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A 1618 watch by David Ramsay soars to £989,000 at Sotheby's London auction
A 1618 watch by David Ramsay, one of the greatest and earliest English watchmakers, soars to £989,000 at Sotheby’s London. Photo: Sotheby's.


LONDON.- Today, at Sotheby’s London, exceptional timepieces from the most important private collection of English pocket watches sold for a combined total of £3,021,063/ $4,577,817 (est. £2.2 million - 3.3 million).

The sale was led by a Royal oval astronomical watch with an engraved portrait of King James I made by David Ramsay circa 1618 which fetched £989,000 ($1,498,632), almost four times the pre-sale high estimate (est. £150,000-250,000). Considered one of the finest makers from the early 17th century, Ramsay was the first master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers at its formation in 1632, as well as the Chief Clockmaker to the King. The engraving to the covers depicting the Royal Coat of Arms and miniature of King James I are of exceptional quality. A similar watch by Ramsay can be found on permanent loan in the Victorian & Albert Museum. Both watches were presumably made at around the same time by order of the King.

After the sale, Tim Bourne, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Watches and Daryn Schnipper, Chairman of Sotheby’s Watch Division, said: “Today’s offering was unprecedented. It is incredible to think that these immaculately preserved timepieces survived 400 years of tumultuous British history. The catalogue read as a 'who's who' of the great British watchmakers through the ages and we are thrilled that collectors and buyers new to the field responded with so much enthusiasm. This sale is only the first chapter of a landmark collection which comprises many more treasures and pieces of history. We look forward to presenting them in three dedicated sales to take place over the course of 2016”.

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 ($280,330).

• An extraordinary and important gold half quarter dumb repeating consular cased pocket chronometer created by John Arnold in 1782 which realised £245,000 ($371,248), again above high estimate (est. £125,000 - 200,000). 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, which achieved £155,000 ($234,872) (est. £50,000 - 80,000)

Today’s sale was the first of the four auctions of a collection which is being offered under the title of 'The Celebration of the English Watch' over the course of 2015-2016. Charting the history of British watchmaking from the early 1600s through to the present day, this legendary collection of 317 museum-quality pieces also illustrates the often neglected status of British watchmakers as pioneers in their field. A 'who's who' of the great British watchmakers through the ages, the collection spans all the greatest names and innovators in the field, from Thomas Thompion to Robert Hook (inventor of balance spring, circa 1660), to George Graham (who introduced the sweep seconds hand in the early 1700s), to Thomas Mudge (lever escapement, 1765) and John Harwood (self-winding wristwatch movement), to the late great George Daniels.

Today’s sale paid homage to “David Ramsay and the First Clockmakers Court”. The second sale, to take place on 7 July 2016, will explore the enduring legacy of John Harrison, the man who found Longitude.





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