Maharaja Patiala Watch
At the turn of the last century, the firm of Picard Freres & F. Russer, operating out of the famous watch making region, Chaux De Fonds in Switzerland, made ornate, 18 carat Gold Pocket Watches, for the increasingly affluent American market.
However, the watch making firm of Picard Freres & F. Russer is not included here because of the watches they made for the American market.
This firm belongs in the Rare Watches Blog, because of the “four fabulous pocket watches” that they made for the four wives of the Maharaja of Patiala.
How this came about is described below, as taken from “The tales of Bebe Golhan” .
What is more, we now have an image of the last of the famous “Patala Watches” (talk about rare!) very kindly provided by the current owner of the watch.
Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala had only 10 wives, including the main wife, the Maharani Bakhtawar Kaur.
Of course like all Maharajas at the time, he had all kinds of “consorts” and “Concubines” but these were not wives.
The Consorts & concubines could be ignored and even ill treated by the Maharaja (and they frequently were) but that was not the case with the wives, or the Ranis, who were mostly from powerful Royal Families in the region and represented important political family alliances.
In any case, the Maharaja had enough trouble with the 10 wives/Ranis, as there was a lot of jealousy and attention seeking within the Royal Household!
Of the 10 wives, there were four very beautiful sisters, who were Princesses from a Himalayan Kingdom and were said to be the favourites of the Maharaja.
There was always tension between all of the Patiala Ranis and this was specially so between the Maharani and the four Rani Sisters.
Here is a story from “Tales of Bebe Golhan” as told by Bebe Golhan, the famous Royal Nanny to Six Generations of the Royal Family of Kapurthala.
The Maharaja had purchased a beautiful gold watch with phases of the moon for the Maharani from Garrard, the Royal jewellers to the King of England, at the time of the visit of King George IV and Queen Mary, for the Delhi Durbar in 1911.
When the Four Rani Sisters found out about the Maharani’s watch, they apparently went in to a “collective Sulk” lasting many weeks and made every one’s life miserable in the Palace.
Finally to make them happy the Maharaja promised the Rani Sisters, that he would buy for each of them, watches even more beautiful than the Maharani’s watch.
The Maharaja did not want to use the same Jewellers as the Maharani’s watch as that would have caused problems with the Maharani.
So he turned to his close friend Kanwar Jasjit Singh of Kapurthala for his help in finding the right Jeweller for making the watches for the Rani Sisters.
Unlike the Patialas, who were close to the British, the Kapurthala family had always been Francophiles (which was a source of continuing irritation for the British) and had extensive contacts in France.
Kanwar Jasjit Singh of kapurthala recommended F. Russer, a French/Swiss Jeweller to his friend the Maharaja.
Working with a Swiss watch maker company called Picard Freres, which was based in the famous watch making region of Chaux De Fonds, F. Russer had made many pieces of exquisite jewellery as well as many beautiful clocks for the Kapurthalas
Picard Freres & F.Russer also made ornate 18 carat Gold Pocket watches, mainly for the upper end of the American market.
The Maharaja ordered the Jeweller to make four “Most most beautiful Gold watches in pure Gold, with day, date, month and the phases of the Moon“.
The Maharaja commanded that watches be “better than the Maharani’s watch made by Gerrads of London”.
As commanded by the Maharaja, Picard Freres & F. Russer of Chaux De Fonds specially hand created four fabulous watches, using Gold of high purity and extremely ornate design for the case, with the Phases of the Moon and all other features, as desired by the Maharaja of Patiala.
The four exclusive hand made watches made for the Rani Sisters of Patiala were far superior to any other watch Picard Freres & F.Russer company had ever created.
The four Rani Sisters loved the watches, and were once again their usual beautiful bubbly self, making the Maharaja very happy.
The Maharani was apparently none the wiser about what had gone on in the Palace!
And so every one lived happily ever after in the Palaces of the Maharaja of Patiala!
Only one of the above mentioned Patiala Watches is known to have survived and was apparently passed down to one of the Grand daughters of the Maharaja now living in Delhi, India.
As a final interesting twist to the tale, the said Grand Daughter presented the the last of the watches of the Rani Sisters of Patiala, to one of the descendants of Kanwar Jasjit Singh of Kapurthala!