King Farouk of Egypt (1946)

The utterly refined and highly complicated very large keyless pocket watch in 18K yellow gold is a striking watch with two gear trains. Generously adorned with jewels, it comprises a carillon minute repeater with grande and petite sonnerie that is fitted with three gongs and three hammers, a split-seconds chronograph and 30-minute totalizer, a perpetual calendar, a moon phase and age indicator, an alarm and two power reserve indicators for the gear train of the watch and for the striking mechanism respectively. It was presented in 1935 to Prince Farouk, the future King Farouk I of Egypt, by the Swiss authorities.

A gift to the enigmatic and highly original 15-year-old future King Farouk of Egypt, this masterpiece of watchmaking with a surprising program is the most complicated watch produced by Vacheron Constantin in the 20th century. "The Farouk" is one of just two highly complicated 20th-century Vacheron Constantin watches equipped with an alarm, the other being the Boisrouvray, with which it shares the same features. Measuring 80 mm in diameter, it presents three more complications than the equally legendary timepiece created by Vacheron Constantin in 1929 for Farouk's father, King Fuad I. In addition to the alarm, King Farouk's watch comprises two highly unusual complications: power reserve indicators for the gear train and striking mechanism, which are concentric to the day-of-week and month indicators. In a further noteworthy feature of the dial and movement, the leap year display is not concentric to the month display as is customary but positioned within the 30-minute totalizer. The date, seconds and moon phases are grouped together on a sub-dial at 6 o'clock, while the day-of-week and month sub-dials are positioned at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock. Like King Fuad I's watch, King Farouk's striking watch has two barrels wound by the winding crown, one for the gear train and a second for the additional energy necessary to make the striking mechanism work. It sounds and repeats the notes on three gongs struck by three hammers every quarter of an hour. In grande sonnerie mode, the hours and minutes are struck in the traditional manner with a simple note. In petite sonnerie mode, the hours are only sounded on the hour and every quarter of an hour the quarters are sounded without the hours. The carillon and three-hammer minute repeater require a special construction, and the three gongs produce a peal of three notes. Selectors for Strike/Silent and Grande Sonnerie/Petite Sonnerie modes are situated on the side of the case. King Farouk, who inherited his love of lavish watches from his father King Fuad I, became a great collector of watches, clockwork figures and precious objects of all kinds. Fabulously rich, Farouk was a colorful character who lived life to the full. In 1935 at the age of 15, he was given this exceptional watch and his first sports car, before leaving for England to join the Royal Military Academy, where he would be known as Prince Freddy. He returned to Egypt on May 6th, 1935, following the death of his father, and was crowned king in July 1937. Later that year Farouk embarked on a tour of Upper Egypt followed by a European tour. It was then that he visited Geneva and insisted upon being shown around the Vacheron Constantin manufacture. His guide Charles Constantin expressed his surprise at the 17-year-old king's extensive knowledge of watchmaking. "But Monsieur Constantin," replied the king, "I dismantled so many watches during my childhood... unfortunately for them!"

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