The walnut case and marquetry-inlaid case gives a clue to its importance: the crest is the coat of arms of the Swedish-Norwegian royal family.
Telephone technology came to Norway with the first public demonstration of the Bell telephone in 1877 followed in 1888 by the installation of one-to-one phones between residents of the capital city of Oslo. By 1880 it became possible to place calls to a number of people connected to an exchange, with Norway soon to become among the most telephone-dense countries in the world (Sweden had most of all).
Lars Magnus Ericsson’s company had been founded in 1876 to supply phones and switchboards to Scandinavia’s first telecommunications projects.
This deluxe production was installed at the Königliche Schloss in Oslo (then home of the Bernadotte king Oscar II) in c.1880. It has a number of early features (the helical microphone has a screw for simple and accurate regulation of the contact pressure) but it is the case that makes it what Breker called “one of a kind”. Offered in “very good original condition”, it was estimated at €15,000-25,000 but went on to sell at €60,000/£51,300 (plus buyer’s premium) at the Cologne auction.
The Königliche Schloss is still the official residence of the Norwegian monarch. King Harald V, now 83, raised a laugh at this year’s annual Parliament dinner (held at the palace on October 28) when he revealed he had just bought his first ever mobile. Until the pandemic, he had been quite content with a landline.