Léon Chefneux was a French trader, born in Romania, who entered Ethiopia as early as 1877 – a full decade before the founding of Addis Ababa. He was thus in Ethiopia quite early in Menilek’s reign. It was Chefneux who helped Menilek in printing the first Ethiopian postage stamps, and in the minting the first Ethiopiancoined money, both in Paris in 1894, as well in the acquisition of the first Ethiopian government printing press.
He is, however, best remembered for collaborating with the Swiss craftsman-cum-diplomat Alfred Ilg in building the famous Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway – an event on any showing of immense historical importance
Menilek was deeply grateful to Chefneux for his help in the modernization of Ethiopia.
The Watch was a gift to Leon Chefneux in recognition of his contribution to the implementation of Ethiopia’s first railway line, as inscribed on the inside of the case ‘Don de Sa Majeste Menelik II Empereur d’Ethiopie’.
The Ethiopian king accordingly presented him a hand-Watch, reportedly in 1893, with a fine and
excellently crafted 18K gold with Amharic characters. Menilek, we may add,
always displayed an inordinate interest in clocks and watches of all kinds.
The Watch was particularly in recognition of his contribution to the implementation of Ethiopia’s first railway line, as inscribed on the inside of the case ‘Don de Sa Majeste Menelik II Empereur d’Ethiopie’. / Gift of His Majesty Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia/
which remained in the family for over a century, was finally auctioned in Geneva,
Switzerland, on 22 November 2009, and sold for the Euro equivalent of 51,687 US dollars
Chefneux left Ethiopia in 1922 and returned to France, following the official announcement and death of His Majesty Emperor Menilk II.