English Time Pieces
Chronology : 1680-1699 1790-1799 /
1663-1670 Pioneers of the Pendulum Clock
2013 SOLD 460 K£ including premium
The craftsmen of London managed very quickly to operate specialized workshops. It is generally accepted that the first of these pioneers was Ahasuerus Fromanteel. Two types are available: the table clock and the longcase clock.
On July 9 at Bonhams in London, a table clock signed by Samuel Knibb in London is estimated £ 200K.
Only five clocks are known by this master, and no anonymous instrument can be attributed to him because of the similarity of his production with that of Fromanteel. The clock for sale was made after his arrival in London in 1663 and before 1670 as no later activity of Samuel Knibb has been identified.
Joseph Knibb, who was a younger cousin of Samuel, was his apprentice before 1663. He will be the most outstanding clockmaker in London at the end of his century and his production is abundant.
George Daniels, who was the best connoisseur of antique clocks, appreciated the work of Joseph Knibb. At the auction of his collection at Sotheby's on November 6, 2012, two table clocks were sold respectively £ 1.27 million and 340K including premium.
In the same sale, a longcase clock made about 1685 also by Joseph Knibb had not been sold, probably due to a rebuild of the case. It is listed again, now with a reasonable estimate of £ 40K, at Sotheby's in London on July 10. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Excellent result at Bonhams, £ 460K including premium. The mysterious Samuel Knibb enters the short list of major clockmakers.
The clock from the Daniels collection was sold for £ 84K including premium by Sotheby's.
I invite you to play the video shared by Bonhams on YouTube to introduce the clock of Samuel Knibb :
1677 The Grandfather Escapement
2012 SOLD 1.27 M£ including premium
Not only it was one of the most useful of all inventions but also, by raising the skills of the mechanical craftsmen, it was certainly a key to the start of the industrial revolution.
Joseph Knibb, who worked in London since 1670, was one of those masters of the time. Skilled clockmaker, he was a precursor and perhaps one of the inventors of the anchor escapement, a basic accessory designed to ensure the isochrony of the pendulum as a function of the deflection angle.
Back to the beginnings of his career. The horological collection of the watchmaker George Daniels, which will be dispersed on November 6 in London by Sotheby's, includes two clocks made by Joseph Knibb, in ebony, with Roman numerals on the dial.
The most luxurious, dated 1677, has the shape already usual in his time of the table clock, a cube with a handle. It is estimated £ 600K.
The other, made around 1685, is a longcase clock, or in a more familiar wording, a grandfather clock. This type of model is an early easy approach to improve the accuracy thanks to the lengthening of the pendulum. It is estimated £ 200K.
Here is already the link to the announcement of the sale.
Here are the links to the catalogue for the table clock and for the longcase clock.
POST SALE COMMENT
Clocks made by Joseph Knibb were the stars of the George Daniels collection of ancient clocks.
The table clock discussed above was sold £ 1.27 million, and another less luxurious example reached £ 340K. The grandfather clock has not been sold.
Among other makers, let us mention at £ 300K a table clock made around 1697 by Thomas Tompion.
These results include premium.
1693 A Little Clock for Queen Mary
2019 SOLD for £ 1.93M including premium
Aware of the quality of his production, Tompion numbered his instruments, an exceptional practice in his time for a manufactured product. He mixes in a single serialization list the table clocks and the long case clocks. His clocks have a long autonomy. His grande sonnerie pieces offer a repetition of quarters over a long duration.
From 1692 or 1693 Tompion improves the elegance of his design with his Phase Two which includes the cushion dome, the thistle bud handle, the bellflower keyhole and the operation of the mechanism from the front face.
The master seems more interested in standardization than in miniaturization. Nevertheless Number 215 appears as the first of a small series of Phase Two table clocks with a total height of 28 cm including the raised handle. It was sold for £ 170K including premium by Bonhams on December 13, 2011.
Number 222, made especially for Queen Mary II in 1693 and known as the Q Clock, is the smallest clock ever made by Tompion with an ebony case. It is 20 cm high overall with the handle raised. It offers the quarter repetition and an autonomy of eight days.
Re-assembled in 1949 by a collector with its original movement, the Q Clock was sold for £ 440K including premium by Christie's on June 30, 1993. It will be sold by Bonhams in London on June 19, lot 103. The May 20 press release is announcing for this silver mounted royal clock an estimate in excess of £ 2M. A modern replica is joined to the lot.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are delighted to announce that one of the most valuable clocks ever to appear at auction, The King William & Queen Mary Royal Tompion, will star in The Clive Collection of Exceptional Clocks in London on 19 June.https://t.co/6ufWtyi4Ax pic.twitter.com/ROoThd69zu— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) May 20, 2019
1766 Exuberance of George III Timepieces
2013 SOLD 480 K£ including premium
The clockmakers of London were once the best in the world. In the mid-eighteenth century, James Cox was one of those who maintained this tradition. The Swiss will soon become their main competitors thanks to the progress started by Jaquet-Droz.
