Hot air external combustion motors, developed and patented in 1816 by the Scottish minister Robert Stirling, had been in use for nearly a century when first introduced by the Swiss firm Paillard for the so-called Maestrophone.
It proved both quiet and efficient and – fired by a kerosene burner – could run a turbine for 12 hours non-stop. No more interruptions to the party while a spring motor was wound and rewound.
The Maestrophone was first exhibited in Liepzig in 1910. Several models are recorded – the Benvenuto 206, the Polecute 205, and the Apollo 10 – and each cost much more than a more typical spring-driven model.
It did, however, have one major drawback. It was extremely dangerous – particularly when enclosed in a glazed wooden cabinet. There were many reports of hot-air driven turntables catching fire which (together with their high price) contributes to their rarity today. Even a reproduction took €6000 at German antique technology specialist Auction Team Breker in 2012.
The example spotted at Peter Wilson in Nantwich on September 11 came for sale from a Channel Islands vendor. It was lacking its wooden case (perhaps the result of a near catastrophe) and had a replacement horn but attracted aficionados at the estimate of £100-150.
Following a contest between a phone bidder and a number of online bidders via thesaleroom.com, it sold at £3000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium). The winning online bidder was from Switzerland.