shop, so he eventually left the world of horology behind and pursued his dreams and passions.

André-Charles always remained proud and supportive of his son, as their correspondence attests. Likewise, Beaumarchais was very supportive of his father, especially in the latter's older years where his health faded, and Beaumarchais provided him with the financial means to live out his days in relative comfort. I read somewhere (can't put my finger on it at this time) that following an appointment to Beaumarchais by the Court, his father was obliged to renounce his watchmaking business due to possible conflict of interest (given his title of Horloger du Roi). Beaumarchais provided his father with a pension thereafter, to see to his living needs.

André-Charles also had five daughters (one of them, Madeleine Françoise, was married to Lépine as I indicated above). Although belonging to the household of a watchmaker, all family members became well educated, well read, and were quite literate in many ways - family evenings were often spent reading aloud from contemporary works of literature, or theatre plays. Beaumarchais became in some ways the apotheosis of the literate family milieu that had raised and nurtured him.

As far as I know, no known watch of Beaumarchais has survived, and probably only a few watches of Caron still exist today. I have come across references to some watches having both Caron and Lépine's name on them, during the period where they were sharing the watchmaking business, and before Lépine branched off on his own remarkable horological journey.

--Robert
 
  • Like
Reactions: Rangerbert

Rangerbert

New User
Jun 1, 2018
2
0
1
59
Country
Robert you seem to be quite knowledgeable on Caron and Lepine. I believe I may have turned up a dual signed movement with both signatures. What do you think? Movement appears to be missing fusee chain other than that I know nothing. I am afraid to do more than take pictures of this watch due to possible historical significance. It is truly beautiful to my untrained eyes. Large ruby in the cock on the back... an odd C and e to the left of L'Epine.

#1.jpg #2.jpg #3.jpg #4.jpg
 
Last edited:

rstl99

Registered User
Oct 31, 2015
1,165
288
83
Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
Hi Rangevert
Thank you for showing us your watch. I've been reading and researching A LOT about Caron and Lépine of late, to learn more about my Caron watch, which I estimate dates from around 1750. At that time, André-Charles Caron's atelier (workshop) on rue Saint Denis in Paris figured at least 3 horlogers (not sure if there may have been other employees, but there were at least these three): Caron himself, his son Pierre-Auguste, who was being trained as a horloger by his father (from 1745 to 1755, whereupon he branched off on his own briefly, before turning his back on a horological career and became Beaumarchais), and Jean-Antoine Lépine, who joined Caron as worker in 1744, later married one of his daughters and became Caron's partner (in 1756), and took over the business on Caron's retirement in 1761. I've probably mentioned this already in the post.

About your watch: it does not appear to me to be one with Caron and Lépine's signatures on it. I think I've seen one somewhere in my internet research, and the two names are clearly inscribed "Caron et Lépine". These stem from the period where the two were partners (1756-1761). In your case, what precedes "Lépine" is "de", meaning "from" or "of Lépine".

Your watch does appear to be an early verge-fusée (written with an accent because we're talking French horology :) watch with square baluster pillars commonly found during 3rd of 4th quarters of 18th century. Whether it's an actual watch produced by Lépine's firm (post 1761) is hard to tell. Normally he put a serial number on his watches, or a hidden number under the dial. Lépine, like LeRoy, Berthoud, Romilly and others (and later Breguet), was a name that was much used by swiss forgers in the 18th century. So it's possible if not probable that your watch may have originated in Geneva or Switzerland sometime in the late 18th century, for sale in France. Only a careful inspection of the watch and its components, and comparing with an actual Lépine verge-fusée from that era, could allow one to know for sure.

Hope this helps.
--Robert
 
  • Like
Reactions: Rangerbert

Rangerbert

New User
Jun 1, 2018
2
0
1
59
Country
Dear Robert,

Thank you for your detailed and well researched response.

To everyone following this post in Robert's article April 21, 2018 I have attached ten new photos to help with correct identification of this mystery watch. The movement is approximately 35 mm in diameter. I estimate that it was made around 1756-1763 (in Paris?) on the basis of photos I've studied online for the past year. L'Epine made smaller watches then, with a fusee verge movement. My watch being a L'Epine creation seems pretty likely; however, the only L'Epine watches I have found online never have any lettering inscribed before his name and "The watch maker to the king" after 1765. On my watch, however, there are definitely letters inscribed before L'Epine: "C ? D" and "e", presumably for L'Epine's master, Caron, and possibly more letters under the plate (I am afraid to remove it). The verge movement seems to have been made before L'Epine made any great changes in design; however, I know nearly nothing about the mechanics of the verge movement or identifying characteristics of a L'Epine, so if any of you experts see any recognizable features of the movement in the photos, please let me know. There is a ruler included in several photos to help with scaling the size of the watch. The scale visible is cm and mm. I estimate the depth of the movement to be about 10 mm from the outside of the upper plate to the outside of the lower plate. I will be in Portland Oregon this summer and South Central Europe in the fall. If you could recommend someone to assess this watch more thoroughly. All help and advice is graciously appreciated. Rangerbert

1-IMG_4077.JPG 3-IMG_4080.JPG 4-IMG_4084.JPG 6-IMG_4092.JPG 7-IMG_4093.JPG 8-IMG_4094.JPG 9-IMG_4096.JPG 10-IMG_4101.JPG 12-IMG_4105.JPG 13-IMG_4106.JPG
 

rstl99

Registered User
Oct 31, 2015
1,165
288
83
Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
Interesting photos.

