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“I was really pleased with the sale apart from the top lot. I hoped it would take off... Our new small size catalogue didn’t get over the impressive size of the clock,” said Sotheby’s specialist Michael Turner.

Although several large automaton clocks have appeared on the market of late (an 18th century musical automaton elephant clock, sold at Bonhams, Bond Street, May 28, 2002, for £250,000, and two elaborate non-figurative automata clocks fetched £200,000 and £210,000 at Christie’s in July 2001), the dearth of interest in this centrepiece was more to do with its lack of market freshness than as a result of supply outstripping demand.

Sotheby’s, 3ft 41/2in (1.03m) high clock, which was estimated at £200,000-300,000, had been consigned by a UK dealer who had purchased it in March 2002 from a Californian auction house.

Consequently, by the time it reached the Olympia salerooms it had already been well viewed by the major US, European and Asian clock trade and collectors, and while there was one telephone bidder, it was bought in at £160,000.

Although few entries exceeded pre-sale expectations, take-up was particularly high for the clocks and over 80 per cent of the 117 clocks sold to a mixture of private and trade buyers. The combined clock and wristwatch total was £643,045.

George Graham

The biggest money was reserved for a walnut month-going longcase clock, by George Graham, London, c.1722, that was secured by a London dealer for £68,000.

George Graham was a renowned clockmaker who worked closely with London’s legendary Thomas Tompion. He married Tompion’s niece and later became his partner in 1704, succeeding to the business in 1713. Such was George Graham’s reverence for Tompion, that on his death in 1751, he was buried in Tompion’s Westminster grave.

Although George Graham longcases in good condition can fetch over £100,000, Michael Turner felt the £68,000 bid for this clock took into account the damage to the case and its top. Elsewhere, a private buyer paid the requisite £40,000 for a trade-entered walnut month-going longcase by Daniel Quare, London, 1705, while a London dealer went to £28,000 for a second Daniel Quare walnut longcase, c.1700, that was privately entered but in poorer condition.

As carriage clocks consigned to auction are often not in good working order, the market for these tends to rely on dealers rather than private buyers. Trade buying was strong for the ten carriage clocks here and several exceeded pre-sale expectations.

An engraved gilt-brass oval repeating carriage clock with alarm, French, c.1875, estimated at £1000-1500 brought a £2400 trade bid (however, at this price the dealer was probably bidding on behalf of a client) while a Louis-Philippe carriage clock, Paul Garnier No.2056, Paris, c.1875, sold for £3000.