Automaton pocket watch, SFr340,000 (£295,650) at Antiquorum.

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Clock and watch aficionados had plenty to choose from in recent months and if the conditions were right, they were willing to invest considerable sums.

In July they will have further opportunities to add to their collections.

Genevan maker

One of only five known examples of a Moses automaton watch, and certainly one of the most complicated watches with moving figures ever made, belonged to the success stories at the Antiquorum (25/20% buyer’s premium) auction in Geneva on May 11-12.

The Moses watch depicts the scene from Exodus in which the prophet strikes rocks to release a stream of life-saving water, as instructed by God. The exiled Israelites had complained that they were dying of thirst and criticised Moses for leading them into such a precarious situation.

The watch was the work of the Genevan maker Charles Ducommun dit Boudrit, member of an extensive family of Swiss watchmakers, and can be dated to c.1820.

When the mechanism is released, Moses strikes the rock with his staff; it opens to reveal two streams of water, symbolized by rotating glass rods; two figures lean forward with goblets to fill them with water. In the lower part of the dial two cherubs strike a bell in unison with the quarter-repeating mechanism. An added feature was the use of a special type of virgule escapement.

Of the five examples of this watch known, three are in Swiss museums, one in a private collection and this watch was sold by Sotheby’s in 1995 and again at Christie’s in 2011.

Prior to 1995. it had belonged to the descendants of Field Marshal Lintorn Simmons. By repute it was presented to him by Eugénie de Montijo, better known as Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III. Lintorn Simmons assisted the royal couple when they went into exile in Britain in 1871 and apparently received the watch as a token of Eugénie’s gratitude.

Pieces such as this are difficult to value and as a consequence, Antiquorum’s guide of SFr220,000-420,000 left plenty of scope.

In the event, the hammer fell at SFr340,000 (£295,650).

Based in Vilnius


Jacob Gierke table clock, €28,000 (£23,930) at Van Ham.

In the 17th century, several accomplished clockmakers of German heritage established themselves in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, among them Jacob Gierke.

Using his dated clocks as a basis, one can say that Gierke was active from at least 1616 to 1664, two years before his death. Thus far, 12 works by him have been identified, many of them now in Polish museums; he had worked in Cracow, before moving to Lithuania.

On May 16, Van Ham (27% buyer’s premium) in Cologne offered a horizontal table clock from the master’s late period, it was signed and dated in his customary manner J. G. Ano 1649 Wilnae. The hexagonal glazed gilt brass case housed a verge movement, striking on a bell beneath the case.

The guide of €6000 proved to be too restrained: after a long exchange of bids the clock was knocked down for €28,000 (£23,930) and is returning to its place of origin.

Sign of the time

Forty years after the watchmaking company Haas & Cie was founded by the brothers Leopold and Benjamin Haas in Geneva, its name was changed to Haas Neveux & Cie.

That is the signature on an openface gold watch from the 1920s which was sold by Schwab (25% buyer’s premium) in Mannheim.

The company had a reputation for high-quality watches with a variety of complications, such as repetition, calendar work and astronomical indications. In the 1920s it reflected the wishes of the clientele and also produced highly decorative watches, many of them with Art Deco motifs on the cases.

Haas & Cie also experimented with different dials and the watch in Mannheim was a very rare example with a regulator dial, primarily reserved for scientific timekeepers, with separate scales for hours, minutes and seconds. In this case the precision lever movement with ruby pallets is housed in a white gold case, designed as a dress watch.

In the company’s record of registered watches there are no comparable pieces with this combination. Its rarity was not lost on several bidders. A European collector bid €12,000 (£10,255) in this April 20 auction – 12 times the modest guide – to claim his prize.

Museum successes


Arlaud watch for Turkish market, €90,000 (£76,925) at Dr Crott.

A Swiss museum set its eyes on two early watches which were on sale at Dr Crott (25% buyer’s premium) in Mannheim on May 18.

First up was a mid-17th century silver watch signed Arlaud on the movement. It was made for the Islamic market and in all probability it is the work of the Genevan maker Abraham Arlaud I, who is known to have travelled to Constantinople in 1647, where he spent four years, producing watches for local customers.

This example was fitted with a verge escapement and a simple iron balance-wheel without a spring. An almost identical movement could be found in an enamelled watch attributed to Arlaud which was part of the famous Sandberg Collection sold by Antiquorum in 2001.

In Mannheim fierce competition emerged for the watch which had been guided at €35,000. The museum had to invest €90,000 (£76,925) to shake off the competition.


Enamel watch Gradelle, €175,000 (£149,570) at Dr Crott.

A few minutes later, considerably more was needed to purchase a very ornate gold and enamel watch from c.1660. Comparison with other pieces enabled an attribution to the French watchmaker Isaac Gradelle.

What made it particularly desirable, however, was the decoration on the case, which is seen as the work of Pierre Huaud I, one of the most famous enamel painters of the era.

The rear of the case is decorated with a portrait of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom, the inside is adorned with a depiction of Apollo, god of music and dance.

Bidding started at €120,000; the museum finally won the day at €175,000 (£149,570).


William Clay watch, €150,000 (£128,205) at Dr Crott.

Worthy of note was another early piece which took a six-figure price. It was made by William Clay in London and was purchased by Oliver Cromwell in the late 1640s. It was a classic example of a Puritan watch with no superfluous decoration on the silver case. By repute, it was presented to John Blackwell, an officer in Cromwell’s New Model Army, in 1650.

The watch remained in the family until 2019, when it was sold at a Laidlaw auction in Carlisle, changing hands for £15,000 (see Pick of the week, ATG No 2403). It was then on offer from British dealer Martyn Downer.

This time around, the stakes were much higher: a British buyer bid the lower estimate of €150,000 (£128,205) for his piece of history.

£1 = €1.17/SFr1.15

Cartier eye-catchers


Cartier Modele A, guide €100,000-150,000 at Nagel.

On June 25, Nagel in Stuttgart is holding its first auction devoted to Fine Arts & Luxury. Among the eye-catchers are several opulent timepieces manufactured by Cartier in the 1920s-40s; in one case, the design dates back to 1911.

Around that time, Louis Cartier hired a young clockmaker, Maurice Couët, to produce exclusive luxury clocks, the likes of which had never been seen. He drew his inspiration from the mid-19th century clockmaker Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, whose so-called mystery clocks have perplexed and fascinated the public ever since.

There is no visible connection between the hands and the movement, an illusion achieved by the use of concentric glass discs with teeth that are hidden in the rim of the case and transfer the power from the movement. Cartier fiercely protected the secret of these mystery clocks, even from its own salesmen who were prevented from asking the craftsmen in the workshop just how the mechanism worked.

In 1912, Cartier introduced Couët’s first creation, the Mystérieuse Modèle A, a 5in (13cm) high table clock, housed in a gold-mounted rock crystal case with a black onyx base. The dial and platinum hands are set with diamonds; all in all, there are approximately 130 jewels.

The Modèle A was a staple in Cartier’s catalogue. The example in Stuttgart was made in the early 1920s and is expected to bring €100,000-150,000.


Cartier portico clock, estimate €80,000-120,000 at Nagel.

Equally fascinating was the Mysterieuse Portique, first introduced in 1923. A 14in (36cm) high portico clock from this series, the case of which incorporates rock crystal, gilt silver, onyx, coral, diamonds and emeralds, has a guide of €80,000-120,000.

Identically estimated is a later model mystery clock from c.1940, the distinguishing feature of which is the carved jade base, supporting a dial and movement decorated with onyx, diamonds, citrine and coral.