John Harrison's Enduring Legacy
Following the success of the first part of “Celebration of the English Watch” which saw a record price set for a Renaissance watch*, the most important private collection of English watches returns to Sotheby’s London with a sale celebrating the achievements of John Harrison (1693-1776), the man who solved the problem of finding longitude at sea.
The 77 lots on offer feature some of the finest precision timekeepers of the English horological Golden Age, led by the John Harrison commemorative watch. Made by Harrison’s son in law, John Barton, this pair-cased pocket watch is in a gold case with a wonderful enamel portrait of Harrison by the famous enamellist George Michael Moser (est. £200,000-400,000).
In 1781 Thomas Earnshaw invented the spring detent escapement and Thomas Wright, watchmaker to King George III, agreed to pay for the patent in his name. The sale comprises a watch by Earnshaw and Wright which is the only surviving example of a watch made strictly to Wright’s patent details (est. £250,000- 300,000).
Another remarkable piece is a highly important 1762 ruby cylinder watch by Thomas Mudge - possibly the earliest perpetual calendar watch. This is one of only two perpetual calendar watches by Mudge, the other being in the collection of the British Museum (est. £50,000-60,000).
The sale also includes a 1762 large silver consular cased pocket chronometer by John Arnold which is remarkable in that it has survived in its completely original state (est. £130,000-150,000).
THE CELEBRATION OF THE ENGLISH WATCH
This landmark collection provides a snapshot of British history through the pocket watch. It also brilliantly traces the evolution of watchmaking from the 17th-century to modern day and the supremacy of England at pivotal moments of horology history.
Inspired by passion and curiosity, the collection is the culmination of years of searching for the best examples in wondrous condition with superb provenance. The English watchmakers represented read as a Who’s Who of British Horological giants, including David Ramsay, Edward East, Thomas Tompion, John Ellicott, Thomas Mudge, John Arnold, George Margetts, The Vuillamys, Thomas Cummins, Victor Kullberg, Charles Frodsham through to the 20th century horological icon, George Daniels. Each is world renowned for their ground-breaking advancements and for leaving their indelible mark on the history of British horology. Equally, extraordinary watches with exquisite decoration are found in the collection and pay tribute to the finest engravers, chasers, and enamellers working in England.
The third and fourth parts in the sale series will be dedicated to “The Genius of Thomas Tompion” (15 December 2016) and “George Daniels, 20th Century Innovator” (Spring 2016).
* The top lot of the first part of “The Celebration of the English Watch” sale series was 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) – an auction record for a renaissance watch (est. £150,000-250,000).