Niello Art Deco Silver
Miniature Travel Clock
Swiss; Unisex; Circa: 1920
CASE: The .800 silver 45mm x 45mm hunter swing-out case features
DIAL: This off white metal dial displays Arabic numerals and Mercedes
MOVT: This 15-jewel stem-set movement with lever escapement is gilt with
a full plate layout.
C 3-12 (The case is in very good condition, a dent)
D 3-7 (The dial is in very good condition, slightly oxidized)
M 3 (The movement is in very good condition)
R 8 (Rarity on a scale of #1 being very common to #10 being extremely
Unusual to find in niello small size is more desirable. Niello Enamel
- the niello watch case became a canvas for outstanding art works that
will likely never be duplicated. The term niello comes from the Latin
word nigellum that is the diminutive of niger (black.) It was a
technique used by the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Persians.
Niello is a black or blackish-blue composition of lead, silver, copper,
sulfur and ammonium chloride. The mixture is fused onto an engraved or
cut-out metal base by firing the mix in a process similar to champleve'
enameling. Silver was the most often used metal for niello objects since
the soft white silver color contrasted beautifully with the darker
niello. Rose-gold inlay work was also seen in combination with niello
and tri-color effects were achieved by the use of rose-gold, niello and
silver. When the niello was heated and fired onto a silver watch case,
it actually fused with the silver very strongly, almost as if it were
soldered in place. The niello would be filled, finished and polished,
leaving the surface of the watch case smooth and flat. One can readily
assume that the process of engraving the areas which were to be filled
with niello, the firing stages, and the finishing stages were very time
consuming and therefore costly. Aside from the production end, the
niello cases also had to be designed by artists who would pre-determine
the subject matter and then the cases were finished by engravers who
produced the fine details.