Chronometer from Shackleton's British Antarctic expedition stars in Bonhams Fine Clock sale

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Chronometer from Shackleton's British Antarctic expedition stars in Bonhams Fine Clock sale
A rare 19th century two-day marine chronometer movement from Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition, July 1907 – September 1909. Estimate: £3,000 – 5,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A very rare two-day marine chronometer from Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition, from July 1907 to September 1909, will go on sale at Bonhams Fine Clock Sale New Bond Street on 13 July 2023 with an estimate of £3,000 – 5,000.

The chronometer, now mounted in a mahogany mantel case, was first purchased by the Admiralty in 1899 and was one of several chronometers used on the ship, the Nimrod, as part of Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 Antarctic expedition to reach the South Pole. The team, led by Shackleton, came to within 97 miles of the magnetic pole, before being forced to turn back due to bad weather. A description of the expedition, written by Shackleton, notes that Jameson Boyd Adams, a Royal Naval Reserve Commander and the first to volunteer for the expedition, “every morning, directly after breakfast, wound up the chronometers and chronometer watches.”

James Stratton, Bonhams Director of Clocks commented, “This very special chronometer has had a rich and impressive service. Not only was it part of Shackleton’s extraordinary Antarctic expedition, it also travelled the world with the Royal Navy and was on HMS M19 in the First World War. We are delighted to be selling such a wonderful piece of history.”

Alongside the chronometer, the sale will showcase some extremely fine and exquisite clocks including a late 18th century Chinese Imperial tribute paste-set ormolu and white marble quarter striking, centre seconds ‘Double Gourd’ table clock. The movement, pendulum, and dial swing horizontally as one in the centre of a double gourd frame which is set with over 160 individually shaped brilliant turquoise square-cut glass stones mounted between cast foliage and beading. The white enamel Roman dial with Arabic quarters is also framed by a multi-coloured bezel of 92 applied blue, red, yellow, and clear paste gems mimicking sapphires, rubies, topaz and diamond. The clock has an estimate of £40,000 – 60,000.

Other notable sale highlights include:

• A very rare large 19th century patinated and bronzed alloy conical pendulum clock with the figure stamped A.Carrier.Farcot. Sporting a diadem and wearing a classically inspired dress, the patinated figure of a woman has her left arm raised as she gazes towards the pendulum rod as it continuously rotates. With a sheaf of leaves in her lowered right hand; she stands barefooted on a shaped base, festooned in heavy laurel and berry swags, further mounted on a stand with bowed sides and elaborately moulded base. This very elegant piece has a black dial decorated with gilt Roman numerals. The estimate is £25,000-35,000.

• A fine early 19th century ormolu-mounted red marble mantel timepiece with original numbered pendulum, by the British clockmaker, Vulliamy. Surmounted by a gilt eagle with outstretched wings, the eagle’s claws clutch a stylised thunderbolt, set on a plinth over the drum case and flanked by a pair of lions modelled “from nature” by the sculptor James Smith (1775-1815). The use of a Roman-style thunderbolt sitting below the eagle is very rare in Vulliamy’s oeuvre, with only two others known to Bonhams. The estimate is £20,000 – 30,000.

• A late 19th century gilt and engraved brass repeating carriage clock with original leather travel case by Charles Grottendiek, Brussels, with an estimate of £800 – 1200. Grottendiek was highly regarded and was the horologist to the King and Queen of Brussels. Grottendiek made the headlines when his shop was the subject of a high-profile burglary in 1901, with thieves making off with 100,000 francs of items, including 100 watches, 30 gold chains and 15 diamond and ruby trimmed bracelets. Luckily, the burglars were interrupted, and this beautifully crafted carriage clock was untouched.

Bonhams will be selling a selection of clocks from Rodney Law’s collection in this sale. Rodney Law was a museum curator and founder of The Antiquarian Horological Society, founded in 1953.

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