Exceptional Collectors Timepieces, Horological Tools
LOT 112
Attributed to Mikhail Semyonovitch Bronnikov, circa 1865. Very rare and fine watch entirely made of birch wood and bone, in a wooden case, accompanied by its original long carved wood chain and key.
C. Double-body, hinged back cover, polished, bezels with turned ribs at the edges, small circles in the center.Chain: single, carved from birch wood, 6 mm ring-links. D. Wooden with Arabic numerals on bone cartouchesand subsidiary seconds. Bone hands. M. Entirely made of wood with pinned wooden bridges, excluding the main-spring,balance-spring and pivots, with going barrel, cylinder escapement with bone staff, plain wood three-armbalance, bone regulator.Diam. 45 mm.
Estimate: 11,000 CHF - 13,000 CHF
Estimate: 7,000 EUR - 8,500 EUR
Estimate: 9,500 USD - 11,000 USD
Grading system

C 3 D 3 - 01 M 3 - 34* AAA
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Bronnikov's inventive design features a movement which is an integral part of the case, the dial which serves as the pillar plate and the bridges and cock supported by brackets milled in the back part of the band. The same idea was later employed by the celebrated Albert Potter. A family living in Vjatka, Russia, which specialized in the making of all-wood, and all-ivory watches. The first recorded member of the family was Ivan Bronnikov (c. 1770 - 1860), a skillful joiner and turner. Upon the occasion of an exhibition in 1837, the Vjatka Industrial Town Council asked Ivan to exhibit some objects of his making. He refused, saying he was too old, but that his son, Semyon Ivanovitch (1800 - 1875) would contribute "some small thing". This turned out to be a pocket watch enirely carved out of wood which greatly impressed everyone. It is said that the future czar Alexander II, then visiting Vjatka, purchased the watch. Encouraged by this success, Semyon continued the manufacture of wood and ivory watches. (He made other items as well, such as cuff links, lockets, and even wooden caskets!) Semyon had seven sons, among them Mikhail Semyonovitch and Nicolai Semyonovitch who continued his work, as did Mikhail's son Nicolai Mikhailovitch, who was the last watchmaker in the family. Nicolai Mikhailovitch left Vjatka for Moscow in 1909 or 1910 and is said to have worked there for the firm of Paul Buhre. Vjatka, a small town (the popula-tion today is just over 400,000) is located east of St. Petersburg on the river Vjatka, a tributary of the Kama, between the Volga and the Ural Mountains. The town enjoys what the Russians call a conti-nental climate, hot in summer and a minus 40C in winter. Between 1939 and 1991, the town was renamed Kirov (after one of Stalin's chief aides) but with Perestroka it regained its original name. Vjatka is an important metallurgical center, which suggests that it was not for the lack of metal in the area that the Bronnikovs made wooden watches. Indeed, it would appear that their predilec-tion for wood and ivory and bone was the result of a specific and deliberate choice. As opposed to metal, wood is not subject to the thermal variations created by very warm and extremely cold temperatures. All-wood watches were more expensive than gold ones, selling for approximately 120 rubles whereas a gold watch cost from 90 to 100 rubles. The Bronnikovs showed their watches at local exhibitions and in Moscow. In 1867 the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs ordered two pairs of watches. An Honor Prize was won for wood and ivory watches at the St. Petersburg Exhibition in 1870. In 1873, the Bronnikovs took part in the International Exhibition in Vienna, and in 1896 Mikhail Semyonovitch won a silver medal for a palm-wood watch with palm-wood chain which he showed at the All-Russian Industrial Bronnikov Exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod. In 1900 Bronnikov watches were sent to the Paris International Exhibition. In 1902 Nicolai Mikhailovitch exhibited a birch wood watch at the All-Russian Exhibiion in St. Petersburg. The clockwork parts were made of vari-ous woods, including walnut, honeysuckle, boxwood, and hardened bamboo; the cases from birch wood, or boxwood, and the dials were often decorated with ivory or mother-of-pearl. Bronnikov watches feature an unusual type of construction: rather than having the wheels installed between two plates as is usually the case, the dial also serves as the pillar plate, as well as being an integral part of the case. These watches were not intended for everyday use but rather as expensive and rare souvenirs. This was not the first use of wood as applied to watch mechanisms, however: the Russian mechanician Kulibin used wood for some parts of his clocks and "pendulum watches". Skorodumov, a peasant of the Burga village in the Novgorod region, also used wood as the main material for his watches. As to the number of Bronnikov watches produced, it seems likely that the three watchmaking generations of the Bronnikov family may have made some 500 watches; the production of a greater number would have required an existing watchmaking industry in the town, which seems not to have been the case. The number of surviving Bronnikov watches has been esti-mated at approximately 250. Although many - but not all -Bronnikov watches are signed, they do not always carry the initials of the maker, making it sometimes difficult to determine which Bronnikov made the watch. The signature is carved on the inside of the back cover. In Russia, Bronnikov wathes are part of the collec-tions of the Moscow Kremlin Armory, of the Hermitage, the Moscow Clock Industry Research Institute, the Tbilisi Museum of People's Art, the Physics and Math Salon of Dresden, in museums in Vjatka, Slobodskoi, Veliky Ustyug, Cherepovets, and in private collections in Moscow, Angarsk, Zlatoust, and Irkutsk. Known signatures include "M.S. Bronnikov in Vjatka", "The Bronnikov Brothers in Vjatka", and "N.M. Bronnikov in Vjatka". "The Bronnikov Dynasty" by Theodore R. Crom, NWCC Bulletin Vol. 43/6 No. 335, December 2001.
Exceptional Collectors Timepieces, Horological Tools
15-05-2005
Sold including buyer's premium:
16,100 CHF