I humbly believe you are barking up the wrong tree with the letters preceding Lépine. It does looks like a C lying down but the word according to me is most clearly "de" as I indicated, and not usual to find it written that way (these watches most usually just say: Lépine, or Lepine, or L'epine, as in your case). If this WAS a watch made during the partnership of Caron and Lépine, both names would appear clearly, and especially Caron's, since the partnership was after all in his shop.

The verge-fusée movement looks absolutely typical for mid-late 18th century, they were made in great numbers almost everywhere.

I find it interesting that the engraver has conflated the A with P in Paris, and have seen that done before. Lépine would most usually have his name on the dial, so the dial on yours may not be original, or this is another indication of a possible swiss Lépine forgery, of which I own one similar to yours, it's not uncommon to find these. The hands are nice but look to me an earlier style than the dial, so may or may not be original either. It's hard to say what is original and what has been changed on these old watches - dials and hands would often get damaged or replaced.

French (and or Swiss) watches, as Chapiro documents in his book on Lépine, went down in diameter size around 1760-1780 to the +/-35mm range you indicate for yours, and then went up again markedly by 1800 (by which time Lépine himself was using his own innovative designs and had abandoned the verge-fusée design pretty well entirely).

Lépine was heavily involved in the watch manufacturing centre in Ferney France (near the border with Switzerland) that had been created by the philosopher Voltaire who had talked Lépine in setting up an atelier there. Perhaps many of these "doubtful" Lépine watches came from the factory he had there. That's something I haven't seen very clearly described in the literature about Lépine.

Anyway, others may have differing opinions, but all my readings point me to the conclusions I indicated to you. Use them or disregard them as you wish. Hope they help.

Regards,
--Robert
 
Last edited:

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
3,112
1,268
113
Germany
Country
Region
Hi Rangerbert-the only watch I have found so far that looks like yours(See below) was in Chapiro´s book on French pocket watches. If nothing else it would appear they both used the same cock maker. You need to find out more about C ? D e on the top plate. All others I have seen so far,the dials are all signed. maybe the original got damaged and the one on there now was put on later, it is after all well over two hundred years since it was sold. This is a fine thread, and I would like to ask you about the red stone (ruby?) on your watch, do you know if it is it a bearing or just deco. Best wishes Allan.
IMG_5217.JPG IMG_5218.JPG

PS: It appears Robert and I overlapped.
 
Last edited:

rstl99

Registered User
Oct 31, 2015
1,165
288
83
Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
Hi Allan,
Indeed those two balance cocks do look similar, though the one in Chapiro's book has 4 repeating patterns, and Rangerbert's watch has 3. I think there were only so many patterns in use during that era, and I've seen facsimiles of catalogues that engravers would provide to watchmakers so they could choose which one they wanted for the watch they were putting together.

About the jewel on the coquerel, my readings suggest that by the time Lépine would have been making verge watches, they would have been solely steel. In some earlier French watches (Le Roy) we occasionally see one with a ruby (whether as a bearing or just ornamental is unsure to me, though given Le Roy's reputation, I would think he put one there for a reason - ie. as a bearing).
--Robert
 

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
3,112
1,268
113
Germany
Country
Region
Very interesting Robert, if only we could put some facts about those jewels. I am going to Basel in August, and I am listing questions to ask while there-the jeweling will be near the top.Though most experts over here seem to agree that at that stage they could not have made jewels with a bearing in France or Switzerland. I will keep looking- did you see my remarks on this in the Raynsford thread? Best wishes Allan.
 

rstl99

Registered User
Oct 31, 2015
1,165
288
83
Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
It will be interesting to hear about what you find out in Basel, Allan.

About jewels, my limited knowledge of the common understanding is that England got a leg up on using holed jewels for pivot holes of watches and clocks, following a patent given to immigrants Nicholas Faccio and the Debaufre's in May 1704. And that England was able to "keep the secret" of holing jewels for several decades until the practice made it across the Channel and became widespread.

However, I think there's a big difference between being able to effectively drill a precise hole in a jewel and make a proper-fitting "donut" shaped jewel to fit in a clock, and especially, watch plate; and just having a small faceted jewel made by a jeweller "next door", with a small depression on the underside to accommodate the top pivot of the verge, and attach it to the centre of the balance cock to allow the verge pivot to spin comfortably against it. So I'm not surprised to see many early watches (late 17th, early 18th) fitted with handsome little jewels in the centre of the cock. Possibly many of these were just for looks, but some must have played a functional role.
 

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
3,112
1,268
113
Germany
Country
Region
My thoughts too Robert-and thats why I keep asking, the same with those arrows on the French and English watches 1690-1740. I don´t know the correct term for that square hole. Next week, Thursday is a club meeting and I am taking a load of photographs to hand around and see what the members say. "I mean, they made the first pocket watch-they should know":rolleyes:.
IMG_5215.JPG More on this in the "Help with Raynsford" thread" :cool:. Best wishes, allan

PS. I am begining to think the balance wheel with the pivits as to be set correctly before the balance spring is pinned to the the plate?:oops:
 
Last edited:

Forum statistics

Threads
169,890
Messages
1,482,751
Members
49,223
Latest member
JJLEBOATBABE
Encyclopedia Pages
1,060
Total wiki contributions
2,965
Last update
-