The best clocks made by Cox are works of art, with the heavy figuration so appreciated at that time including volutes, animals and masks. A musical clock is estimated £ 150K, for sale by Christie's in London on July 4. Here is the link to the catalog.
With an overall height of 37 cm, this piece dated 1766 is a three-body composition mounted on four high legs terminating on full elephants. It is in gilt bronze adorned with agate panels on the lower chest.
The main dial, at the top, is still surmounted by a winged dragon in silver perched on an urn. The intermediate level offers two dials, one of the main face for the phases of the moon, and the other on the back. The piece retains its original key.
The Qianlong emperor had a predilection for European clocks, and Cox is one of the leading English watchmakers who have exported to China, probably later in his career.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold for £ 480K including premium, the clock realized a good gain in less than seven months.
1783 Trunk and Ears of the Time Elephant
2012 SOLD 1.6 M£ including premium
The musical automaton for sale on July 4 in London by Sotheby's is highly sophisticated. Around 1780, the Swiss have not yet started the trend of songbirds. The main element of the piece is a big elephant that moves its trunk and ears and turns its eyeballs. Standing on the clock, it carries on its back a canopy covered pagoda surmounted by a Catherine wheel. The whole is 102 cm high.
This incredible object, estimated £ 1M, brought out from oblivion the maker who signed it, named Peter Torckler, listed in the commercial registers of London from 1780 to 1783. He thus appears as a skillful contemporary but probably also an unsuccessful competitor of James Cox.
There is no evidence that this piece went to reach China. It was probably in London in the 1890s when it was bought by the Shah of Persia.
POST SALE COMMENT
This piece of large size and extreme rarity was sold £ 1.6 million including premium.
I invite you to discover its main movements in the videos shared by Sotheby's.
1793 English Presentation Clock to the Qianlong Emperor
2008 SOLD for HK$ 36M including premium by Christie's
The English Pagoda
2017 SOLD for $ 1M including premium
On January 21 in Pittsfield MA, Fontaine's sells an English clock designed to please the Chinese, lot 118 estimated over $ 800K. Here is the link to the press release.
Its shape is inspired by the porcelain tower or pagoda of Nanjing, created at the request of the Yongle emperor of the Ming to be the masterpiece of the Buddhist devotion. This elegant monument destroyed by the Taiping rebels between 1856 and 1860 consisted of nine levels in decreasing surfaces with a total height of 80 meters. It was long the tallest building in the world, located in Nanjing which was the largest city in the world.
The clock for sale was recently found in a basement. It has been cleaned and is in working order. The automaton shrinking the nine levels is triggered every two hours as well as a music made by small bells distributed at all levels executing a tune that was highly popular at the time of the Qing. The total height of the instrument is 1.25 m in the raised position.
This clock is not unique : a similar unit was exhibited in Macao in 2004. We do not know more about its origins, certainly prior to the development of the clock workshops of the Qing. No Chinese imitation is referred in the catalog of the auction house.
For a year Fontaine's has offered some outstanding Chinese clocks. A clock made in Guangzhou at some time in the 19th century was sold for $ 1.27M including premium on May 21, 2016.
Please watch the video shared by Fontaine's to introduce the English pagoda clock :
1904 An Astronomical Watch by Dent
2020 SOLD for CHF 800K including premium
The Dent company was created in London in 1814. It specialized in high precision instruments for the Admiralty and the observatories, and contributed to the definition of the absolute reference of time, the Greenwich Mean Time. Dent was also the maker of Big Ben, the most famous clock in the world.
On June 16 in Geneva, Sotheby's sells an ultra-complicated watch made by Dent in 1904, lot 34 estimated CHF 300K. This piece 8 cm in diameter with grande and petite sonnerie includes no less than 19 complications, the reading of which is distributed over two dials. The precision is better than one hour over 80 years. It is in very good condition.
The first dial displays the time and the perpetual calendar including the leap year cycle. The astronomical dial includes the equation of time and the zodiac sign indicated by hands, plus four sub-dials for the rise and set of the sun and the moon. A window is assigned to the phases of the moon including its passage to the meridian and the appearance of the Big Bear, and two other apertures list the planets visible in the morning and in the evening.
This watch is signed by Dent who acted as prime contractor for a client who was not identified. The main subcontractors are known.
The toothed wheels were made by Léon Aubert at Le Brassus. He was a specialist in mechanisms for perpetual calendars and astronomical functions and was also a supplier to Piguet and Patek Philippe. Capt, who was also in the Vallée de Joux, integrated the complications. The dial with the calendar was made in London by Willis.
The tweet below shows the two dials of this watch.
Abraham-Louis Breguet transformed the field of watchmaking. This season, we celebrate his genius in the first online auction of pocket watches. Masterworks of Time Part III will take place from 3-16 June, offering exceptional pieces by Breguet... and more! https://t.co/rJgOALzFoN pic.twitter.com/4FPSKBrxRm— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) May 22, 2020
1982 The Equation of the Astronauts
2019 SOLD for £ 3.6M including premium
The equation of time is the difference between the apparent time, which can also be read on a sundial, and the sidereal time which takes its reference in the position of the fixed stars. This difference is an annual cycle due to the obliquity of the Earth and the ellipticity of its orbit.
