There were two horological offerings last month at Christie’s South Kensington (17.5/10% buyer’s premium). The auctioneers kicked off on October 3 with a mid-range clocks and barometer selection then followed it up on the 10th with a grander offering styled as Important Watches.
CSK’s mid-range clock auctions generally see a high take-up and this event was no exception with 118 of the 135 lots changing hands, with low-end French clock proving the most difficult area and strongest demand seen to be for the English material.
There was the usual run of four-figure prices for 19th century and/or provincial longcases and for some earlier bracket clocks, but the highest price was paid for the early 20th century quarter chiming calendrical skeleton clock pictured right. This stood 171/2in (44.5cm) high under a glass dome and had a triple-wire fusée movement, a skeletonised chapter ring and the added complications of three subsidiary dials for the date, day of week and month. Christie’s Jamie Collingridge had guided it at what he reckoned to be a reasonable £2000-3000, or around the same level that the vendor paid for it two or three years ago in the London rooms. On the day, however, there were several would-be purchasers still in the running past the £4000 mark, and the bidding went on up to £7000 with the hammer falling to an American private purchaser.
Bidding was more selective for the watch selection the followng week with 153 of the 245 lots (62 per cent) changing hands. Wristwatches dominated the content here and Patek Philippe and Rolex dominated the top lot list with a rare 1949, 18ct pink gold perpetual calendar and moonphase watch with a pink dial leading the day at £82,000 paid over the phone by a private collector.
Turning to the two top priced pocket watches, one was an 18ct gold hunting-cased miniature repeating keyless clockwatch, hallmarked for 1887. This had with a wealth of complications and features, including perpetual calendar and moonphase grand and petite sonnerie and state of wind indication and came in just below estimate at £19,000. The other was the Breguet gold, diamond- and emerald-set pocket watch of 1813 pictured above left at least part of whose attraction lay in its provenance. The watch had been purchased by the Empress Marie Louise of France, Napoleon’s second wife, for 2000 francs in 1813, the year she made several purchases from the firm.
Napoleon in turn presented the watch to the Marquise de Boubers and it has passed down through the family until its appearance at Christie’s. Offered with a 1931 Breguet certificate confirming its Imperial provenance and contained in a mid-19th century case, it sold for £38,000 against an estimate of £40,000-60,000.
A further selection of pocket and wristwatches went under the hammer at Bonhams & Brooks’ (15/10% buyer’s premium) Knightsbridge rooms at the other end of the month on October 31 with 80 per cent of the 200-odd lots finding buyers. Here the sale was divided more or less evenly between pocket and wristwatches but the latter provided the lion’s share of the higher prices. Once again the Rolex was the marque in most demand. Bonhams’ Oliver Saunders noted the perennial popularity of the firm’s stainless steel military issue submariners with automatic centre seconds with two examples coming in at £2800 and £3000, while there may well have been an element of associated glamour in the strong price paid for the 6536 stainless steel submariner shown below right. This is one of the so called ‘James Bond’ models and despite the fact that this example lacked its bezel, it managed £1900 – twice Bonhams’ estimate.