Discover Five Centuries of Watchmaking History

S. Smith & Son, London, An Important and Massive Gold Grande and Petite Sonnerie Two-Train Clockwatch with Trip Minute Repetition, Perpetual Calendar, Split Seconds Chronograph and Tri-Colour Dial 1903, No. 309-2.
Launch Slideshow

T he selection of timepieces presented here are part of the Masterworks of Time collection of horological masterpieces. For centuries watchmakers strove to develop new mechanisms and skills to elevate the telling of time. As technology progressed, so did design and decoration capabilities.

The early stackfreed watches of the 16th and 17th Century demonstrate the amazing craftsmanship and artistry of these makers at a time when the tools and resources available were very basic. As techniques enhanced so did the decoration of the watch cases with beautiful colourful enamels becoming prevalent in the 18th Century and even more so in the 19th Century.

Makers pushed boundaries to create technological advancements, significantly in the 18th century when the chronometer was developed for use in timekeeping at sea. This innovation continued into the 20th Century, with the creation of more and more complicated timepieces.

George Daniels: Visionary, the first sale in the four-part series from the Masterworks of Time private collection, focuses on the work of a man considered the greatest watchmaker of the 20th century, and features a beautifully curated selection of watches and clocks from the Renaissance through to the 20th century. The sale will take place in London on 2 July with a further seven pieces from the collection offered within the Treasures sale on 3 July.

Discover Five Centuries of Watchmaking History

  • Circa 1550
    German, A Small Gilt-Brass Renaissance Drum Timepiece. Estimate £17,000–26,000.

    In the 16th century we witness the origins of the watch. These small portable timepieces were produced in predominately South Germany and were commonly drum or tambour shape. They were luxury items which demonstrated the wearers wealth and importance.
  • Circa 1575
    German, Stamped CK, An Important and Massive Early Gilt-Brass Hour Striking Clock Watch with Stackfreed, Alarm and Astrolabic Dial. Estimate £43,000–60,000.

    This hour striking clock watch with stackfreed, alarm and astrolabic dial is an amazing example of the complex scientific instruments that were highly desirable at the time. An astrolabic dial is an astronomical instrument for measuring time according to the passage of the sun and stars.
  • Circa 1640
    A Rare Silver Verge Watch in the Form of a Rosebud. Estimate £10,000–15,000.

    In the 17th century we see London become an important centre for watchmaking. Without question Edward East was one of the most important English watchmakers at this time. He was appointed chief clockmaker to King Charles II in 1660.
  • Circa 1650
    Jehan Cremsdorff, Paris, A Highly Important and Magnificent Gold, Enamel and Diamond-Set Verge Watch. Estimate £700,000–1,000,000.

    The 17th century saw the rise of enamelled watches, most notably for clients in the upper echelons of society. This watch stands out for its stunning enamel-work. The combination of champlevé, en relief, and peinture en camaieu creates an un-paralleled three dimensionality and it is one of only four or five pieces known that utilize turquoise enamel both on the inside and outside of the case. The excellent quality of the craftsmanship suggests that this piece was most likely made for a Royal or Aristocratic patron.
  • Circa 1665
    Josephus Quash, London, A Magnificent Over-Sized Gilt-Metal Astronomical Watch with Rock Crystal Scallop-Form Case. Estimate £42,000–70,000.

    This is a wonderful example of the complicated flamboyant pieces made during this period. The scalloped-form rock crystal case demonstrates advancements in craftsmanship and these astronomical dials were very in vogue in London.
  • Circa 1740
    Johann Peter Mayr, A Quarter Striking Astronomical Masterpiece Clock with Alarm Augsburg. Estimate £26,000–42,000.

    Johann Peter Mayr is recorded as becoming a master clockmaker in Augsburg in 1740 and obtained his freedom of the Guild in 1742. This masterpiece clock is the piece Mayr’s made according to strict guidelines to gain admittance into the Augsburg Guild. Being a member of a Guild was extremely important to watchmakers at this time and guaranteed the quality of the craftsmanship at the time.
  • Circa 1778
    George Margetts, London, An Important Gold and Enamel Pair Cased Cylinder Watch with Tidal Dial, Annual Calendar and Astronomical Indications, No.1. Estimate £130,000–220,000.

    This watch perfectly expresses the interests of the period. The quest for finding longitude was at the forefront of watch makers minds and Margetts - a skilled mathematician - was a petitioner to the Board of Longitude to secure funds for this end and in search of improvements in astronomy.
  • Circa 1870
    Mermod, Genève, A Magnificent Gold and Gilt-Metal, Turquoise and Diamond-Set Hunting Cased Watch. Estimate £26,000–35,000.

    Decorative advancements went hand in hand with technological innovation in the 19th century. As a rise in demand for elaborate timepieces grew, watchmakers rose to the occasion to provide pieces which showcased true artistic talent. King Ludwig II of Bavaria often presented highly decorated watches as gifts. This piece presents the Bavarian flag in turquoise and rose-cut diamonds on one side, and on the other displays an exquisite panel with a peacock in full plume.
  • 1903
    S. Smith & Son, London, An Important and Massive Gold Grande and Petite Sonnerie Two-Train Clockwatch, No. 309-2. Estimate £170,000–260,000.

    The turn of the 20th century saw the dawn of a new horological age as watches became more and more complicated. The firm S. Smith and Son made a name for itself producing chronometers for the Admiralty. The present lot is exceptional for its size as well as the number of complications it contains.
  • 1982
    George Daniels, London, A Unique and Highly Important Yellow Gold Watch, Space Traveller I. Estimate £700,000–1,000,000.

    George Daniels was the foremost watchmaker of the 20th century. His contributions to the field of horology included revolutionizing the accuracy of mechanical watches with the invention of the first new escapement in 250 years. One of the most important watches of modern times, the “Space Traveller I” is arguably Daniels’s most famous and coveted watch.
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