A world auction record for a clock was set this month when The Duc d’Orléans Breguet Sympathique sold for $6.8 million at Sotheby’s Important Watches & Clocks Auction.
Made in 1835 by the French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet and named for its patron, Ferdinand-Philippe, the duke of Orléans and son of France’s King Louis Philippe, the clock was purchased by a private museum.
An extremely rare Patek Philippe 1955 massive 18-karat yellow gold center-seconds wristwatch, Reference
2512/1, was purchased by an anonymous buyer for $962,500. This was more than six times the high of its $100,000-$150,000 estimate and was the auction’s second highest price.
The auction of 238 lots, all but 60 of which sold, grossed $11.7 million, the highest total ever for a watches and clocks auction at Sotheby’s, New York.
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A pair of 19th-century enameled cut glass decanters that had sat on a Gloucester family’s sideboard for decades, with none of the three generations of owners aware of their worth, sold at Kaminski’s Thanksgiving auction for $46,215, setting an auction record for English decanters.
When the owner brought the decanters, originally owned by his grandmother, to a Kaminski free appraisal day, he was told they were probably by Baccarat, the French glassmaker, and were conservatively estimated at $600-$800. However, further research by Henry Morgan, Kaminski’s senior appraiser and a glass expert, determined the decanters were English and probably by William Collins, the London glassmaker whose 1815 trade card with the Royal Arms of Queen Charlotte recorded him as “the glassmaker to Her Majesty and the Royal Family.”
The decanters were decorated with enameled paintings, one picturing a queen on a throne and titled “Europe,” the other picturing three winged figures in flight and titled “America.”
When the decanters went on the auction block last month, they set off a battle between two phone bidders and an English collector bidding on the Internet from South Africa. Before the auction the English collector had told Morgan that he was determined to acquire the decanters as twice before he had lost out, first 20 years ago in London and 10 years later at an auction.
Morgan assured him they couldn’t be the same decanters, as the pair being auctioned had remained for years in the same family until recently. That sparked the collector’s interest even more as it substantiated, he said, a long-held rumor that four enameled decanters, representing four of the world’s seven continents, were made in the early 1800s by William Collins for the Duke of Sussex dinner service.
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An 1876 oil painting of tugboats in the East River by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921), the Danish-born American maritime artist, and a circa 1770 Connecticut Queen Anne cherry highboy tied for top seller at Northeast Auctions’ Fall Weekend Auction last month in Portsmouth, N.H.
The painting, which had a $10,000-$15,000 estimate, and the highboy, a $30,000-$50,000 estimate, each sold for $31,860.
Other offerings at the two-day auction featured property deaccessioned from four museums, including 18 lots from the Museum of Fine Arts’ M. & M. Karolik Collection, topped by four drawings of Native American scenes by Seth Eastman (1808-75) that brought $2,596 against an $800-$1,200 estimate. Eastman was born in Brunswick, Maine.
Topping the 20 lots of Chinese export porcelain from the Toledo Museum of Art were five circa 1780 Famille Rose tea ware items ($1,062 against $700-$1,000), while topping the 40 lots of Worcester porcelain from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation was a circa 1770 blue-ground bird and insect-decorated coffeepot together with a lozenge-shaped dish ($10,030 against $400-$600). Topping the five lots of The George Washington Foundation was a set of six Massachusetts Chippendale side chairs that brought $5,192 against a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.
The auction also featured silver that descended in the Wentworth family of Portsmouth, including a pair of early-19th-century George III Sheffield plate hot water urns that sold for $3,080 against a $600-$900 estimate and an 1845 coin silver christening cup that fetched $354 ($500-$800 estimate).
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A rose lathe used for ornamental turning and an exhibition set of surgical instruments were the two top sellers at Skinner’s Science, Technology & Clocks Auction this month, but watches and clocks brought seven of the other top 10 prices.
The lathe made in London in 1838 by Holtzapffel & Co. sold along with a cabinet of accessories for $228,000 against a $70,000-$90,000 estimate, and the set of surgical instruments exhibited by George Tiemann & Co. of New York at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 brought $85,200 against an $80,000-$100,000 estimate.
A circa 1850 tool cupboard containing 64 fluted ivory-handled steel blades that were shown in the 1851 London Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations brought the auction’s sixth highest price of $43,200. The estimate was $20,000-$30,000.
All of the top seven clocks and watches sold for above their high estimates, with the top clock, a regulator made around 1870 by E. Howard of Boston, selling for $150,000 against a $70,000-$90,000 estimate. It had been the timekeeper at Edward W. Freeman’s jewelry store in Lowell until 1975, when it was purchased by the consignor.
The top-selling watch was a circa 1813 enamel and pearl-set open-face gold watch by Barrauds of London that brought $67,650 or more than 13 times the high of its $3,000-$5,000 estimate. A circa 1870 ebonized quarter-chiming table clock made by Dent of London, sold for $61,500 or more than seven times the high of its $6,000-$8,000 estimate.
The earliest watch was a circa 1580 German gilt-brass alarm and clock watch with later restoration that fetched $11,400 against a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.
The most unusual watch was the 1630 crucifix-form watch, possibly Continental, its carved ivory diptych case with depictions of The Passion of Christ, the annunciation, the Nativity, and Christ bearing the cross to Calvary and the Crucifixion on the hinged lid and back. It sold for $22,800 against a $6,000-$8,000 estimate.
Virginia Bohlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.