Lot 67
  • 67


130,000 - 220,000 GBP
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  • George Margetts, London
  • diameter of outer case 58mm, inner 50.5mm
• Movement: gilded full plate, steel cylinder escapement, decoratively pierced and engraved balance cock with an eagle at the neck, silver regulator plate, diamond endstone, fusee and chain, movement signed and numbered Geo. Margetts, London, 1• Dial: astronomical dial with white enamel ground, 16 gear train for dial indications advancing clockwise (except fixed mean time dial with Roman numerals, gold north indicator and two gold parallel parabolas) tidal dial indicating tides at eight English ports: Portsmouth, London, Hull, Yarmouth, Dover, Downs (a safe anchorage point in the English Channel), Plymouth and Dublin, the fixed moon hand indicating on the gold rim with four spokes the latitude of the planet together with its position in the Zodiac and declination in degrees on the nearest calibration of the main dial, one spoke to rim engraved with a dragon whose extended tail points to sign and degree of Zodiac marked on the middle calibration, dial edge with annual calendar read against sun hand which also indicates sun’s declination and position in the Zodiac, observer’s horizon indicated by tangential parabola, space between it and inner parabola is astronomical twilight zone, viewed in area of dial enclosed by them is rise, southing and fall of constellations, age of moon engraved on gold through circular aperture to tidal dial • Cases: plain gold inner with stirrup pendant and bow, aperture for winding to case back • gold outer case centred with a portrait of the muse of Astronomy (Urania) en grisaille, the surround decorated with translucent red enamel over engine-turning, further heightened with swags of opaque white enamel beads spaced with ovals of green enamel, the bezels decorated with translucent green enamel over engine-turning, with opaque enamel beaded stringing • both cases hallmarked 1778 and with case maker's mark IW for John Willis


The Time Museum, Rockford, Illinois, Inv. no. 578 Sotheby's, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, 2 December 1999, New York, lot 44


F. J. Britten, Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers, p.100-101, 9th Edition, Bloomsbury, 1989


Dial: The dial appears to be in good overall condition with some very small and minor nibbles at the edge. Case: Inner case with some light depressions to the band. Outer case with some repairs/re-enameling to the green enamel of the bezels and some small areas of repair to red enamel. Central scene appears to be good condition. Please note there has been some loss to the enamel on the case back, the green enamel medallion at 1 o'clock is no longer present. Movement: Running at time of cataloguing and appears to be in good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. All dimensions in catalogue descriptions are approximate. Condition reports may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. Please note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and leather bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

**Please be advised that bands made of materials derived from endangered or otherwise protected species (i.e. alligator and crocodile) are not sold with the watches and are for display purposes only. We reserve the right to remove these bands prior to shipping."

Catalogue Note

A handwritten watch paper within the outer case states: "Formerly in the possession of Baron W. de Rothschild who died in 1923 over 90 years of age". Four or five astronomical watches of this type by Margetts are known, together with two large tripod mounted timepieces (nos. 341 & 342). The late Dr George Daniels made a detailed examination of the Royal Institution’s astronomical watch, Margetts no. 311, and published an illustrated article in Antiquarian Horology (No. 6, Vol. 6, March 1970). Within this article Daniels notes that, compared to Margetts's marine timepieces, the "astronomical watches reveal an entirely different philosophy. Beautifully made and finished, they are fine examples of the art of the 18th century English horologist." Two unnumbered examples of these astronomical watches which are earlier than the present watch may be found in the British Museum, one is lacking its case whilst the other is in a plain gold case. The fact that the present watch is numbered '1' and has a fine and highly decorated outer case would suggest that this was the first watch of this type to be issued and sold by Margetts. Indeed, the dials to the two examples in the British museum are slightly different to the present watch, neither having an aperture for moon age to the centre but, instead, the moon age is calibrated to the edge of the tidal dial.

It is not certain for whom these astronomical watches were intended, F. J. Britten in his book “Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers”, suggested that they were made as presentation pieces for captains within the East India Company. However, as George Daniels wrote: “It should be remembered that in the late 18th century navigation was a hotly discussed and fashionable scientific subject. The motions of the heavenly bodies are basic to the subject and Margetts was, no doubt, astute enough to realise that watches would appeal to those gentlemen of scientific bent who could afford to indulge their fancy with an expensive oracle” (Antiquarian Horology, No. 6, Vol. 6, March 1970, p. 351).

An obituary written in 1806, a year after Margetts's death and reproduced in Jonathan Betts's new book, Marine Chronometers at Greenwich, gives an interesting account of the watchmaker's life. Margetts was born in 1748 in the parish of Old Woodstock, Oxfordshire, his father (John Margetts, d. 1763) was a wheelright. At the age of 14 the young George was apprenticed to his brother who was also a wheelright. Prior to this, George had been educated at school where he had shown particular skill at mathematics. At the age of 18, Margetts is said to have stated that he produced a machine that "exhibited the different motions of the earth" and this was followed by a clock which exhibited "the diurnal motion of the earth, the progress of the zodiac, the spring and neap tides, with the revolution of the seasons." The obituary continues that it was this clock which led to his patronage by the Duke of Marlborough who appears to have sponsored his transfer to London and admission to watchmaking at the age of 23, perhaps as an apprentice or journeyman. Margetts was made free of the Clockmakers’ Company by redemption in 1779. Margetts was a petitioner to the Board of Longitude on several occasions, with the goal to secure funds for his various projects that related to finding Longitude and improvements in astronomy. The Board did grant him some funding as did the East India Company. The latter he supplied with tables to assist navigators. Margetts is best remembered for his astronomical watches and eight-day chronometers. At the end of June 1804, Margetts began to have some form of breakdown, he died at home the same year having spent some time in St. Luke’s lunatic asylum. For further information on Margetts: Jonathan Betts, Marine Chronometers at Greenwich, OUP, 2017, pp.230-236.