The emergence of a significant new discovery is a guaranteed crowd-puller in any sector of the art and antiques market.
When this 5ft 5in (1.55m) high 17th century, weight-driven
timepiece by a provincial maker whose work has never turned up at
auction got its first airing at Bonhams' New Bond Street rooms on
December 11, it drew plaudits and bids in equal measure.
"Everyone who saw it fell in love with it," said Bonhams'
specialist James Stratton, who acquired the clock for sale through
the company's Knowle branch as part of a deceased estate.
Little is known of the maker, Anthony Blackford, whose signature
is on the tiny 31/2in (9cm) square dial. Brian Loomes lists him as
a watch maker made free of Warwick in 1669, and an old typed note
inside the clock door notes payments in the churchwardens' accounts
for St Nicholas parish church, Warwick in April 1676 for keeping
the church clock in order.
As a hitherto unrecorded work by a provincial contemporary of such
famous names as Fromanteel, East and Knibb, it therefore makes an
historically important addition to the horological corpus.
Indeed, Anthony Woodburn, one of the dealers who bid on it, told
ATG: "Had it been found 50 years ago, it would have been in all the
reference books today."
Its emergence from obscurity raises the possibility that it may
never have left the family for whom it was made, but equally
important was its exceptionally original condition, with only old
improvements to the movement, and the quality of the workmanship
with its finely proportioned, slender, floor-standing,
architectural ebony case and its beautifully engraved dial with the
The nearest comparison in terms of style and period is the ebony
architectural cased clock by the sought-after London maker Edward
East that sold at Christie's in December 2006 for £310,000, but
with no direct precedent on the market it was not an easy piece to
James Stratton said that if it had been by a London maker like
East or a Fromanteel, his task would have been easier, although his
£10,000-15,000 estimate was never going to push the envelope.
In the event, three commissions, three phone lines and four or
five bidders in the room contested the clock, with the bidding
rising to £92,000 (plus 20/12% premium) before the hammer finally
fell to Kensington dealers Raffety and Walwyn. Howard Walwyn,
delighted to have secured such a rare survivor, deemed "it the
finest provincial clock ever to turn up on the market".
By Anne Crane