This particularly refined and highly complicated large keyless pocket watch in 18K yellow gold and enamel is a striking watch with two gear trains comprising a carillon minute repeater with grande and petite sonnerie, fitted with three gongs and three hammers, a split-seconds chronograph and 30-minute totalizer, a perpetual calendar and moon phase and age indicator. It was presented to His Majesty King Fuad I of Egypt by the Swiss expatriate community in 1929.
In 1927 Francis Peter, then president of the Mixed Court of Cairo and a Swiss citizen, visited the Vacheron Constantin workshop on Quai de l'Ile in Geneva. He had been entrusted with a mission by the Swiss community of Egypt who wished to present King Fuad I with a gift. The king was a renowned collector of lavish watches, a passion he shared with his wife. His son King Farouk subsequently inherited his father's enthusiasm as well as his unique collection.
At that time Vacheron Constantin was working on an exceptional eight-handed timepiece comprising a sophisticated collection of complications. When completed it would be the most complicated watch ever created by the brand. It was this movement that won Francis Peter's vote. He chose to have the back of the timepiece decorated with the royal coat of arms while the contour was set with diamonds.
In October 1929 the watch was presented to Francis Peter who requested that the day and month displays be changed from English to French for the Francophile king. The interior of the double back of the pocket watch – known in watchmaking jargon as the dome– was engraved with the following inscription in French: "To His Majesty Fuad I Tribute from the Swiss Community of Egypt".
A month later the timepiece was presented to King Fuad in a sandalwood box adorned with the royal crown and the King's insignia in Arabic. In the box the year 1929 was inset in gold alongside the Swiss crest and the Egyptian royal coat of arms painted on enamel.
Since it is equipped with a striking mechanism, King Fuad I's watch has two barrels that are wound by the winding crown, one for the gear train of the watch, 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 sounded in the traditional manner with a simple note. In petite sonnerie mode, the hours are only struck on the hour and every quarter of an hour the quarters are rung 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 located on the side of the case. The movement of King Fuad I's watch is equipped with a micrometric regulator patented by Vacheron Constantin in 1924. Once completed, the watch was subjected to precision tests in eight positions. The solid silver dial is remarkable due to its calendar with numerical display of the days of the week and the date. This type of display considerably reduces bulk without compromising on the number of complications. It was particularly fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 2005 King Fuad I's watch was auctioned for over 3.3 million Swiss francs.
King Fuad I, son of Khedive Ismail, was the first king of Egypt of the modern era. He became a sultan in 1917 then king in 1922 when Great Britain granted Egypt independence. He reigned until his death on April 28th, 1936. He was recognized as an ally of the British crown, which had granted him the title of King of Egypt. The 1919 revolution, led by Saad Zaghloul, took place during his reign. The revolt subsequently forced Great Britain to sign the declaration of February 28th, 1922 declaring Egypt to be an independent sovereign state with certain conditions. Sultan Fuad declared himself King of Egypt and published the constitution in April of the same year. He opened a new parliament in April 1924 and it was during his reign that the first ministerial government was formed, led by Saad Zaghloul. He was succeeded by his son King Farouk, who reigned Egypt from 1937 to 1952.