The first pocket watch in which Daniels included the equation of time is his ninth opus, Elsom II, in 1975.
George Daniels was known for his wit. In 1979 he states that the accuracy of measurement obtained by Margetts, 1.8 seconds per year, is not sufficient for the control of time by an astronaut on his way to Mars. An astronomer from Cambridge University calculates for him a ratio between the two escapement wheels that will reduce the variance to 0.4 seconds per year.
The first pocket watch incorporating these new data is George Daniels' fifteenth opus, the Space Traveller, which also offers the annual calendar and the phases of the Moon. In 1982, shortly after finishing his Space Traveller, Daniels sold it to a collector, probably to meet a prior commitment.
Frustrated that he had parted away from his Space Traveller I, Daniels realized in 1983 the Space Traveller II, on which he added a chronograph and a thermometer. He did not let go this specimen that allowed him to behave like an astronaut in the salons. His fourth and last pocket watch to include the equation of time is the Grand Complication, in 1987.
The Space Traveller I is estimated £ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 2, lot 143. Space Traveller II was sold for £ 3.2M including premium by Sotheby's on September 19, 2017. Grand Complication was sold for CHF 2.4M including premium by Phillips on May 11, 2019.
1982-1983 George Daniels as a Sidereal Traveller
2017 SOLD for £ 3.2M including premium
Fascinated by watches, George Daniels chose to devote his professional life to them. A repair craftsman of great skill, he became a specialist of Breguet and then made his own watches with an increasing complexity.
In the era of quartz watches, Daniels managed to demonstrate that mechanical watches could still be fully competitive. His invention of the co-axial escapement which suppresses the need for a lubricant is one of the most important advances in watchmaking since Breguet.
In a career that began in 1970, Daniels has completed 37 watches made entirely in his workshop from elementary components to final assembly. Sotheby's devoted an exhibition to them in London in 2006.
Daniels was a lover of great mechanics. The remarkable Bentley Blower racing car sold for £ 5M including premium by Bonhams on 29 June 2012 came from his deceased estate.
I am listing below four watches from his personal work. These 2012 results include the premium.
Made circa 1982, the Space Travellers' watch including a double-wheel escapement was sold for £ 1.33M.
Made around 1987 the Grand Complication watch is a very good example of Daniels' co-axial escapement. It was sold for £ 915K.
As its name suggests, the First wristwatch made circa 1991 is a rare example of a wristwatch incorporating the co-axial escapement. It was sold for £ 385K. A more recent watch made in 1994 was sold for £ 660K over an estimate of £ 300K.
The Space Travellers' watch comes back to Sotheby's in London on September 19, lot 121 estimated £ 1.2M. It is a great opportunity to revisit its remarkable complication. Made in 1982 the only other example is simpler, without a chronograph function : the 2012 catalogue reminded that it was sold for CHF 220K by Sotheby's on November 17, 1988.
Based on a different denting of the two wheels Daniels had been able to realize a watch compensating at the will of the user the difference of 3.555 minutes per day between solar and sidereal times. Well aware that it was a sensational horological feat Dr Daniels exhibited it sometimes at events as a dress watch, stating that it was the suitable instrument to control the time in a long telephone conversation during a trip to Mars.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's before the 2012 sale.
1987 The Complications of George Daniels
2019 SOLD for CHF 2.4M including premium
His watches were entirely hand made by himself. His understanding of mechanics was such that he made very few preliminary drawings for developing a new complication. In addition to the clocks and to a commercial series of 58 watches in 1999, he built during his career 23 pocket watches and 4 wristwatches.
His effectiveness was outstanding. The watches equipped with his coaxial escapement are reaching an accuracy below 1 second per month, better than any quartz watch in his time.
Built in 1987, the Grand Complication appears as the ultimate achievement of George Daniels' pocket watches, before he entered a miniaturization phase for creating wristwatches.
Daniels worked with his intuition under no other influence than Breguet. The Grand Complication includes mechanisms entirely invented by him for the annual calendar and for the repeating of minutes. Built on a one-minute coaxial escapement tourbillon, it also offers the moon phases, the power reserve indicator, the equation of time and even a bimetallic thermometer, all of that in a 62 mm diameter case. The dial is highly readable.
Daniels died in 2011. In the auction of his collection by Sotheby's on November 6, 2012, the highest price rewarded the Space Travellers watch, sold for £ 1.33M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 400K. In the same auction room on September 19, 2017, it reached £ 3.2M including premium.
In the 2012 sale the Grand Complication was estimated £ 500K, thus being announced as the most important of Daniels' prototype watches. It had been sold for £ 915K including premium, lot 10. It is now on sale by Phillips in Geneva on May 11, lot 34.
The Grand Complication is shown in operation in a short video inserted in an article prepared by the auction house, illustrated with many photos. The image below is shared by Wikimedia with attribution to Andrewrabbott [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]