or caseback customised with a painting or an engraving and they could literally commission anything they desired—or secretly desired. Portraiture was a popular style and it was common to request for a picture of a spouse (or lover) to be etched on the back of a pocket watch. From thereon, it only took the wolfish mind of one bold and libidinous gentleman to spark a trend that ultimately became a tradition. In addition to paintings and engravings, watchmakers have also been known to produce erotic jaquemarts, which are a kind of miniature automata that animate a dial on demand.
Given the profound lack of home entertainment in the 17th century, the appeal of such watches is not in the least surprising. These timepieces have also at some point or other been used as hook-up tools in high society. For instance, a man might slyly reveal his pocket watch with an immodest caseback engraving to a pretty lady he’s singled out as The One (for the night anyway) just to get her attention and signal his intentions. And you thought old people were conservative.
Of course the church would never abide such flagrant licentiousness and soon enough the religious authorities all over the Swiss cantons of Geneva and Neuchatel formed an alliance to stamp out this affront to their moral beliefs. Erotic watches were to be outlawed, seized and destroyed.
But passion finds a way. To subvert this new decree, watchmakers found a way to create a separate hinged caseback that conceals the ribaldry so that the watch appears no different from any ordinary, pure, God-loving timepiece. By then, however, erotic watches had become a social taboo and when timepieces transitioned from the pocket to the wrist in the early 20th century, this clandestine tradition was all but forgotten.
SwisswatchcompanyBlancpainbrought erotic watches back into haute horlogerie in the modern era, that is to say the 1990s. At that point, people were just beginning to appreciate mechanical watches again, after three decades of inexpensive but disposable quartz technology. The Blancpain Villeret Répétition Minutes With Automata was a unique piece made in 1993 and the world’s first minute repeater with automata. Pulling on the sliding lever winds up both the strike train as well as the automata, while releasing it allows the time to be heard and the caseback to be animated by angels in their full naked glory.
Only two or three Blancpain erotic watches are made each year and that’s because these are highly exclusive, bespoke timepieces. Often, a single watchmaker works on one watch from start to finish, unless the concept is so demanding that it requires additional pairs of hands. An erotic watch by Blancpain requires on average six months to complete, of which one full month goes to the crafting of the bedroom scene