The 20in (51cm) high timekeeper was only discovered in mid May this year in a private collection in Continental Europe. It is thought to have been purchased by the vendor's grandfather, a Paris-based clock collector, and though she does not know exactly where or when, she can remember it being in the family since at least the early 1950s.
When discovered, the clock had a shaped engraved brass signature plaque stuck onto the velvet dial cover within the chapter ring reading LENoir E A Paris.
It carries a paper label to the reverse written in a 19th/20th century French hand dating the clock to c.1680. This does not equate with the style of the clock, which Bonhams' specialist James Stratton felt had enough strong similarities to Ahasuerus Fromanteel's work to firmly attribute it to the Golden Age English maker.
The closest comparable clock by Fromanteel is the signed, grand sonnerie, silver-mounted table clock of c.1662 sold at Christie's in 1982 for £50,000 that has a near-identical case, a fishscale basket top and a cherub surmount. But there are many similarities with other signed Fromanteel clocks.
There are also common features linking it to clocks by Salomon Coster, the early Hague clockmaker who first used the Huygens pendulum and with whom Ahasuerus' son Johannes worked in Holland in order to understand this revolutionary new feature. These include the velvet dial cover and finely engraved Continental Hague-style gilt-brass hands which could have been brought back from Holland to England by Johannes.
As well as being market-fresh, the clock was in unrestored, largely original condition, the main changes being a later sliding oak cover to the back and the conversion of the escapement to verge from tic tac, as well as a replaced wheel to the going train that allows for an eight-day duration.
James Stratton plumped "as a gut reaction" for a £200,000-300,000 estimate, but as time progressed the interest generated made him think it could make more. So it proved. At the sale on June 28 bidding started at £100,000, with several bidders in contention well into the £200,000s.
The final two-way battle was between Ben Wright of Gloucester-based clock dealers Carter Wright, bidding in the room, and a phone bidder, with the hammer falling to Mr Wright.
Talking to ATG after the sale, Carter Wright's Jonathan Carter said that one of the reasons for the high price was that it represented such a rare opportunity to buy a Fromanteel table clock. The only other two known examples are the grand sonnerie version mentioned above and one in a private collection.
By Anne Crane