Watch in the form of a Lesser George
Movement by Nicholas Vallin (Flemish, active London ca. 1590, died 1603)
Case: gold, partly enameled, and rock crystal; Dial: gold, partly enameled, with gilded–brass hand; Movement: gilded brass and steel, partly blued; 1 2/16 x 15/16 in. (3.6 x 2.4 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.1475)
Made in the shape of an ensign of the English Order of the Garter, the back of the case depicts the patron of the order, Saint George, fighting the dragon, and its band in enameled with a representation of the Garter with the motto of the order: HONI.SOIT.QVI/MAL.Y.PENSE. In the words of the historian of the order, Elias Ashmole (1617–1692), the ensign must consist of "St. George represented in a riding posture encountering the dragon with his drawn Sword [and] is allowed to be enriched and garnished at the pleasure of him that wears it." Called the Lesser George, a jewel of this description was required daily dress for a knight of the order. Queen Elizabeth (1533–1603), the reigning monarch when this Lesser George watch was made and head of the order, is recorded to have had one "garnished with sparkes of diamondes and a pendant of opalls." The maker of this slightly less splendid watchcase remains unknown. Nicholas Vallin was the son of Johannes, or John, Vallin (ca. 1535–1603), who was born in the town of Ryssel, or Lille, in Flanders, now part of France. By 1567, John was working as a clockmaker in Brussels, but undoubtedly as the result of political troubles in the Netherlands, both John and his son emigrated to London, probably shortly before 1590.