Clock dealers spot under-catalogued rarities as regulators continue to set the pace in an otherwise stagnant market: ONE of the few elements of the clock trade to see significant forward strides in recent years is the regulator – the name given to those technically interesting and accurate timekeepers used to set the time of the watches and domestic clocks of Regency and Victorian Britain.
As prices for all but the very best clocks have stagnated, a renewed, post-millennium interest in technical horology – and a greater admiration of Victorian clocks in general – has spurred on prices for regulators.
Helped by the appearance on the market of some very good examples, prices in this niche have as much as doubled in the past decade.
A spectacular example of this phenomenon was seen at the Oxfordshire auctioneers Simmons & Sons in mid-December. Helped, rather than hindered, by some under-cataloguing and the absence of an illustration, was a rare Victorian figured mahogany wall regulator by leading maker Arnold of London.
Measuring 2ft 4in (71cm) high with its integral bracket, this was a most unusual wall-mounted example of the so-called final form of the regulator popular c.1860-70.
Typically, it featured a silvered dial with subsidiary minute and hour dials and a single door with leaf-carving opening for access to both the dial and the mercury-compensated pendulum.
It had been found in superb, untouched condition in a nearby estate, one of three that made this quarterly sale a small, but occasionally exciting, offering.
According to auctioneer Simon Jones, there were specialist dealers in the room hoping to buy the Arnold at around £7000 but it made a much fuller price, selling to a London dealer, underbid by a private collector, at £19,000 (estimate £800-1200).
A strong horological section at the Watcombe Manor saleroom included two seriously undercooked longcases.
At 6ft 4in (1.93m) high – the case lacked its plinth – a walnut and marquetry clock by John Wheeler was, according to sources in the trade, a very fine, if rather scruffy, clock of the William and Mary period. It had typical London features of the c.1700 period: a 10in (25cm) brass dial with mask spandrels, seconds register and date window; the hood with sound fret, reeded pilasters and concave mouldings below; and a crossbanded trunk with a floral marquetry panel to the door. Estimated at just £2500-3500, it sold at £13,500.
Given its apparently original status, it would appear to have potential well beyond that sum after some sympathetic restoration.
Although it lacked a maker’s name, there was also plenty of quality about an early 19th century figured mahogany longcase, 6ft 10in (2.08m) high, housing an eight-day chiming movement and a circular white dial within a flame-veneered case with a stepped arch hood with pierced brass grilles and canted corners to the trunk. Estimated here at a tempting £1000-1500, it brought £7200 from a London dealer.
A 4in (10cm) high decorative 19th century Continental table clock formed as an enamel and gilt metal harp with figured panels concealing a watch movement to the base, sold at £720.
Among the barometers was a large 5ft 7in (1.70m) high Improved Torricelli example with a heavily carved oak arch-topped case incorporating a silvered circular dial and a thermometer flanked by columns. It sold at £1250.
Good tea caddies, one of the success stories of the ’90s, continue to command substantial sums in the Noughties.
There was a very pretty George III example here, just 4½in (11.5cm) wide with a pagoda-style top and concaved canted corners. Veneered in tortoiseshell, it was also lined in ivory and the metal ball feet and vase finial were thought to be silver. With only a tiny chip to a corner veneer, it sold at £2150 (estimate £800-1200).
From the same consignor came a Fabergé frame and a Sèvres cabaret set.
The fully marked Russian silver, gold and enamelled easel frame of trelliswork and ribbon swags included a portrait miniature on ivory of an unknown woman wearing a pearl necklace monogrammed ES 1901. It sold to an American dealer at the top end of a £1500-2000 estimate.
The cabaret set was of nice quality and probably late 19th century, with each piece decorated in the 18th century taste with Watteauesque figures in reserved panels on a royal blue ground with tooled gold decoration.
There was a chip to the teapot cover and the knop to the sugar bowl cover had been broken off and reglued but the other six elements were perfect. It sold to the trade within estimate at £1100.
Sold at £500 (estimate £150-250) was a single 18th century Chinese export porcelain trencher salt decorated with a tobacco-leaf pattern, while there was a £1000 bid for a 10in (25cm) Lalique tapering vase set with six relief moulded and blue stained panels of diaphanous figures.
Although originally thought to be Märklin, an early 20th century tinplate clockwork battleship, 20in (50cm) long, was likely made by contemporary German maker Fleischmann.
Two of the revolving turrets were missing but the ship retained most of the original paintwork under its rusting frame and it sold to a collector at £1300 (estimate £800-1200).
A fine-quality pair of 18th century candlesticks marked EK for Covent Garden maker Edward Kendrick, on shaped circular bases, 8in (20cm) high high, sold at £420 (estimate £350-450) to a Cotswold dealer.
As the overall statistics suggest, as a whole the market remains at best selective. The sale’s major failure was a pair of 18th century dummy boards formed as children that did not reach a punchy £8000-10,000 estimate.
Simmons & Sons, Watlington, December 10
Number of lots: 397
Number of lots sold: 191
Sale total: £110,000
Buyer’s premium: 15 per cent