Historic Cartier Clock, Given to President Roosevelt by Cartier i n 1943 to be offered at Sothebys

. October 13, 2007

New York – On December 4, 2007, Sotheby’s will offer a magnificent and unique Cartier clock, given as a personal gift by Pierre Cartier to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second President of the United States, in 1943.

The clock is made of onyx with nephrite and silver accents and contains a main dial for mean-time in New York/Washington, D.C., and four subsidiary
dials, which are labeled to keep time in London/Paris, Berlin/Rome, San Francisco and Tokyo, all important strategic locations for the Allied forces in World War II. The hours of each of the individual time-zones can be set separately, and the minutes advance in unison. Together with its Cartier red leather presentation box, inscribed “F.D.R.,” the clock is estimated to sell for $600,000/1 million* and will be on exhibition in the 10th floor galleries at Sotheby’s from 1pm on November 29th to noon on December 4th. This extraordinary offering will be the first lot for sale in the December 4, 2007 evening session of Magnificent Jewels at Sotheby’s New York. The signed Cartier clock is geometric and masculine, in black and green shades reminiscent of camouflage and militaria, which was appropriate for the ethos of the time in which it was gifted in 1943; Paris was still occupied by Nazi Germany and the United States was in the midst of one of its biggest military challenges, having deployed ten million service people. Pierre Cartier, who ran the firm’s Fifth Avenue boutique in New York, included a personal letter to the President with this gift, which was presented on December 20, 1943, and Roosevelt replied in turn. The original correspondence, housed in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, provides insight into the thoughts of these two great men during a difficult time for both of their nations. In his letter, Pierre Cartier expresses his gratitude to President Roosevelt: “My countrymen are particularly grateful for what you are doing for them, and we realize that it will be thanks to your efforts and marvelous leadership that France will again live.” Cartier continues, “I have thought that a clock marking the time in the different parts of the earth where the glorious American armies are fighting – a clock which therefore will mark the hour of victory – might be a useful addition to your desk.” Pictured: Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York December 24, 1943

President Roosevelt, in his letter from the White House thanking Pierre Cartier, replies, “And, too, I am intrigued by the differing times of world capitals. Soon, very soon, I hope that Paris will resume her place among the free capitals of the world. All of us are doing our best toward that end.” That end would be achieved the following year, on June 6, 1944, marking the beginning of the Battle of Normandy. This effort, led by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, would succeed in ultimately liberating mainland Europe from Nazi occupation. Pierre Cartier’s wish to see a free France would come to fruition in August of 1944. Sadly, President Roosevelt would not live to see the Allied victory in World War II. He died on April 12, 1945, five months before the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945. A plaque under the dial of the clock (pictured at left) contains a personal inscription to the President: “‘ L’Heure de la Victoire dans le Monde’ Hommage à son Artisan, le Président des Etats Unis, Franklin D. Roosevelt.” (‘The Hour of Victory in the World,’ Hommage to its Craftsman, the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt). President Roosevelt wrote, “I am taking it to Hyde Park to put on the west mantelpiece in the big library where I can always see it.” After President Roosevelt died in 1945, the President’s son, John Roosevelt, chose to keep it. When his mother’s estate was auctioned in New York by Hammer Galleries in 1964, John chose to exhibit the clock alongside her belongings, but it was not offered for sale. On the back of the timepiece is a sticker, reading “Estate of Eleanor Roosevelt, Hyde Park, N.Y.” from that exhibition and auction (Detail image on page 4). The clock was sold privately to the current owner at a later date. The World War II era has been celebrated widely in recent years, in Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation and Ken Burns’ documentary “The War” on PBS. It was a time of great sacrifice for all Americans, united in a common cause. 3
President Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only president to be elected to four consecutive terms. He served as U.S. president from 1933 to 1943 and is considered, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, to be one of the three greatest presidents. According to Gallup, Roosevelt is the sixth most admired person from the 20th century by U.S. citizens. The present clock relates directly to the historical context in which it was created. Following the May 1940 invasion by Nazi forces, France was divided into two sections. The northern region was occupied and controlled by the Germans, while the southern region was governed by the sympathetic Vichy-based regime led by Marshal Philippe Pétain. In both regions, French officials were forced to hand over civilians deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Nazis. Cartier’s offices in Paris were not exempt from the German aggression. The store on Rue de la Paix remained open with a nominal amount of property, but the most valuable pieces were sent to the temporary office in Biarritz in the Vichy-controlled region. Their London workshop served as a wartime production facility for the Allied forces, and was responsible for the manufacture of items as diverse as airplane parts and photographic equipment for the Royal Navy. Pictured: This historic timepiece contains a numbered key on the back for winding. As a further gesture of their support for the Allied struggle, Cartier extended the use of several of their facilities to General de Gaulle, then leading the Free French Government movement from London: the New Bond Street office, the company car, a Rolls Royce, and even the personal home of the London sales director. The firm was also asked to design the medals worn by de Gaulle’s Free French Forces.
*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium.

Category: Auction News

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