Exceptional timepieces from the most important private collection of English pocket watches sold for a combined total of £3,021,063. The sale was led by a Royal oval astronomical watch with an engraved portrait of King James I made by David Ramsay circa 1618which fetched £989,000, almost four times the pre-sale high estimate.
Other highlights included an extremely rare gold two-train quarter striking and quarter repeating pair cased clock watch with regulator aperture,circa 1712 -1714, by Daniel Quare, a highly esteemed watchmaker of his day. Estimated at £70,000-100,000, this until recently unrecorded watch realised £185,000. An extraordinary and important gold half quarter dumb repeating consular cased pocket chronometer created byJohn Arnold in 1782 realised £245,000, again above high estimate. No.39/88 is the only Arnold watch with the short spring detent to retain its original case. A lavishly ornamented octagonal candle lamp with inset watch made circa 1770 by James Cox, the leading 18th-century retailer of jewelled automata achieved £155,000.
The collection, split into four parts, represents the fascinating history of English watchmaking in its entirety. Spanning 500 years, it serves to challenge perceptions of the human pursuit of timekeeping set against, and, at times, deeply imbedded in, a rich and tumultuous historical landscape.
To truly celebrate the importance of the collection, admiration is owed not only to the finery of the horological pieces themselves, but equally to the brilliance, ingenuity and talent demonstrated by the craftsmen to whom they are attributed. From David Ramsay, Edward East and Thomas Tompion to Charles Frodsham and, 20th-century icon, George Daniels, The Celebration of the English Watch forces the observer to ask two questions: Firstly, ‘to what extent has history shaped British horology?’ and secondly, ‘to what extent has British horology shaped history?’