Antique singing bird box could fly

An antique silver-gilt and enamel singing bird box is one of 30 items consigned to a Yorkshire Valentine’s Day sale on February 14.

The bird box is part of a high-value single-owner collection, that also includes an extremely rare ring watch that is one of only five in existence, set to sell at Elstob Auctioneers. 

The auction house said the item is in excellent working order, dates from the mid 19th century and features a tiny, feathered bird that moves its beak, turns its head and flaps its wings while completing its performance.  

Auctioneer with antique singing bird box

Made by the renowned creator of automata, Charles Bruguier of Geneva (1788-1862), the box is of typical rectangular form and has a brightly enamelled lid decorated on top with an Alpine lake landscape and underneath a flower motif. Once the lid is raised, the bird rises through a finely tooled and pierced grille. There is a separate compartment for the key and the movement is signed C. Bruguier. Measuring 10cm wide, 6.5cm deep and 4.5cm high, the box carries a price estimate of £10,000 to £15,000.  

“This really is an amazing piece,” said David Elstob, Director of the Ripon-based auction house. “It is typical of Bruguier’s work who was well known in the 19th century for his mastery of re-creating ‘bird song’.   

Also in the collection – which came in from a London-based collector – is an extremely rare pearl and diamond quarter repeating ring watch, signed GE. Achard et Fils circa 1800.  

Made from 18-carat gold, it has a rectangular-shaped case with canted corners. The bezel edge is set with half pearls, diamonds and gold beading, with a slide for the repeating mechanism that strikes the number of hours, and then the number of quarter hours since the last hour. 

The watch face itself has an enamel dial with Arabic numerals and an upper dial displaying a polished disc and three-arm diamond set balance. It is presented in its original box case and has a price estimate of £10,000 to £15,000. 

“We are particularly excited to be able to offer this very unusual item,” said David Elstob. “This is one of only five known quarter repeating ring watches. It was made by the Geneva-based company Achard & Fils that was famed for its enamelled watches. The company was founded in 1796 and ceased trading in the 19th century.”

Also of note is an important Louis XV parcel-enamelled snuff box by Claude Lisonnet, thought to have been active between 1736-1761. Marked Paris, 1754/1755, the ingot-shaped box is constructed from gold and enamelled en basse-taille in a striking translucent blue. It features trophies of gardening, a vase of flowers, fruit and foliate sprays. Measuring 3.3cm high, 5.5cm wide and 3cm, the box is expected to reach £40,000 to £60,000. 

 “This is a phenomenal collection with a really high quality of individual items rarely seen outside of the London salerooms,” said David Elstob. “We are delighted that it will form the centrepiece of our next sale and expect to see a lot of interest from the UK and international market.”